Cult Heroes: Mark Waugh


This week’s focus in our Cult Heroes series is on one of the world’s best who we were fortunate enough to enjoy watching over 15 years at the Club.

Mark Waugh showed is class both on the domestic and international stage and joins the likes of Stuart Law, Ken McEwan and Ryan ten Doeschate in the list of Club greats from overseas.

This series is supported by Allen Ford and we thank them for their continued support.

Essex Career Stats (1988-2002)
Debut: 14 August 1988 v Nottinghamshire (Refuge Assurance League)
Appearances: 175
Runs: 9,682
First Class Average: 59.73
Highest Score: 219* v Lancashire
Centuries: 27
Fifties: 47
Wickets: 115

When Allan Border had to return to Australia in August 1988 to prepare for his country’s forthcoming international series in Pakistan, he recommended Mark Waugh to the county as his Overseas replacement. Waugh was a virtual unknown with the Essex faithful but he was to soon become one of their adopted sons.

He produced a stunning performance on debut when he scored 103 off 94 balls in the Sunday League match against Nottinghamshire at Colchester with his second fifty coming in just 28 deliveries. When the opposition batted, he then claimed the wickets of international batsmen Tim Robinson and Derek Randall at a cost of 16 runs. And Waugh then admitted that it was his first game in four and a half months.

A star was born in Castle Park.

The county wasted no time in recruiting him as their overseas player for the next three years and he proved a wonderful signing.

England and Essex fast bowler Neil Foster recalls the arrival of the budding illustrious player. “He turns up, gets 100 on his Sunday League debut, so we were pretty well sold straight away,” he reflected.

“To come in and do that as a 23-year-old was a huge achievement really. He was a pretty quiet fella, a real homebody who wasn’t interested in the drinking or the nightlife. Certainly, when he came to Essex, he didn’t really seem interested in drinking and the English game had perhaps more of a drinking culture than Australian cricket. So he seemed pretty straight on the way he was going to run his career.

“He was very unassuming, but put him on a cricket field and you’d see the other side of him he was very, very competitive. He really fitted in with us ever so well.”

Mark Edward Waugh was born in Campsie, New South Wales on 2 June 1965. A quite brilliant batsman, his style was a joy to watch – all elegance rather than brute power. He was a more than useful medium-pace bowler and wonderfully athletic fielder who also took some brilliant catches in the gully or at slip and is rightly considered as one of the greatest fielders of all time. Many of his catches were simply breath-taking and made to look so easy.

He went on to establish himself at Test level winning 128 caps as Australia ruled the world for several years with Waugh contributing 8,029 runs @ 41.81 to play a key part in their successful reign. Twin brother Steve, older by 4 minutes, captained his country from 1997 to 2004 and the siblings proved a formidable double act in world cricket

Mark was an undemonstrative presence at the crease but his commanding batting boasted clean hitting and superbly timed strokes to work the ball around – and through – the field. His manner in the middle contrasted with his somewhat quiet and retiring public persona off the field.

Mark ended his first full season with Essex as the county’s leading run-scorer and then in 1990, aggregated more than 2,000 Championship runs that included eight centuries, two of them double hundreds. It was little surprise that he won the first of his 128 Baggy Green caps for his country that year.

He was named as one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year in 1991, although he was unable to play county cricket that year due to commitments for Australia but he returned to Essex for four months the following season. Playing with trademark pomp and authority, he scored 1,253 Championship runs at an average of 78.31. Those included his highest score for the county when he hit a wonderfully entertaining and unbeaten 219 against Lancashire at Ilford during which he and Nasser Hussain shared an unbroken partnership of 347 in 64 overs setting a county record for the third wicket. Waugh then left at the end of July to link up with Australia for their Test series in Sri Lanka.

But to the delight of every Essex cricket fan, he returned in 1995 to resume his county career when he thrilled the crowds once again aggregating a combined 2,000 runs in Championship and One-Day League matches.

Ronnie Irani acknowledges the tremendous respect and fondness that everyone associated with Essex had for Mark Waugh. “Everyone warmed to him not just the players but the members and supporters as well, he was a real win at all costs player,” he said.

“He’d get up in the morning, get to the ground and all he thought about was winning. And the guy had plenty of practise, he’s been a winner throughout his career. He was fantastic as a player, sheer class. Just watching him whip the ball through leg side from off stump was fantastic. Just a total natural. Natural eye, natural flair. And he did it all simply. He said to us a lot of times, ‘If a ball comes down and I fancy hitting it I will.’ He was brilliant.”

Increasing Test match calls deemed that he would be unavailable for future county stints although there was to be a surprise a final swansong at the end of the 2002 season. With Andy Flower on duty with Zimbabwe in the ICC World Cup and Essex on the threshold of promotion back to Division One, Waugh agreed to play the final two Championship matches and two one-day fixtures.

He scored 117 against Durham in the first of those Championship matches then revealed immediately afterwards that it was the first time he had played a competitive innings since April. He then followed up with 49 and a defining 76 against Nottinghamshire at Chelmsford helping his adopted county to clinch the Division Two title and return to the top-flight.

In his 82 first-class matches for Essex during which he scored 22 centuries, Mark totalled 6,690 runs @ 69.73 whilst he also recorded five hundreds amongst his 2,292 runs from 93 List A outings. Those statistics speak volumes for his enormous talent and the impact he had on Essex.

Upon retirement, Waugh became a Test selector and is now a cricket commentator.