England seamer Mike Hendrick bowled with incredible economy and played a role in two Ashes triumphs but lacked the luck needed to emerge from the shadow of Botham and Willis
- Mike Hendrick has died aged 72 after a battle with bowel and liver cancer
- Seamer took 87 wickets in 30 Tests for England at an average of 25.83 apiece
- Hendrick played a part in two winning Ashes series and excelled in ODIs
- But he was an unlucky bowler, developing a reputation for beating the bat
- It was Hendrick’s misfortune his career coincided with Botham and Willis
There may never have been an unluckier bowler than Mike Hendrick, the former England, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire seamer who has died at the age of 72 after battling bowel and liver cancer.
Not only did his Test career coincide with Bob Willis and Ian Botham, often relegating him to first change, but he developed a reputation for beating the bat without reward.
In 30 Tests, he never took a five-for, yet still averaged 25 – the same as Willis, better than Botham.
Mike Hendrick, who has died at the age of 72, with arms aloft after dismissing India’s Dilip Vengsarkar at Lord’s during their tour of England in 1979
Tall, slightly hunched and usually undemonstrative, Hendrick was regarded by Mike Brearley, one of his England captains, as ‘steadier and more consistent’ than his team-mates, ‘an admirable foil to their adventurous flair’.
As if to prove the point, his ODI economy-rate of 3.27 remains the best of any England bowler, as does his average of 19.
And he was the leading wicket-taker at the 1979 World Cup, when he was famously launched for six by Viv Richards off the last ball of West Indies’ innings in the Lord’s final.
Hendrick bowls for England against Australia in a one-day match at Edgbaston in 1981
Hendrick (centre) engrossed in a game of table cricket with England colleagues Bob Willis (left), Derek Randall (second left), David Gower (second right) and Ian Botham (right) before flying to Australia in 1978
Hendrick in the colours of the MCC ahead of a tour match with Australia in 1977
Hendrick was convinced he had Richards lbw on 22; typically, the umpire disagreed.
Some felt he would have enjoyed even more success had he pitched the ball further up, and Ken Barrington – the former Test batsman who became England’s tour manager – would encourage him to get the batsman ‘in two-man’s land’.
Hendrick, whose modus operandi was successful enough to bring him 770 first-class wickets at just 20 apiece (including nearly 500 for Derbyshire), found the criticism irritating.
‘It was often said that I bowled too short, and that if I’d pitched it up I’d have got more people out,’ he told Wisden. ‘The one thing I would say is: ‘How does anybody know that?!’
When the force was with him, as it was during a spell of four for three in eight balls against Pakistan in the 1979 World Cup, he was more than a handful. ‘I probably had a bit of luck for once,’ he said.
He played the last of his Tests during the 1981 Ashes, though he missed out on the epic at Headingley at the last minute after Willis persuaded chairman of selectors Alec Bedser he was fit.
Hendrick takes revenge on Rod Hull’s Emu, cricket ball in beak, in a picture taken in 1981
Hendrick’s invitation, sent in the post those days to players’ counties, had to be intercepted by Derbyshire officials before he could open it.
On the last day of the Test, Willis took eight for 43 as England won after following on.
Hendrick went on to take part in England’s first rebel tour of apartheid South Africa in 1981-82, and retired after his third season at Notts in 1984.
Of his cancer, he recently told Mike Atherton: ‘I’m in the departure lounge, but the flight has not quite left yet.’