Wednesday, 20 April 2011

One hit wonders

What, Fantasy Bob found himself idly asking himself at the bus stop the other day, is the greatest one hit wonder?  A one hit wonder is generally thought of as an artist or group who have a record which rises to the top of the charts but fail to follow it up.  It is their one and only appearance in the hit parade - and, for the purposes of this discussion hits that number one spot.  Their moment of fame and celebrity.

Heavy breathing
FB came to the rather sad conclusion that his all time favourite one hit wonder could well be Je T'aime moi non plus (also known as the heavy breathing song) released by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin in 1969.  A formative hormone soaked year for FB - so it added to the mystery of this piece that it was banned by the BBC for being too explicit.  Other times, other manners - how tame a bit of heavy breathing is now.  Close runners up confirm FB is an even sadder case than you can believe - Love Grows (where my Rosemary Goes) by Edison Lighthouse and Uptown Top Ranking by Althea and Donna.  Oh yeh, FB's strictly roots.

Who gives a monkey's, you are thinking.  Quite rightly.  But, dear readers,  FB's long and tedious prelude, devoid of cricket reference, is leading to something.  For cricket has its one hit wonders too.  Cricketers who achieve the Test stage and then depart.  Since 1990 England have used 14 players in this way.  In all since Test cricket began England have given single caps to 91 players.  What stories of hope and expectation dashed are there in these ephemera?  What stories of overachievement and sheer bad luck?  Stories of selectorial dithering, skulduggery and poor management?  Personal tragedies or relief at not facing the stress of the biggest stage again?  Someone should write a book about these cases, but here's a few to be going on with.

- rain stopped pipe smoke
The most  recent example of now you see him now you don't, is that of Darren Pattinson - plucked out of obscurity in 2008 to play in the second Test against South Africa at Headingley.  Pattinson was a new arrival in English cricket, indeed the Test was only his 12th First Class appearance, and had started the season well with Notts - perhaps flattering to deceive on early season green tops.  He was called in as cover for Jimmy Anderson who failed a fitness test so Pattinson played.  But the selectors were roundly criticised for their decision, even by Michael Vaughan as skipper.   England lost and Pattinson returned to obscurity but with 2 Test wickets on his belt having put in a creditable performance, certainly no worse than anyone else in the England attack.  Pattinson is back with Notts this season.  How does he feel about all this?  Who knows?

At least Pattinson got a bowl and a bat.  In July 1924, Jack MacBryan was capped against South Africa.  A rain affected match meant that he never got to the crease.  He was not a bowler.  Unlucky or what? MacBryan topped the Somerset averages for 5 seasons between 1921-26 and also won an Olympic gold medal at Hockey. 

Up town top ranking
There have been some reasonable performances by one cap wonders.  Aubrey Smith played 1 Test in 1889 in S Africa, skippered a winning side and took 5-19.  FB has posted about him before.  Buddy Oldfield played in 1939 against W Indies at the Oval and had scores of 80 and 19, the best return of any English one cap wonder.   He was clearly a player who would have gone on to greater things, had Hitler not interrupted his career.  When the war finished he was 35 and in dispute with Lancashire.  So that was that.  More recently, in 1994, Joey Benjamin was a surprise choice for the third Test against South Africa at his home ground, The Oval. But his crucial 4-42 in the first innings was put in the shade by Devon Malcolm's 9-57 in the second, and the rest of his international career consisted of two one-day games in Australia that winter.

There are cruel stories in other nations too.  Stuart Law had one Test innings in 1995 for Australia in which he scored 54 not out - he is therefore without a Test average.  He was unlucky to be around at the time of the peak of top quality Australian batting.  His first class average is 50.52.   He has recently been appointed coach to Sri Lanka for their coming English tour. Andy Ganteaume played for W Indies against England in 1948 and in his one innings scored 112 and that was that.

One hit wonders will keep coming in the pop charts and on the cricket field.  They're strictly roots, and they deserve respect.


  1. FB! - you are forgetting Scotland's own Gavin Hamilton who played one Test for England against South Africa at the Wanderers in 1999. He faced nine balls from Alan Donald on a green top and scored two ducks! He took 0 for 63 and was never seen again for England!

  2. Many thanks - FB thought his readers would be too sensitive to be reminded of Hamilton's dreadful ordeal. Far from forgetting, it lives with FB every day.