Neil Harvey Fairbrother
Fairbrother was named after Neil Harvey, Australian batsman of the 1950s. He was one of the first international one-day specialists and, in his post-playing career, agent to the Flintoff empire.
I saw Fairbrother score his only international century and put on over 200 with Graeme Hick at Lord’s in 1990 to take England to a seven wicket victory against the West Indies. Their partnership, facing Patterson, Ambrose, Marshall and Walsh, set a new record for any wicket in an ODI in England. I remember the excitement of the run chase, never believing we were safe. In my mind, the setting was dark and indeed it turns out that Fairbrother and Hick turned down an offer to leave the field for bad light. That simple decision, facing a West Indies attack of such pedigree, is as notable as the runs they scored.
I was at Lord’s that day during a vacation from my MA studies at the University of Pennsylvania. My Californian girlfriend, Maki, was with me for a week, but not that day, which I spent with my Dad and she with my Mum. She hadn’t complained. I had justified that it was a ritual for my Dad and me to spend a day together at Lord’s. And afterwards I emphasised to her what a special occasion it was to see England beating the West Indies – one that I hadn’t enjoyed in my cricket conscious life. She seemed to be pleased for me. It crossed my mind that the highlight of a visit home with my american girlfriend shouldn’t be, but really was, a day watching England play cricket. Guilt, not for the first or last time, prodded the comfort of enjoying cricket.
So, leaving Neston Cricket Club last Bank Holiday Monday, my teammates still celebrating our victory as Cheshire Over 40 champions, my friend and I soberly discussed our disappointment at not getting to play against Fairbrother. His team had lost in the other semi-final. As the two semis took place simultaneously on Neston’s two pitches we hadn’t even seen him play. I had him pointed out to me in the clubhouse before play. My friend and I reasoned that it would have been a bigger story to have played and lost to a former test batsman than to win this particular trophy. Anecdotage versus achievement. We left our preference unstated, but later, back at our home clubhouse celebrating with teammates, our speculation felt like sedition. The shared pleasure of a victorious campaign wasn’t for trading.