DateLine: 13th February 2006
Peter ‘Digger’ Martin became part of the furniture at Old Trafford during the 1990’s, such was his presence in and importance to the team. An accurate, fair haired bowler who would often gurn his face during the walk back to his mark, he found controlled movement easy to produce, and his 6’4” height also allowed him to get awkward bounce. Despite having been a fairly regular wicket taker for Lancashire for the preceding few seasons, it was still a surprise when he was called up for the Texaco Trophy against the West Indies in 1995. His selection was largely an educated hunch by Ray Illingworth, and it paid off perfectly when Martin claimed 4-44 on debut. After another good performance in the next match, he was a near certainty for the Test squad. He bowled well in the first three Tests of the series, although large numbers of wickets eluded him and he was dropped, although he had shown his spirit and ability with the bat by taking out the long handle to hit Ian Bishop for six on his Test debut. On that winter’s tour to South Africa his 11 Test wickets came at just under 20, and he bowled tidily during England’s doomed World Cup campaign of 1995/6. His ODI career lasted on and off until 1998/9, although his last Test match was one of the most dramatic and pulsating of recent times. Despite finishing wicketless in the Sixth and final Ashes Test of 1997, he took a vital massively skied catch to dismiss Shane Warne (the eighth Australian wicket) with the tourists less than 30 runs away from victory. He had dropped Warne in the first innings, and the hearts of several million Englishmen were in their mouths as the catch tumbled erratically out of the South London stratosphere and safely into his palms. He had earlier blasted a quick 20 as England’s second innings collapsed, which also proved vital as England won by just 19 runs.
He had always been a capable batsman throughout his career, with two First-class centuries to his name, the first of which was made at the obscure Gateshead Fell ground in 1992, and the second of which contained six sixes against Warwickshire in 2002. He won the Sunday League with Lancashire twice, as well as playing in three victorious Lords Finals, where he took 3-17 against Essex in the 1996 Natwest Final and 4-19 in the 1998 final against Derbyshire, proving, as he had with England, that the big occasion stifled neither him nor his bowling. Martin is also a highly gifted painter, which he was able to devote more time to after retiring from First-class cricket in 2004, after a persistent knee injury had restricted his availability that season, although even in his mid thirties he was still taking his wickets at a very acceptable price.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 Matthew Reed)
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