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Black History Month: Twenty-One Black Pioneers in English Cricket | Part 1

Part One of our series as we run through the 21 black cricketers to have represented our men's and women's England sides.

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Black History Month: Twenty-One Black Pioneers in English Cricket | Part 1

Twenty black cricketers have represented England's men's and women's teams

Black History Month provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the history and achievements of black people in the UK.

The month of October is dedicated to celebrating the contributions of black people to British society and to raise awareness.

The BAME community has a rich history in English cricket, from Roland Butcher and the great Basil D'Oliveira, through to 2019 World Cup winners Jofra Archer, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid.

To mark Black History Month we will take a look at the 21 black cricketers to have represented the England Men’s and Women’s teams. Here is Part 1 as we celebrate at the first 10 to wear the Three Lions...

Part 2 can be read HERE.

Roland Butcher 

The first black cricketer to ever represent England, Roland Butcher made history in the 1980/81 tour of West Indies when he made his debut in Barbados, the country of his birth. Known for batting with aggression and flair, Butcher played in three Tests and three ODIs for the Thee Lions. Those international appearances complemented a 16-year career with Middlesex between 1974 and 1990, which included recovery from an eye injury in 1983 which threatened his sight when he was struck by a ball from George Ferris. Butcher, who moved to England at the age of 14, was a talented athlete and chose to pursue cricket over football, having played semi-professionally for Stevenage Town. Since retiring from playing, Butcher has held coaching roles with Tasmania, Bermuda and spent 15 years as director of sports at the University of the West Indies' Cave Hill Campus.

Roland Butcher was the first black cricketer to play for England

Roland Butcher was the first black cricketer to play for England

Norman Cowans 

Norman Cowans is best remembered for his sensational, match-winning role in one of the greatest Tests of all time. As England looked to keep the Ashes alive in the 1982-83 Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, the fast bowler produced a magic second innings spell of 6/77 to inspire the tourists to victory by just three runs. ‘Flash’, as he was known, had been handed his Test debut in the first Test of that Ashes series as a raw 21-year-old who had caught the eye with his performances for Middlesex the previous summer. The 500th cricketer to play for England Men, he played in 19 Tests and 23 ODIs for the Three Lions between 1982 and 1985 and played county cricket for 15 seasons with Middlesex and Hampshire. Cowans, who was born in Jamaica and moved to England at the age of 11, now runs his own sports promotions business and is a DJ in his spare time.

Norman Cowans is best remembered for his match-winning spell in Melbourne

Norman Cowans is best remembered for his match-winning spell in Melbourne

Wilf Slack 

The cricket world was rocked in January 1989 by the news that Wilf Slack had collapsed and died while batting in The Gambia, aged just 34. Slack was buried in his England blazer and with a bat by his side as cricket said goodbye to one of the most popular figures in the game. Born in St Vincent, he had moved to England with his family at the age of 11 and shone through the age groups for various clubs in Buckinghamshire, catching the eye of Middlesex, where he played for 11 years. His form in 1985 – scoring 1,900 runs at 54.28 – paved the way for an England call-up and a debut against West Indies at Port of Spain in winter 1985/86. Unable to immediately convert his county form to international cricket, Slack appeared in three Tests before being an unused member of the touring party in the 1986/87 Ashes. Slack’s death was mourned too in New Zealand, where he spent five English winters coaching.

Wilf Slack tragically died aged just 34

Wilf Slack tragically died aged just 34

Gladstone Small

He may not have looked much like a cricketer - Klippel–Feil syndrome gave his a distinctive hunched appearance – but Gladstone Small was one of the most effective players of his time. Small was born in Barbados and moved to England shortly after his 14th birthday. A universally popular player, his most memorable appearance came in the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne in 1986/87, when he took 5/48 in Australia’s first innings and was awarded man-of-the-match. A right-arm outswing bowler, he played 17 Tests for England and 53 ODIs, and was in the England squad for the 1987 and 1992 ICC Cricket World Cups. A loyal team man, Small was also committed to his county, Warwickshire, where he played for 20 years until his retirement in 1999.

