Home > Features > Moments in history >

Neil Fairbrother: England’s ODI specialist who failed to make a mark in Test cricket

Neil Fairbrother: England’s ODI specialist who failed to make a mark in Test cricket

Neil Fairbrother © Getty Images

Neil Fairbrother, born on September 9, 1963, was a vital member of the England One-Day International (ODI) team in the 1990s. Although he dominated the one-day game, his Test record is disappointing. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks back at the southpaw’s career.

When you are named after a great personality, there are always expectations invariably attached to your existence. And, if you indeed walk in their footsteps, those hopes touch the sky. Named after the great Australian batsman, cricketing ambitions were probably thrust on Neil Harvey Fairbrother when his mother named him after her favourite cricketer. The southpaw did go on to represent England for over 12 years, but only carved a niche in the one-day arena. In that time span, he did have a few memorable moments that continue to define him as a cricketer.

Born on September 9, 1963, Fairbrother made his debut for Lancashire’s second XI eight days short of his 17th birthday. Over the next two years, he continued playing for numerous age group sides including the National Association of Young Cricketers, which played youth teams from other countries as well. Although he made his First-Class debut in 1982, he got an extended run in the Lancashire side in 1983 and got his highest score of 94 against Warwickshire. He scored his first hundred the next season in a game against Derbyshire, albeit in a lost cause.

During the 1985 and 1986 seasons, Fairbrother grew in stature and became a vital cog in the Lancashire — scoring three tons apiece. He finished the 1986 season with 1,217 runs at an average of 48.68 with three tons and eight fifties. In the List-A games, he had scored four fifties as well. That won him a berth in the England side for the Sharjah Cup in 1987 and made his debut against India on April 2, scoring only 14. He played three matches in that tournament with a highest score of 32 against Australia.

Then came the big moment in his cricketing career — Fairbrother won the Test cap against Pakistan in June 1987 at Manchester. It was a disastrous debut for him as he was leg-before for naught off the fourth ball he faced. In an interview to AllOutCricket, Fairbrother said, “I can remember it didn’t go very well! Faced three or four balls, didn’t hit one and wandered off! I’d never seen reverse swing until that day. But you know, those moments come and go and you either grab them or you don’t.”

However, Fairbrother continued to perform during the domestic season and managed to hold on to his spot in the England side for the tours to Pakistan in late 1987 and New Zealand early the following year. But, his form in Test cricket turned out to be disastrous as he scored only five runs in his first three Tests. In the one-day arena, he did impress with a couple of fifties on the tour to New Zealand. But, he had to wait until 1990 for his next shot at the highest level.

The 1990 season was a great one for Fairbrother as he averaged over 60. During that season, he scored a mammoth 366 off only 407 balls to lead a strong reply to Surrey’s 707. Lancashire managed to take the lead by plundering 863. That facilitated his return to the England Test side. On comeback to the Test side for the full series against New Zealand at home in 1990, he certainly bettered his tally with scores of 33 not out and 19 — which certainly wasn’t enough.

When the West Indies came around in 1991, Fairbrother was recalled to the England one-day side. In the third One-Day International (ODI) at Lord’s, he smashed 113. Chancing his luck, a few edges went past the slips. But, once he got his eye in, the bat flowed through and met the ball with minimal footwork. Chasing 265, England were reduced to 48 for two when Fairbrother joined Graeme Hick. In tandem they turned the game and Fairbrother’s 113 ensured England sailed through with overs to spare and seal a 3-0 series victory. This remains his only ton in international cricket.

For the 1992 World Cup, Fairbrother had set himself in the middle-order. It was a tournament that saw him score quite consistently. Leading up to the final against Pakistan at Melbourne, he already had scores of 63 against Sri Lanka at Ballarat and an unbeaten 75 against South Africa at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. During their failed run-chase of 250 in the final, Fairbrother was the only England batsman to score a fifty. He walked in at 59 for three and stabilized the England innings. When it looked like they would recover, Wasim Akram snared Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis off consecutive deliveries to turn the tide in Pakistan’s favour. Fairbrother was a silent spectator at the other end and his 62 off 70 balls was in vain as England fell short by 22 runs.

