There are some things that we at 51allout just unashamedly love, regardless of any apparent faults. Knightmare is one example (apart from series four, which is slower than the dreaded Compton/Trott pairing at the crease); Jenna Louise Coleman is another. But perhaps more than any other we love our latest Unlikely Lad. In many ways he sums up England in the last decade of the previous century: he tried really hard, bounding to the crease like a golden retriever puppy chasing an errant stick before delivering yet another impeccably unthreatening dot ball outside the off stump. Plus he was hilariously inept with the bat and yet still had enough to once beat Australia during one of those oh-so-regular doomed Ashes campaigns. He is, as you might have guessed, something of a hero. Having said that, we did forget all about him until someone recently wrote an article entirely about left arm seamers.
The Alan Mullally story starts in Perth, birthplace of such luminaries as makeup-faced criminal mastermind Heath Ledger, Home And Away star Melissa George and potential future sex criminal Rolf Harris. But, er, not Alan himself, the great man arriving into this world via Southend-on-Sea. In this sunny part of the world (Perth that is, not Southend-on-Sea) a young Mullally learned the basics of left arm fast bowling but failed to make much of an impression for his state side, before somehow finding himself at Hampshire (Wikipedia, from where we get most of our articles, is disappointingly vague about the reasons). From there he ended up at Leicestershire, where he began to make an impact on county cricket.
Just a few short years of bundling out low quality county players later, Mullally found himself being called up for England in the summer of 1996 to take on India. Sadly it was a Test career destined to end up in the dictionary under the word ‘mediocre’. 58 wickets at an average of 31.24 in 19 matches aren’t exactly the worst figures in the world – indeed there are a fair few Unlikely Lads who would have killed for them – but it was all very steady stuff, with just a single five wicket haul in that time.
Mullally’s real success came in the ODI arena where he reached the heady heights of being ranked the number two ODI bowler in the world – sandwiched between Glenn McGrath and Murali – mainly thanks to his ability to keep it tight. Of all the England bowlers to take 50 or more ODI wickets, only Bob Willis did so with a better economy rate than Mullally’s 3.84 runs per over. Admittedly Angry Bob’s economy rate was miles better (just 3.28) but we can put that down to him bowling between the wars, before attacking shots were invented.
Sadly, despite the best efforts of Mullally and Darren Gough (who remarkably played in every single one of the 50 ODIs that big Al did), England still weren’t very good at limited overs cricket. They only actually won three ODI series with him in the side and two of those came against Zimbabwe. As we all fondly remember, they did win the Akai-Singer Champions Trophy in 1997 but that was with a distinctly Mullally-free bowling attack, instead crushing the West Indies via the might of Dougie Brown, Mark Ealham and Matthew Fleming.
Around 2001 Mullally drifted out of both the ODI and Test sides, returning to Hampshire to form a somewhat unlikely key bowling partnership with Shane Warne as the team attempted that difficult transformation from a small team to a small team with an unnecessarily large ground. A few years after that his legs started to go and he retired in 2005, presumably to enjoy Southampton’s Perth-esque climate.
Of course, everyone’s favourite memories of Alan Mullally revolve around his God-awful batting. He only made it past 15 twice in his 19 Tests, making 16 against Australia in Melbourne (in a match England went on to win by just 12 runs) and, most famously, 24 against Pakistan in 1997. The latter is best known for the (possibly apocryphal) story of David Lloyd offering Mullally 30 pints of Guiness if he made 30 runs. No doubt he would have added those extra six if it’d been high quality gin on offer. Or if he’d been any good with the bat whatsoever – Cricinfo once voted him the worst England number 11 of all time. Which is even more impressive when you consider that he once batted at number nine (ahead of Phil Tufnell and Ed Giddins) as England lost at home to New Zealand and slumped to the bottom of the Test rankings. Those were heady times indeed.