First of all, I appreciate the news that Dominic Cork has signed a two-year deal with Hampshire after leaving Lancashire is relatively old news. However, I wanted to use the news to take a look back at Cork’s career and why I think that this could be a very shrewd piece of business by Hampshire, writes Thomas Rooney, exclusively for The Village Cricketer.

Upon hearing the decision that Lancashire wouldn’t be offering Cork a new contract at the end of the summer, many reports were suggesting the dreaded ‘retirement’ word that had been relevant for Darren Gough and Graham Hick recently would be used again in Cork’s case. Firstly though, I knew that Cork wouldn’t want to end his professional career at this stage. Secondly, I knew that there would be counties that would happily take him on board as at 37-years-old – he still has a lot to offer. Therefore, I always thought that any retirement stories were fairly wide of the mark.

Before talking about what lies ahead for Cork in Hampshire colours, let us take a brief look at the significant moments in his career.

1990 – Cork made his first-class debut for Derbyshire
1992 – Made his One-Day-International debut for England
1993 – Scored his first century for Derbyshire
1995 – Took 7-43 in his first test match for England against the West Indies
1995 – Took 26 wickets in the series against West Indies, including a hat-trick.
1996 – Named Wisden Cricketer of the Year,
1997 – Accused by Geoffrey Boycott for being a ‘show pony’ and missed the majority of the English summer because of injury.
1998 – Recalled to the England team, but failed to perform in the Ashes series.
1999 – Made Derbyshire captain
2000 – Scored 33* to help England to victory against West Indies at Lords
2002 – Made his last test match appearance for England against India.
2003 – Left Derbyshire to join Lancashire in the hope of winning trophies
2004 – Lancashire relegated to Division Two of the County Championship
2005 – Promoted back to Division One
2006 – Lost C&G trophy final to Sussex.
2008 – Released by Lancashire in order for the side to ‘evolve’

So, as you can see from this brief summary of Cork’s career – it has been a bit up and down. His international career certainly never prospered as much as it should have done. His test match record is something to be proud of though – he took 131 wickets at an average of 29.81. However, he only played 37 matches. In short, this was due to his inabilities to perform abroad. In English conditions, Cork often prospered – like in the series against West Indies in 1995 – but away from home it never happened for him.

Cork became very much a ‘wicket to wicket’ bowler and without some vicious away swing, this doesn’t tend to achieve much away from England. Injury and personal problems often held him back as well, as did accusations of not trying hard enough to cement his place in the England team. His batting always promised much, but with an average of 18 in the test match arena – again, this failed to live up to expectations. Then, typical of his professional career, after moving to Lancashire to compete for honours, this never quite happened either. It was a case of near misses in Cork and Lancashire’s quest for trophies.

Despite all this though, Cork is undoubtedly a cricketer you would rather have in your side than playing against you. His enthusiasm for the game and his aggression towards opposition batsmen is priceless. Despite never being the quickest bowler, he has always followed through and started at the batsmen like he’d just bowled at 90mph. Over the years, he has got under the skin of certain batsman and this would have cost them their wicket. Often Cork wouldn’t have been the one to take the wicket, but he certainly played his part.

Hampshire are not just gaining someone with enthusiasm and aggression though. They will have in their ranks someone with vast county cricket experience and someone that has taken 895 first-class wickets. Dominic Cork will win matches for Hampshire next season, I’d put a lot of my cricket betting money on that. I’d especially like to see the cricket odds on him producing a man-of-the-match performance against Lancashire because that’s just the sort of thing Cork would do. He has, after all, vowed to ‘haunt’ his old team upon his return.

Overall, it’s a superb signing for Hampshire and a massive loss for Lancashire. They said his release was aimed at ‘promoting younger players’, but with Stuart Law stating that Cork shouldn’t have been released because ‘very few players can do what he does on a cricket field’ – it might be a decision they will regret. Hampshire will be laughing.

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