Regular readers of the website will note that our recent Unlikely Lads have been of a modern vintage. Rather than representing any particular fascination with the last few years, it’s just far easier to stab out 500 words about horrendous selections like Boyd Rankin rather than actually doing research and casting our minds back to the early 1990s in order to remember anything at all about Paul Jarvis.
Our latest inductee featured in the same Test match as Rankin: the dark days of Sydney 2014. Unlike the big boglin Boyd though, this man is someone who we can get behind, so we ask: whatever happened to
In his solitary Test match, Borthers (Borthy?) batted way down the order at 9 (when there had been a nightwatchman) and 8 (when there hadn’t, due to England being six wickets down after 22 overs). He bowled just 13 overs, conceding 82 runs. Admittedly he picked up three wickets in the second innings, but as debuts go, it was rather inconsequential. Recall that he hadn’t even been in the original squad, but by the end of the tour, anyone with a maroon passport was in with a chance, and he had benefited from playing for Sydney’s Northern District that Antipodean summer. Stagger also when you remember that the man he replaced in the England XI was Monty Panesar, who – despite what Mike Selvey would have you believe – is as likely to play for England again as is an Amstrad Emailer 1000. It truly was an awful series.
Unlike Rankin and Panesar though, Borthwick’s career has taken turns for the better. He’s no longer a young leggie who can also hold a bat, rather a top order batsman who is able to roll his arm over for a few overs should all other options be exhausted. He has scored at least 1,000 runs in the last three domestic summers, increasing his season’s average each time.
Furthermore, he has recently been testing himself in New Zealand’s funkily-named Plunket Shield brought to you by Budget Rental, averaging a more than respectable 48. He even managed to pick up nine wickets in his six matches.
So what chance of an England recall? Well, of the current Test top six, only Alastair Cook, Ben Stokes and Joe Root are stonewall selections. Alex Hales will probably continue as opener on a ‘we can’t really drop ANOTHER opener, can we?’ basis. Nick Compton looks very much a stop-gap; someone providing some ballast at number three until a younger, less sexy version comes into form. James Taylor has sadly and shockingly had to retire. This means that should someone like Borthwick make a mountain of runs this summer – augmented by the odd wicket – then a place in the squad may be his.
It’s also remembering that the previous time England had played a Test match at Sydney, the Australia side featured a young legspinner in just his fifth Test. His selection had been based partly on his Warne-alike action, partly on being able to knock off a few runs from the lower order, but mostly on being able to entertain his teammates in the dressing room with his collection of funny hats. It would take someone very naive to assume that just because Borthwick shares two of these three characteristics, he’s going to be the English Devereux. But we’re nothing if we’re not naive enough to encourage the milliners of Durham to get busy and to send as much of their stock as possible to Chester-le-Street.