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John Stern

The Definitive: Graeme Fowler

John Stern by John Stern

Lancashire and England opener Graeme Fowler talks John Stern through the pain, gain and laughs of an eventful career.

BEARS GRILLED

126 & 128* | Lancashire v Warwickshire, County Championship, Southport | 1982

This brought me to the attention of Bob Willis, who’d just become England captain. I got two hundreds batting with a runner in both innings. It was a ridiculous game. They got 523-4 and declared after tea on the first day. We were 40-1 at the close with David Lloyd the man out. He said to me: “We’ll win this.” You what? I’d pulled a muscle in my leg so Bumble ran for me. I was 26 not out at the start of play and was out just after lunch for 126. Bumble’s 10 years older than me and he was f***ed. In the second innings, Ian Folley ran for me. I’d got about 48 when I had a couple of slogs at Gladstone Small and Folley called down to me: “Fow, get your head down – I’ve never had a fifty before!” Sure enough, when I got to a hundred he took his cap off, raised his bat and shook hands with all the fielders.

TEST DEBUT

9 & 86 | England v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Headingley | 1982

Graeme Fowler on Test debut

I only worked this out since but I think I was almost picked to fail. It was the last Test of the summer and a lot of people didn’t think I was a pure enough batsman. There was one ball from Imran Khan in the second innings that took off, gloved me, went over my head towards the keeper and bounced a yard short. I only had about 17. Had he caught that I’d have been out for nine and 17 and I doubt I’d have gone on tour. It was a massive moment.

TOE CRUSHER

4 & 65 | England v Australia, 4th Test, Melbourne | 1982

I’d just got past 50 and Jeff Thomson bowled me a yorker that I trapped between my bat and my big toe. The bone is still in three pieces. It doesn’t hurt any more but it did then! I’d just got going on that trip and that ended my tour. I wasn’t even at the ground when one of the greatest Test matches reached its climax. The physio Bernard Thomas said it would be too difficult to get me to the ground. I watched England win the Test by three runs, lying on my hotel bed.

SUITS YOU, MA’AM

Pre-tournament photo | World Cup | 1983

This was a defining moment of embarrassment. All the teams had to line up for a mass photograph taken by Patrick Eagar. Almost everyone had a uniform but not us. We were just told to go and buy a suit. Any suit. So we were all in odd suits and looked bloody ridiculous. Then we had to go to the Palace. It was my one and only meeting with the Queen. She asked me why we didn’t have a uniform like everyone else. I couldn’t tell her what I was really thinking – that the Test and County Cricket Board didn’t give a stuff about the one-day game.

LIFTING THE LID

1 & 105 | England v New Zealand, 1st Test, The Oval | 1983

That summer I averaged 72 in the World Cup, scored my maiden Test hundred in the first Test, didn’t do much in the second and was dropped for the third! Chris Tavaré and I put on 223. It was quite hot and I’d taken my helmet off and had it under my arm. Gower came in, called me for a single that wasn’t really there and I was run out. Somebody on telly must have said I’d have got in if I hadn’t had my helmet under my arm. I went back home to Accrington and people were shouting across the street: “Well played, Foxy – if you’d had your helmet on you’d have got in.” That was hilarious for three days and I then got absolutely sick of it. I was in Manchester in a record shop, looking to see if Southside Johnny had brought out anything new. This bloke was standing at my shoulder. Then I moved down to the Ks to have a look for King Crimson and he followed me. I turned round and said: “Excuse me, am I in your way?” He just said: “If you’d had your helmet on you’d have got in.” At which point, I got right in his face and screamed at the top of my voice: “F*** off.” I ran out of the shop, went straight to my car and cried. I realised that if I was going to play for England I was going to have to learn to cope with the attention.

BOXING CLEVER

106 & 11 | England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Lord’s | 1984

Just before lunch Joel Garner smashed my box. I’m on the floor and everybody’s laughing. I knew most of the West Indies players, they were a great bunch of blokes. Clive Lloyd, who was my county captain, came up to me with a big grin on his face and asked: “Fow, you ok?” So I gave him the old line about “Can you take away the pain and leave the swelling”. I batted on until lunch, feeling a bit sick. I took my box out in the changing room and it fell in two pieces! I was on 94 when Roger Harper came on and I thought: “Right!” So I slog-swept him over long-on for four and then late-cut the next one. It was lovely for a number of reasons: it was at Lord’s; against West Indies; I was batting with Beefy; and Clive very deliberately walked up from slip and shook my hand.

COOKED IN MADRAS

201 & 2 | England v India, 4th Test, Madras | 1985

Graeme Fowler of England celebrates

I batted for nine-and-a-half hours and lost half a stone. I had bandages on both knees because they’d gone septic after diving in the field. Then the bandages stuck to my pads so I had to peel them off. It was also the only time I’ve ever fallen asleep at the crease. It was the last over of the second day and I was 149 not out. Gatt turned down an easy single to deep-square because he said that I’d done enough for the day. So I didn’t even bother backing up and all I had to do was count to five. I got to three and the umpire called ‘over’. I’d missed two balls. Then somebody gave me a bottle of beer. I only had half of it and I was drunk. There was no such thing as rehydration. Once I got to 200 the following day it was like someone had taken all the air out of a beach ball. I was gone.

FUTURE ENGLAND CAPTAIN?

Durham University v Durham 2nd XI, Racecourse Ground, Durham | 1997

It was my first season coaching the university side. I’m watching the game and Andy Strauss, who’s next man in, is sitting on a stool facing me. I’m halfway through some story and a wicket goes down. So Strauss goes out. He pats his first ball straight to short mid-wicket and sets off for a run. Short mid-wicket just lobs the ball to bowler who takes the bails off and he must have been out by six yards. He just carried on running, straight back into the pavilion and sat down where he’d been two minutes earlier. He just looked at me and said: “Sorry, Fox, I don’t think I was switched on then.” He was a bit like that, he needed to wake up. And he did, obviously.

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