In the two and a half years of this website’s life, Ian Salisbury has been mentioned a surprisingly infrequent number of times – making an appearance in 29 different articles (30 if you include this one). Like Tim Bresnan eating a piece of fruit, this works out at about once a month. By comparison, a Lancastrian former wicket-keeper has never once been referred to. Which means the time has surely come to ask, whatever happened to
In the 1990s, England played 107 Tests. Of those, Jack Russell kept wicket in 47, Alec Stewart in 42 and a motley bunch of ne’er-do-wells in 18 (of which, stat fans, Steven Rhodes played 11, Chris Read three and Richard Blakey two). Today’s unlikely lad also played two Tests, but it should be noted that in a distant corner of England (a mysterious land of hills, mills and bellyaches), he was very much a LIKELY lad who ought to have been playing for England for most of the decade. Manchester: so much to answer for.
Having debuted for Lancashire in 1986, Hegg became their first-choice ‘keeper in 1988 at the age of 20 and took a joint world record 11 catches in a match (since surpassed) the following season. By spring 1991 he had represented England A. However he had to wait and wait to have another sniff of international recognition – his second A-tour was in 1996/97 to Australia – by which time he was being lauded by followers of his home county and seen as one of the most consistent glovemen on the circuit.
Although there was speculation that Hegg might be selected for the tour to Australia in 1998, it was by no means a certain pick, indeed he had plans to help open a new nightclub in Wigan that winter (having previously found employment with Thwaites Brewery). We’re not making this up, seriously. Anyway, off he went down under, presumably to scout out whether VB or Tooheys would be palatable to English clubbers and to take in the scenery. Alec Stewart was the incumbent wicket-keeper and as captain and one of the better batsmen, undroppable.
England lost two of the first three Tests, meaning that Australia had retained the Ashes before Christmas. Our younger readers might be confused by this, but let us tell you: once upon a time, this was commonplace. England’s selection this series was seemingly performed by David Lloyd whilst sampling Hegg’s bounty from the local breweries. At Brisbane they went for six batsmen and five bowlers, at Perth Graeme Hick played at number seven and at Adelaide Peter Such got a game. It therefore made perfectly bonkers sense when at the MCG, following the withdrawal of Alex Tudor with a sore hip, England pushed Stewart up to open, dropped both Such and John ‘egg-shaped Fred’ Crawley and gave Hegg his debut. This came as some surprise to the man himself, who had arranged meetings with the resident DJs of a St Kilda nightclub.
Thanks largely to Stewart’s batting and the second innings bowling of Dean Headley, England won the match by 12 runs – one of their finest victories of the decade. Hegg kept his place for the final match at Sydney, where Stuart MacGill took 12 wickets and England were defeated heavily. Apart from being named on the scorecard and listed as a debutant at Melbourne, Hegg didn’t get a mention in Wisden’s reports of either match. He finished with eight dismissals and a batting average of 7.50.
By the next summer, Stewart was standing down as captain, England were being shit in both the World Cup and against New Zealand, and youth was being given a chance with Chris Read keeping wicket. Although Hegg – rightly – never played for England proper again, he was recalled to the squad following Stewart’s withdrawal from the winter tours in 2001/02, but only played one tour match all winter. He spent a further four years at his home county, in three of which he captained them – after finishing second and third he oversaw a relegation, before his final season in 2005.
He remains in the list of top 30 most dismissals in a career – 951, five fewer than Paul Nixon – and for his county is their second most successful ‘keeper behind George Duckworth. Although Lancashire famously didn’t win the Championship for a gazillion years, he did feature in – by our possibly shoddy calculations – ten limited overs trophy-winning campaigns (including making 81 in a Benson & Hedges Cup semi-final against Yorkshire that took his team to a one-wicket win). Our Lancastrian friends still swear by him, but in truth, anyone who wasn’t either Russell or Stewart in the 1990s was going to have a hard time trying to become an England regular. Two Tests was two more than all but Rhodes and Blakey, and no doubt he still finds his mind drifting off to Boxing Day 1998 whenever it’s a quiet night chez Warren’s.