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Graham Roy Dilley

Graham Roy Dilley

BatLeft-handBowlRight-arm fast
Born-National Team Eligibility-
Years of Service1977-1986DebutKent 1977, Worcestershire 1987, MCC 1980, Natal !985, England1979.
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Other Teams

MCC, Natal, Worcestershire and England.

Player Biography

The late Graham Dilley was more famed for his bowling than his batting, yet he will always be remembered most for helping to turn around England’s fortunes against Australia in the Headingley Test of 1981. Following on, and 500-1 to win, he shared a 117-run partnership with close friend Ian Botham to help the national side to an unlikely win.

England were 135-7, 92 runs short of making Australia bat again, when the Dartford-born fast-bowler joined Botham out in the middle. They played with fluency and freedom, on a difficult pitch, putting on a partnership of 117. Despite the obvious pressures, it was just two mates having fun. Dilley was eventually bowled for 56 by Terry Alderman, another former Kent bowler, but the damage was done. It allowed Botham and Bob Willis to terrorise the Australian batsman and record the most unlikely of victories.

Commenting on the life of Dilley, Botham said: “I’ve got so many fond memories of him. He was a fantastic cricketer who had a lot of talent. He was plagued with injuries, his neck and knees, which probably stopped him playing a lot more for England, but on his day he was the best.”

Dilley made his first-class debut for Kent against Cambridge University, aged only 18, and quickly developed into a highly talented fast bowler. He made his ODI debut for England, against West Indies, in November 1979, during the World Series Cup. Given the new ball, Dilley took the wicket of Desmond Haynes as England recorded a slender victory.

His Test debut then came against Australia, the following month. He took three wickets in his first match and then played a part in England’s World Cup campaign in 1983, before a neck injury forced him out of the game for a year. He returned to county cricket with Kent in 1985 and took 63 first-class wickets the following season. It earned him an England recall.

Former Kent and England wicketkeeper, Alan Knott, reflects: “Although Dill and I were on the staff together at Kent for many years, it was unlucky that we did not play more games together. Graham was amazingly quick when he started, tending to get the ball to move into the right-handers. Then, later in his career, he got the ball to swing away, which made him an even better bowler. Graham had an aggressive run-up and that, together with his genuine pace, made batsmen consider getting on the back foot, causing them to hesitate in their shots against his good length deliveries. Towards the end of his time with Kent he was certainly becoming a real force to be reckoned with.

“I knew Graham from an early age and was probably the first professional cricketer to meet him, back in the mid 1970’s at Dartford Cricket Club. The Kent second team were playing and I was there with Colin Page, the Kent manager, who had asked me to have a look at Paul Downton keeping wicket. Graham knocked on the window of my car and said to me that he would like to play for Kent so I introduced him to Colin.

“It was a neck/shoulder injury that held his career up and limited his fantastic talent. When his rhythm was right, he could bowl as quickly as anybody. He was a great person to be around in his playing and coaching days. I certainly enjoyed Dill’s company; he loved the game as a player and coach. He will be greatly missed.”

Between 1986 and 1988, Dilley took 83 Test wickets at an average of 26.43, as he impressed on the world stage. In 1986-87 he took five for 68 in the first innings of the first Test at Brisbane to help England to victory. In the drawn series against New Zealand the following winter, he produced the best bowling figures of his career, six for 38, and finished the series with 15 wickets at an average of 14.

In 1987 he signed for Worcestershire and helped them win four trophies in three years – including successive county championships in 1987 and 1988.

In 1988 he played his last ODI, against West Indies at Headingley, of all places, and in 1989 his last Test match was against Australia at Edgbaston. Dilley played 41 Tests and 36 one-day internationals during a 10-year international career, which took in Ashes series wins in 1981 and 1986-87.

He ended his Test career with 138 wickets at an average of 29.78.

Dilley retired from all forms of cricket in 1992 and moved into coaching. He enjoyed spells as an assistant coach with the England men’s team and bowling coach to the England women’s team, before taking up a position as head cricket coach at Loughborough University.