Gladstone Small was player of the match in the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne in 1986/87

Gladstone Small was player of the match in the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne in 1986/87

Phil DeFreitas

With over 100 ODIs to his name – including three World Cup tournaments – and 44 Test matches, Phil ‘Daffy’ DeFreitas was a mainstay of the England team for 11 years. As well as being a World Cup runner-up on two occasions – 1987 and 1992 - his debut Test series was the successful Ashes tour of 1986/87. A reliable seamer at international level – his 140 Test wickets leave him 30th on the list of England Men’s all-time Test wicket-takers - DeFreitas shone in the county game, ending his career with over 1,000 first-class wickets. His 21 seasons of first-class cricket also featured 10 centuries, which naturally saw Daffy lumbered with ‘the next Botham’ tag. A supremely talented player – with the bat, with the ball and in the field – DeFreitas was capable of moments of true brilliance. If you’ve never sought out the YouTube footage of him on the charge at Adelaide in 1992 then give yourself a treat.

Phil DeFreitas was a mainstay of the England team for 11 years

Phil DeFreitas was a mainstay of the England team for 11 years

David Lawrence

‘Syd’, as he was known, was just in the process of establishing himself in the England Test shirt when he suffered a career-defining knee injury against New Zealand in 1992. It came four years after his Test debut – a one-off Test against Sri Lanka - but only six months after he had taken 5/106 in a series-levelling victory against the West Indies at the Oval. On that day the powerful Gloucestershire seamer – capable of ratcheting up the pace – had taken the wickets of Desmond Haynes, Richie Richardson and Viv Richards, and the trajectory of his international career was heading only in the positive direction. Sadly the knee injury meant Lawrence never did pull on the Three Lions again, although he did return briefly to first-class cricket with Gloucestershire in 1997. Of late Lawrence has been bulking up as part of his new sport, bodybuilding.

A knee injury cut short David Lawrence's international career

A knee injury cut short David Lawrence's international career

Devon Malcolm

“You guys are history,” Devon Malcom is said to have commented to the South African team after copping a blow to the head with the bat in hand on a fast, south London Oval track. And boy, were they. Malcolm would go on to record figures of 9/57, bowling ferociously and devastatingly fast to help take England to a tub-thumping win in August 1994 – a rare light in the 1990s gloom. His figures are the third-best ever by an Englishman. It remains a highlight of Malcolm’s career – and rightly so – but his achievements and record in English cricket go beyond that one special day. He took over 1,000 first-class wickets and was still steaming in and causing batters to hop around at the age of 40. Not a natural batter or fielder, his efforts in his less strong suits won him fans from across the game.

Devon Malcolm took 9/57 against South Africa in 1994

Devon Malcolm took 9/57 against South Africa in 1994

Chris Lewis

An all-rounder who – at his best – made the game look so easy, Chris Lewis enjoyed some memorable moments in an England shirt but his career is generally remembered for the less positive moments. He was, though, first and foremost a supremely talented cricketer. At Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Surrey he excelled in the county game, his smooth bowling action, classy hitting and first-rate fielding was an impressive package and Lewis soon found himself in – and then like many in the 1990s, out – of the Test team. Highlights include a fine hundred in Chennai, and there were also four more scores of 50+ and three Test five-fors. Many cite his bowling in the 1992 World Cup as evidence of some of his best cricket for his country – a tournament at which England got very close to lifting the trophy.

Chris Lewis was a talented all-rounder but his career is most remembered for less positive moments

Chris Lewis was a talented all-rounder but his career is most remembered for less positive moments

Monte Lynch

The hard-hitting middle-order batter born in British Guiana played in three ODIs for England against West Indies in 1988. He failed to make an impression and did not appear again, but enjoyed an impressive county career with Surrey and then Gloucestershire. A fine slip fielder, Lynch drew criticism for joining West Indies’ rebel tour of South Africa in 1983/84. Lynch continued to play club cricket following his retirement and still coaches the game and deals in cricket equipment.

Monte Lynch made three appearances for England

Monte Lynch made three appearances for England

Neil Williams

For a “one cap wonder” the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin aren’t bad names to claim as your only two Test wickets. Neil Williams was called up to the England side for his debut against India at the Oval in 1990 at the last minute after Chris Lewis withdrew due to a migraine. The quick away swing bowler, who moved to England from St Vincent aged 13, was a key part of the successful Middlesex side of the 1980s and early 1990s, winning four County Championships a number of Caribbean-born team-mates. Williams died of pneumonia at the age of just 43 in 2006 in St Vincent, three weeks after suffering a stroke.  

Neil Williams dismissed Sachin Tendulkar in his only Test for England

Neil Williams dismissed Sachin Tendulkar in his only Test for England

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