DateLine: 22nd November 2005
Matthew Cassar was a promising all-rounder who, despite some high quality performances, never quite managed to fulfil the promise of his early appearances. Born in Sydney, Cassar qualified by residence as an English player in time for the 1997 season. His First-class debut against the 1994 New Zealand tourists (he was allowed to play as it was a friendly) went extremely well – a boundary laden 66 from no.8, and then three second innings wickets (including the match winning one) as Derbyshire tumbled out the tourists to win by an innings. Such was his promise in this match that the odd voice in the committee room advocated Cassar being offered a contract as Derbyshire’s overseas player while he served his residential time. However, in the end he did have to wait until 1997 for his first full season, and in the pre-season of that year he strained ankle ligaments, and then came into a team soon to be rocked by the resignation and departure of skipper Dean Jones. That first full season ended with a reasonable batting average of 32.42, although 52 overs bowled in 7 matches told it’s own story as to how Cassar was now a cricketer whose bowling was the poor relation to his skills with the bat. He made good progress with the willow in 1998, scoring his maiden century and six half century’s in the Championship, as well as producing some excellent one-day knocks, although a lack of consistency kept his average at the unremarkable 27.23, and his 10 wickets cost him a very expensive 61.40 each.
The feeling that greater responsibility may assist his bowling gained credence in June 1999, where Cassar bowled more overs than anybody else in a desperately makeshift Derbyshire attack against Essex and returned his first five wicket haul. By 2000 Cassar had established himself as a high quality limited-overs opener, capable of batting through the middle overs and then finishing games in a way not dissimilar to Nick Knight. However, as his skill as a limited-overs batsman grew, his championship returns seem to go proportionally backwards, as he failed to average 20 in both 1999 and 2000, and these two seasons saw 44 innings produce just one half century, a long way short of what was required. Cassar himself admitted that his head was clogged with thoughts of county caps, big centuries and England A tours at the start of his innings, and this was adversely affecting his ability to play himself in and to play each ball on it’s merits. After finishing his Derbyshire career with a much wanted century in a one run defeat to Durham in the Sunday league, he moved to Northamptonshire, who no doubt overlooked his poor Championship returns in favour of his growing prowess as a limited-overs player. However, in two seasons wrecked by injury, Cassar made little impact and was released with a year left on his contract. 2005 saw Cassar return to the Derbyshire second XI for a handful of one-day matches, and the idea of offering Cassar a contract for one-day matches only would be an interesting one, although the fact that he is now 33 may prevent this. Cassar was formerly married to England Women’s wicketkeeper Jane Smit.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)