DateLine: 20th December 2005
The reaction to Ally Brown’s international debut against India in 1996 displayed perfectly the innate conservatism which still exists in the English game. Picked specifically as a pinch hitter, after the success of that role for other nations in the preceding winter’s World Cup, Brown connected with a few, missed a few, and scored 37 before being dismissed. The Times went after him, calling him a ridiculous, incompetent clown. However, anyone given license to get on with it at the top of the order on a cloudy May day in England would play and miss. After he scored 0 in the next match, his international career was saved by a commanding 118 to wrap up the Texaco Trophy for England. He glittered only briefly in the victorious Sharjah tournament of 1997/8, and after that his performances were mainly limited to England, with the odd notable knock (such as a 40 ball 59 against South Africa in 1998) surrounded by cheap dismissals. His last international hurrah came in 2001, when he had a disappointing Natwest Series against Pakistan and Australia. Domestically though, Brown has been the most destructive batsman of the modern age. In 1997 he took full advantage of the small Woodbridge Road ground in Guildford to hit 203, a total which many whole teams often fail to reach. His first hundreds took 56 balls, and after slowing down, the second took a funereal 62. With 19 fours and 11 sixes, it was a once in a lifetime treat for all who witness it, save for the backbroken Hampshire attack. Although comfortably a Sunday League record, Brown missed by 19 runs the Graham Pollock’s List A record of 222. However, anyone betting against him one day breaking that record lost their money in 2002. On a bright and sunny day at The Oval (whose massive outfield has, in recent years, been reigned in) in June 2002 he scored 268 (off 160 balls) in a C&G match against Glamorgan. This superlative knock had propelled Surrey to a world record limited-overs score of 438-5, although, in a scintillating day’s play, Glamorgan got within 10 runs of victory. Surprisingly, Brown does not have a great record in Lords finals, although he has, less surprisingly, sparkled in both the group and final stages of the Twenty20 competition. He played a full part in Surrey’s Championship winning campaigns of 1999, 2000 and 2002, averaging a touch over 50 in all these seasons. However, it is likely that his pigeonholing as a limited-overs berserker has counted against him when it comes to Test selection. He has never even been on an A tour, despite a superb First-class record which sees him comfortably average more than Surrey team-mate (and Test veteran) Mark Butcher. His competent off-spin would have got more of an airing at a weaker county, although a First-class average of 259 is unexpectedly whopping. Now in his mid-thirties, it is likely Brown will not get another international chance, although for sheer entertainment value, there are very, very few to match him in the county game.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)