Although still uncertain to this day, some argue that it was Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke (4 September 1843 – 26 January 1911), an English Liberal and Radical politician who first penned the phrase “…. lies, damned lies and statistics …..”
Cricket would have been played during his lifetime and I wonder if Sir Charles had the foresight to consider that the history of the game would rely heavily on statistics – probably not, but it’s true that cricket history can be related in a very compelling sense to numbers.
So, after watching cricket in the Top End for almost four decades, here is my first eleven list of bowlers that have impressed me most. The numbers provided by NT Cricket “keeper of the stats” John Marshall have been a helpful reminder of the top toilers.
For what it’s worth, some that played in the Top End and didn’t make the list include Aussie Internationals Peter Sleep, Des Hoare, Merv Hughes, Xavier Doherty and Jhye Richardson and Kiwi quick, Shane Bond. Only two of my best ever club bowling attack; Darwin’s Greg Connors, Len McKeown, Craig Widdowson and David “Ronnie” Andrews are included while PINT all-rounder, Cameron Francis, who I saw take five wickets in an over in a T20 final and Darwin’s precocious left-arm orthodox teenager (at the time) Matthew Anderson also missed the cut. Anderson is an interesting story: in brief, after representing the NT at Under 17 and Under 19 nationals, he was “recruited” by Queensland and a measure of his value then came as he made an active contribution to Queensland's stellar Pura Milk Cup-winning season (Sheffield Shield) of 1999-2000 with 21 wickets.
Here they are listed alphabetically:
- David (Ronnie) Andrews (Darwin): Not a big spinner of the ball, Ronnie had the aggression more associated with quicks and not so quietly toiled away with his left-arm orthodox stuff. One of his major attributes was accuracy and consistency, his 342 wickets @ 13.20 tells a tail of steadiness.
- Nick Berry (PINT) was tall but bowled medium pace and once settled into rhythm, could be effective over long periods of time. He was a shrewd bowler and more often than not was able to break a stubborn opposition partnership: 222 wickets @ 16.34.
- Greg Connors began his Darwin cricket career at Darwin Cricket Club and later moved to Tracy Village. He was genuinely quick and had a few tricks to test batsmen. “Chuck” was a great leader and spent a long period as NT Senior captain when it was unfashionable for fast bowlers to lead teams. Connors formed a valuable part of my best ever club bowling quartet during the past four decades: 220 wickets @ 14.96.
- I didn’t see Waratah aggressor (not my words), Jim Conroy, at his best but word of mouth from teammates and opponents alike rate him the best of his era and that is good enough for me. 713 wickets at 10.74 is not bad; on 58 occasions he took five wickets in an innings and seven times finished with 10 or more for the match.
- Brad Hatton was the Nightcliff new ball bowling mainstay for a long period. Standing over 190cm tall, and not overly quick, Hatton used his long levers to great effect with bounce and accuracy being his main attributes. 457 wickets @ 17.99 reveals why he is among the very best of Darwin Crickets’ new ball brigade.
- Mark Hatton was a Nightcliff junior who started as a left arm would-be tearaway – that was until words of advice suggested he revert to a more sedate form and trundle away with orthodox spin. The advice was heeded and he represented his country at Under 19 level and played first class cricket with Tasmania taking 28 first class wickets. Mark Hatton started at Nightcliff and finished his career at the same club with 426 wickets @ 17.93.
- Richie Hodgson played his cricket at the PINT club and was an unfashionable bowler who seemed to be on the wrong foot at delivery. Although not overly tall, Hodgson was able to generate considerable pace and tested batsmen of all calibre with his movement and speed. Equally at home with the red cherry or well used ball, he ended his Top End career with a PINT premiership and 358 wickets @ 17.94.
- David King was a strongly built young man who was always destined to play at the highest level. He had genuine speed and plied his craft in Adelaide where his initial impact was huge but unfortunately, back injury put paid to any chance of higher representation than Australian Under 19 level. King modified his bowling action and upon his return to Darwin became a force with PINT as a multi-skilled bowler. His longevity after such a horrible run with injury is testament to his dedication and love of the game. David King took 300 wickets @ 19.47 in his stints at PINT and Southern Districts.
- PINT all-rounder Steve McCarthy played a relatively small number of games (45 in total) but was nevertheless able to impress. Above medium pace, McCarthy was small in stature but full of determination and bowling skill. During his stint with the Green Caps he endeared himself with his on-field and off-field decorum where his leadership and wicket taking ability had few who could match. McCarthy took 107 wickets @ 15.86.
- Scott Moody played 70 games, including multiple premierships for Tracy Village. He was every bit the consummate competitor and mastered his leg-spin craft to such an extent that he could take wickets or contain opposition teams with naggingly accurate bowling which is not normally associated with his trade. A reflection of his all-round bowling prowess is 237 wickets @ 14.12 and a remarkable Strike Rate of 28 .06 which puts him very near the top of that tree.
- In an era of Tracy Village cricket dominance, medium pacer Gary Stevens ruled Darwin hard wickets. It seemed like the Village captain would throw Stevens the ball at the start of the innings and take it off him at the close of the opposition innings because the bowler would not otherwise relinquish his grip on the ball. He was both a match winner and match saver and his 204 wickets @ 20.38 is testimony to his value.
- I chose left-arm quick Anthony Dent as 12th man. He played across multiple clubs in the Top End including stints as senior professional during the Northern Territory Institute of Sport (NTIS) experiment in Darwin first grade cricket. There was little that Dent couldn’t do or try to do with the ball and he was more often that not an inspiration to his fledgling team mates during NTIS stints. He played 222 games of first grade cricket (second only to Brad Hatton among the bowlers) and took 325 wickets @ 21.92.
Top 12 Wicket Takers - All Grades - 1963 - 2019
Top 12 Wicket Takers - Premier Grade - 1963 - 2019