Neil Fairbrother: England’s ODI specialist who failed to make a mark in Test cricket

Neil Fairbrother played 75 ODIs for England and scored 2,092 runs at an average of 39.47. He scored one century and 16 half-centuries © Getty Images

Fairbrother had firmly established himself in the one-day side, but a Test berth remained elusive. In 1993, he was given a lifeline when he was picked for the Tests in India. In the second Test at Chennai, he scored a hard fought 83 in the first innings and it promised to change his Test career. But, he only played one more game, which was against Sri Lanka later that year. He was in the one-day setup until the 1996 World Cup and was on the sidelines thereafter.

In 1998, when England sent a weaker side to the Wills International Cup (which later became the ICC Champions Trophy) in Dhaka, Fairbrother was picked. On his return to the side, he scored crucial 56 runs to rescue England from 95 for five and supported the captain Adam Hollioake. He was then picked for the one-day tri-series Down Under after the Ashes and answered the calls with a very consistent run. His consistency was rewarded as he was selected for the 1999 World Cup in England.

England were crashed out of the competition before the Super Six stage and it ended Fairbrother’s international career. In 75 ODIs, he had scored 2,092 runs at an average of 39.47 with one ton and 16 fifties. The record in Tests did not quite reflect his ability: 219 runs in 10 Tests at an average of 15.64 with the lone fifty.

Lancashire continued to get the best out of Fairbrother even after his international days were behind him. Take the example of the 2001 season when he scored four hundreds in the county matches. However, after a modest season in 2002, he moved away from the game.

Post retirement, Fairbrother has been a player agent for numerous cricketers which includes Andrew Flintoff and Michael Vaughan. One would remember him for a few moments in the one-day game, and with an average of 41.22 in First-Class cricket, a lot was expected of him in Tests. Speaking to AllOutCricket, he said, “I didn’t grab the Test experience but I did grab the one-day experience, and overall I’m happy to have played as much international cricket as I did.”

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 20, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Kolkata

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Dubai

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (19:00 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014 (09:30 IST)   at Dhaka

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014 (03:00 IST)   at Hamilton


South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 24, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 72 runs

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 21, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 6 wkts

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 17, 2014  at Dharamsala

India won by 59 runs

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 14, 2014  at Visakhapatnam

Match cancelled

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 12, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Australia won by 1 run


Pakistan vs Australia, 1st Test at Dubai


AB de Villiers praises team after win in 1st ODI

Pakistan hold advantage at stumps on Day 3 of 1st Test against Australia

Asad Shafiq emerges as dependable No 6 for Pakistan

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Mitchell Johnson shows signs of effectiveness on unhelpful surfaces

South Africa vs New Zealand 2014: Vital for Brendon McCullum to find form quickly

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 Duleep Trophy India New Zealand New Zealand vs South Africa New Zealand vs South Africa 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Africa South Africa tour of New Zealand 2014 South Africa vs New Zealand South Africa vs New Zealand 2014

Duleep Trophy 2014: Central Zone lead by 81 runs as North Zone bowled out for 457

Laxmi Ratan Shukla to lead Bengal in upcoming One-Day series

David Warner feels lucky to have equalled Don Bradman’s record

Kapil Dev’s Dev Musco Lighting accused of inflated costs by GCA

VVS Laxman advises budding batsmen to score big hundreds

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Spin hunt continues for visitors

Sarfaraz Ahmed may have trumped the Akmals as Pakistan’s wicketkeeper-batsman across formats

Don Bradman — even if every chance he ever gave in his career was accepted, he would still remain head and shoulders above the others

Len Hutton’s hundred gets reported as illness

Viv Richards’ 6/41 bowls West Indies to a thrilling victory over India

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

642 Posts | 9 Fans

Virat Kohli's Family Meets Anushka Sharma

अभिनेत्री हुमा कुरैशी ओरिफ्लेम की ब्रांड एंबेसडर

Has Bigg Boss 8 made Karishma Tanna the most hated person?

Pranab Mukherjee returns home after visit to Norway, Finland

Revealed: First look of Amitabh Bachchan-Farhan Akhtar’s Do!

7 reasons why having sex during pregnancy is great for your health

Videocon Infinium Graphite with gesture control feature launched, priced at Rs 10,499

Rupee up 19 paise against dollar in early trade

Twitter introduces Audio Cards to listen to music directly from your timeline

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here