Graham Gooch: The Legend


The word ‘legend’ is often attributed to an individual without that person having deserved such a tribute in the true sense of the word. But Graham Gooch, or Mr Essex as he is rightly known, is the personification of the word.

The magnificent Club servant and superstar has taken his place in folklore, a true marvel in all things cricket both for England his beloved County.

One of the most successful international batsmen of his generation, and through a career spanning from 1973 until 2000, he became the most prolific run-scorer of all time, with 67,057 runs across first-class and limited-overs games. For Essex, his tally of is without equal.

Born in Whipps Cross, he is the most prolific Essex batsman of all time. He played 391 first-class matches for the County between 1973 and 1997, scoring 30,701 runs at 51.77 including 94 centuries.

He is also the Club’s leading scorer in one-day cricket with 16,536 runs including 34 centuries at 40.93, the first being an unbeaten 114 against Leicestershire at Chelmsford when Essex won by two wickets with an over to spare.

And while the Essex legend will always be remembered for his deeds with the bat, he proved himself a useful medium-pace bowler, taking 200 wickets at first-class level. Also a superb slip fielder, he pouched 749 catches in all formats of the game.

He captained Essex between 1986 and 1994 although he did hand over the reins in 1988 to Keith Fletcher for one season. After retiring, he became heavily involved in a variety of posts with both Essex and England and is currently an Ambassador for the County and also serves on the Cricket Advisory Group.

Wherever he played, he provided rich entertainment but for Essex fans, his rich harvest of runs allowed them to indulge themselves in a regular cabaret of enjoyment and showbiz performances with so many headline displays. Pure theatre from the maestro.

No-one will dispute that Graham Gooch was the greatest batsman Essex has produced. His world-class status is confirmed by the mountain of runs he scored all around the globe and there was no more thrilling sight in the world than watching Goochie annihilate attacks with his brutal power.

At Test level, too, he was a gigantic figure. He featured in 118 games, 34 as Captain, and scored nearly 9000 runs, including 20 centuries, at an average of 42.59. He is the only batsman to have scored a triple-hundred and century in the same Test (333 and 123 against India at Lord’s in 1990) but probably his two greatest knocks were against the most fearsome attacks in the world.

Both of them were at Headingley when conditions favoured the bowlers. The first of them was in 1991 when he carried his bat for 154 in a total of 252 against a pace attack of Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Malcolm Marshall and Patrick Patterson.

A year later in another low scoring match that England won by six wickets, Essex’s favourite son struck 135 when Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and Mushtaq Ahmed were striving to remove him.

His highest Championship score was 275 against Kent at Chelmsford in 1988, but while his first-class record for the County may never be surpassed, his deeds at one-day level were also phenomenal.

He scored 8,573 runs in the Sunday League, including a dozen centuries with a top score of 176 against Glamorgan at Southend in 1983, whilst amassing 5,176 runs in the Benson & Hedges Cup and carried off a record 22 Gold Awards in the competition. He also won nine Man of the Match awards in the NatWest Trophy in which he totalled 2,547 runs with a personal best 144 against Hampshire at Chelmsford in 1990.

But the one-day innings that gave him and Essex supporters the greatest satisfaction was the one in the 1979 Benson & Hedges Cup Final at Lord’s. In becoming the first player to hit a century in the Final, his 120 laid the foundation for victory against Surrey and signalled the County’s first trophy after a wait of 103 years.

Gooch relates: “Obviously there was great relief at the end that we’d finally won a trophy after falling short of the line many, many times but on this occasion, we finally got over that line.

“It all came together in 1979, not only winning that trophy but going on to win the Championship comfortably way before the end of the season. And that was the launch pad for many years of success.”

Happy Birthday, Mr Essex.