AT THE start of Mark Benson's career it was widely expected in the best-informd circles that he would become a Test cricketer. He did, too. On 3 July, 1986, he opened the batting for England against India at Edgbaston.
Thus, he joined the ranks of players who have appeared in a solitary Test match. He will forever be M R Benson of Kent and England. There have been 80 like him in all, men who caught the selectorial eye once and were then discarded. Craig White and Stephen Rhodes will not, presumably, add to the list, though much can happen between now and the second Test at Lord's. (In the case, for instance, of Norman Oldfield, who made 80 and 19 at The Oval against the West Indies in late August, 1939, and was mentioned in this space last week in another context, the Second World War happened).
Excluding the two debutants at Edgbaston there are five men still playing who have one Test cap for England. Benson's was awarded the longest time ago, so he has the least chance of another.
"It won't happen now, of course," said the Kent captain who will be 36 next moth. "There might have been a time once, and I might just have played two or three years before I did. I'm disappointed, of course, but I should say it's better to have played just once when you think of all the good players who haven't."
In his Test, Benson made 21 (after England were 0 for two) in the first innings and 30 in the second. By the time the New Zealanders started their series 16 days later he was out of favour for good. "I've probably not had the best batting pitches in Kent during my career," he said, "but I've also tended not to go on and make big hundreds and have got out quite a lot between 50 and 100."
The other four still playing who may never double their number of caps are: James Whitaker, John Stephenson, Neil Williams and Paul Taylor. They were preceded by many illustrious cricketers who were called up just once.
Perhaps most famously, C A Smith was captain of England in his only Test, against South Africa in 1889, and went on to become a Hollywood film sta as Sir Aubrey Smith.
In 1921, against Australia, seven men who made their debuts never appeared again. In 1933, against the West Indies, C S "Father" Marriott took five for 37 and six for 59 with his leg breaks in his only match.
In 1924 against South Africa, Jack MacBryan stood at slip for nearly three hours. It then proceeded to rain for the rest of the match and he remains the only England Test player never to have batted, bowled or dismissed anyone in the field. Doubtless Richard Stemp, in the squad but omitted from the team on Thursday, will hope even that happens one day.
BEYOND A BOUNDARY, described by John Arlott, who knew such things, as "arguably the finest piece of literature about cricket or any other game", has been republished. …