Paul John Walter Allott, born on September 14, 1956, was a 6’4″ tall fast bowler who played 13 Tests and 13 ODIs for England. Prakash Govindasreenivasan looks back at the career of this pacer who relied on swing bowling and later carved a career for himself as a commentator.
Paul Allott was an exciting young bowler who made green tops his fortress. Relying on his height and a knack of bowling away swingers, Allott was looked at as a future star when he made his international debut in 1981. However, he had a weakness that he wasn’t even half as effective when conditions were not pacer-friendly.
Ever since making his debut in 1981, he often walked in and out of the side. As a fast bowler, that wasn’t the best thing to happen for him as it would often disrupt his rhythm.
Allott started off as a promising talent but faded away too soon. He featured in 13 Test and as many ODIs for England, picking up 26 and 15 wickets respectively.
Paul Allott vs Michael Holding in 1981
Two bustling fast bowlers were part of the same English County side, Lancashire. It was that time when Holding was already a household name in the Caribbean and had captivated the English mind with his genuine pace bowling. Crowds had flocked to the stadium on that particular day to watch the lanky West Indian make a remarkable debut for Lancashire. However, they ended up cheering for an unknown entity at that point in time. Allott, who shared the new ball with ‘The Whispering Death’, proved to be a lot more lethal than Holding and registered figures of eight for 48. England saw a hero in Allott, perhaps one who could be as devastating as Holding at the international arena.
Debut at Old Trafford
Three months after taking centre stage in Holding’s County debut, Allott got a national call-up. He got the opportunity to be a ‘local boy’ on debut in the fifth Ashes Test in 1981 at Old Trafford. It was a dream start for Allott, scoring his maiden half-century while coming in to bat at number ten. He followed it up with four wickets in the game, picking up opener Graeme Wood in either innings alongwith Mike Whitney and Dennis Lillee. It was probably the perfect start for Allott as England won the game by 103 runs and sealed the six-match series 3-1.
Six-wicket haul against the West Indies
In 1984, the West Indies had an extremely successful tour of England when they blanked the hosts 5-0. The series was infamously dubbed as the ‘blackwash.’ At the start of this series, Allott enjoyed some good form and picked up his career-best figures of six for 61, dismissing Desmond Haynes, Viv Richards, Jeff Dujon, Eldin Baptiste, Roger Harper and Malcolm Marshall. This feat restricted West Indies’ first innings lead to 32 runs. However, Malcolm Marshall wrecked havoc in the second essay, picking up seven wickets for 53 runs, and enabling his team to bowl out the hosts for 159. With just 128 runs to win, the visitors strolled past it with eight wickets to spare.
Eight wickets in the 1983 World Cup
Allott featured in the 1983 World Cup for the hosts and managed eight wickets in seven, with his best figures of three for 41 in England’s nine-wicket win over Sri Lanka. His last wicket came against India in the semi-final, that of Sunil Gavaskar.
Back injury on India tour
A year later in 1984, England toured India but this was when Allott’s downfall began. He was forced to return home due to a back injury. Wickets and chances were hard to come by after this and his international career came to an abrupt end with just 13 Tests and 13 ODIs to his name.
Allott was in his mid-20s when he made his debut for Lancashire in 1978. After a couple of seasons, came Allott’s best. In the 1981, he bagged 85 wickets and was rightfully awarded his international debut in the same year.
Allott’s international career took off with all its might but never went to the desired heights. He found love for the game outside of it when he took up commentary for Sky TV. He formed an off-field partnership with Bob Willis, with whom he often shared the new ball for England. His transition from the field to the commentary box was as smooth as it could get as his unassuming and laid-back back commentary style was a pleasant feature of Sky’s commentary team on various occasions.