DateLine: 8th December 2005
At 6' 5", and over 16 stones, Adrian Rollins was an imposing presence at the crease, and he had a range of shots to match, from billowing drives through the ‘V’ to spectator dispersing hooks and pulls. It is often forgotten that Rollins made his Championship debut for Derbyshire as a wicketkeeper (becoming the 500th First-class player for Derbyshire), in the injured absence of Karl Krikken and Bernie Maher. Although Derbyshire lost heavily in that match, Rollins kept tidily to 74 overs of Derbyshire spin, and stumped Tim Curtis off Richard Sladdin. Batting at no.8 in that match, Rollins showed his ability with the bat by making 49 runs across two innings without being dismissed. There was also speculation that the giant Rollins may have been the tallest man to ever be a designated wicket-keeper in a First-class match. The majority of Rollin’s other appearances came as a batsman, and unusually for a young player he looked at home in the county game straight away. Second season syndrome may have been a reason for a disappointing season in 1994, although interestingly his best performances with the bat again came when he was pressed into service as an emergency wicketkeeper, although in one such match against Lancashire he was dismissed by Jason Gallian just three runs shy of a maiden First-class century.
Rollins buried the ghosts of that game with his maiden century in July 1995 (becoming the 100th centurion in Derbyshire’s history), and two games later followed it up with an unbeaten 200 against Gloucestershire. At a touch over nine hours it was the longest innings in Derbyshire’s history, and was all the more remarkable in that Rollins retained his concentration despite the conditions being more like Benidorm than Bristol. However, in further evidence that the cricketing gods do frequently look the other way, Rollins ended up on the losing side. After establishing his credentials as a batsman who could bat for long periods of time, Rollins later proved his versatility by smashing a century before lunch at against Glamorgan at Chesterfield in June 1997. His three centuries in that season were rare bright spots in a season dominated by the aftermath of the resignation of Dean Jones, although a broken kneecap in late August was a particularly nasty way for his campaign to end. A serious back disc injury in 1998 wiped out most of the second half of his 1998 season, although he returned from nowhere (and with scarcely any preparation) to bat at no.3 as Derbyshire were routed in the 1998 Natwest Final. Although he only made 1 his importance to the team was shown in how he was rushed back so suddenly. As Dominic Cork threatened to resign the captaincy in 1998 (in one of the bouts of internecine strife which have so badly affected Derbyshire in the last 15 years), rumours began that Rollins was the committee’s choice to captain if Cork made good with his threat. Within a year, Rollins had left to join the exodus of excellent players leaving at the end of 1999 (despite Derbyshire having secured a place in the formative year of the new First Division of the Championship). His move to Northamptonshire (who he had earlier bracketed along with Derbyshire as not being a good county to play for if you wanted international recognition) was not an especially productive one though.
After a disappointing debut season at Wantage Road (he averaged just 26.50 in the Championship), Rollins vowed to start 2001 as a basher rather than a blocker, after a confidence restoring winter captaining a high quality New Zealand league team. However, he again could only average in the 20’s. Although his scores picked up to a certain extent in 2002, he didn’t appear after June and following a sudden wrist injury (which showed no real prospect of quick recovery) Northamptonshire decided not to offer new terms and Rollins retired from first-class cricket. Although well over 100 First-class matches and 13 Hundreds is hardly a paltry career, Rollins probably under-achieved in the fact that he was never selected for an England A tour, despite scoring runs as a young player on Derby wickets which generally did more for the bowlers average than the batsman’s. His brother Robert kept wicket for Essex for many seasons in the 1990’s and despite being 2 years Adrian’s junior he actually made his First-class debut a season before his older brother, although both brothers made their Championship debuts on the same day, although not against each other. No doubt to his disgust, Adrian was twice caught by his brother in later Championship matches, and in a Sunday league match in 1998 both Rollins brothers kept wicket for their respective counties, another of the notable occurrences which Adrian Rollins seemed to attract throughout his career.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)