Lords Cricket Ground

Middlesex centuries: the influence of central contracts

Patsy Hendren, one of the most prolific inter-war batsmen of his era, has scored the most runs and first class centuries for Middlesex.

The graph below shows the players who have amassed the highest number of centuries for the club since its inception in 1864, with data provided by CricketArchive.

It is no surprise to see Hendren, one of the most famous Middlesex batsmen, at the top, with 119 centuries.

Mike Gatting is placed second on the list with 77 centuries, as his time as captain ushered in an era of great success, with Middlesex winning the Championship in 1985, 1990 and 1993.

All rounder Jack Hearne, who won the Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1912, is ranked just behind with 71.

Denis Compton, a multi-sportsman who also played over 50 matches for Arsenal during the 1970s and was described by Don Bradman as ‘one of the greatest cricketers he had ever seen’, amassed 67 hundreds.

Further down on the list includes the likes of Mark Ramprakash, the current Middlesex president and batting coach and one of the most prolific county batsmen of the modern era who consistently struggled to replicate it at international level.

He ranks seventh with 46, which is quite remarkable considering he would go on to represent Surrey for a further decade in 2001.

He is joined by Plum Warner and Peter Parfitt who also scored the same number of hundreds for the club.

The final player on the list is Owais Shah, an England international and Middlesex stalwart, who made his first-class debut aged just 16.

Shah scored first class centuries but also prospered in the limited overs format, helping the county side win a maiden Twenty20 championship in 2008.

Jack Chatfield, an avid follower of the club and contributor to the Middlesex Room, a forum to discuss all things about the club, is not surprised by the names.

He said: “Of course there are players on here that go way before our time but it’s still pleasing to see Gatting, one of the most influential players in the club’s history so high up in terms of hundreds.

“He led us to three championships as captain and won six overall as a player – it’s no surprise seeing as he played such a huge role in a golden era for the club.

“I suppose that was at a time when all the England players were expected to play full county seasons, before central contracts and all that. I guess that is why someone like Andrew Strauss isn’t in the top 10.

“Ramprakash is there however, he’s probably the most naturally talented batsmen we produced over the last 30 years – it was just so frustrating that he couldn’t do the same internationally, especially with the amount of chances he had.”

Central contracts, given to players who had become permanent fixtures in the Test side, were introduced in 1999 with the intention of pursuing consistency in the selection of Test-level players.

Though this has been highlighted as a key reason for England’s revival as a Test side in the 21st century, the county game has suffered as a result, with top players being absent from their county sides for an extended period of time.

Ultimately, the English Cricket Board has greater control over the players’ commitments and thus, the amount of domestic cricket they now play is dramatically reduced.

This list only further highlights this, as Shah is the only batsman to make it on to the list since the inception of the contracts.

In terms of overall runs for the club, the names are virtually the same except for Eric Russell, a stalwart throughout the 1960s, and Harry Lee replacing Ramprakash and Shah in the top 12.

Nobody who made their debut for the club in the 21st century is close to making the list, with opener Sam Robson, an England international from close to a decade ago, nowhere to be found.

The introduction of central contracts has contributed to modern players being given less opportunities to play regularly for their domestic club every year and therefore it is unlikely to see any future players replace these Middlesex stalwarts in terms of centuries or runs for the foreseeable future.

Middlesex find themselves in seventh place in Division One after six matches of the County Championship so far, with two wins and four defeats.

Featured image copyright John Sutton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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