Darren Gough – Green Room ambassador and English cricket legend is remembered not only for his sporting prowess, but through his extensive charity involvement, catalogue of media work on the likes of TalkSport and Sky, appearances on shows like Strictly Come Dancing (winning the series in 2005) and his current role of Director of Cricket for Yorkshire County Cricket Club, the man nicknamed Rhino has become one of England’s best loved cricketers.
No matter whether it was taking wickets, broadcasting on radio and TV, or meeting our Green Room guests, Darren’s personality always shone through – one of the game’s true characters, his sense of fun, passion for his country and encyclopaedic knowledge of the game makes him a true English cricket icon.
Rewind back to 1993 and a 23-year-old Gough was wreaking havoc in the County Championship. He was armed with a wand of a right arm, bowling long, hostile spells with a real appetite and passion for taking wickets. Gough clearly enjoyed himself on the field too – never short of a word or two for opposing batsmen and a clear love for the game that illuminated the field, the young Yorkshireman was rewarded with a spot on an England A tour to South Africa where he also impressed selectors.
As Gough’s talents blossomed, hopes were high amongst pundits, commentators and most importantly, the ECB selectors. Gough had already been compared to legendary Yorkshire fast bowler Fred Trueman by then England coach Keith Fletcher and his bowling talent was evident.
Fast paced and aggressive to boot, Gough had one of the best Yorkers in cricket history, often trapping batsmen in the crease as the ball careered at more than 80mph towards their toes. Gough also had the inane ability to be able to swing the ball into the batsmen’s body, which was highly uncommon for English bowlers of the time.
Pakistan legends Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, and Waqar Younis were the first proponents of in-swing bowling during the 1980’s and as a true student of his craft, the young Gough examined these bowlers meticulously, noting their bowling actions, seam position variety, delivery angles and how they created such turmoil for batsmen. Not only could Darren produce deliveries that no other English bowler at the time had in their arsenal, but many predicted this Yorkshire sensation could also be England’s next great all-rounder after Sir Ian Botham had retired in 1992.
On Test debut at Old Trafford against New Zealand in June/July 1994, Gough smashed the Kiwi bowlers to all angles of the ground scoring 65 with the bat, taking a wicket in his first over and four in total. Quite the debut from the man from Barnsley who played with personality, panache and could be seen grinning through his helmet as he dispatched the New Zealand bowlers with the upmost contempt.
The ashes 1994/95
With an Ashes Tour to Australia looming in November of that same year, ECB selectors could not ignore Gough and he was duly selected for his first overseas tour as a fully fledged England international. At just 24 years old, not only would this be Gough’s first experience of Ashes cricket but with the tour running from November 1994 to January 1995, this would also be his first extended period away from home. To make this tour even more poignant, Anna Gough was pregnant with their first child and Darren left for Australia full in the knowledge that he would miss the birth of his son.
Remember, this was long before the days of FaceTime and players being allowed to nip home for such family moments, but in true patriotic fashion Gough elected to join his teammates, ready for what would be a monumental challenge against an iconic Australian side.
At the time, the Aussie line-up was packed with household names – a venerable who’s who of cricket greats. The names roll off the tongue…Taylor, Healy, Bevan, Boon, Slater, Warne, McGrath and of course the formidable Waugh brothers. In what was one of the greatest cricket sides ever assembled, the Australians had regained The Ashes in 1989 and had no intention of relinquishing the famous urn.
The tour did not begin well. The Gabba in Brisbane has not been a happy hunting ground for the English and Australia piled on the runs with Michael Slater and Mark Waugh scoring 176 and 140 respectively. Despite defeat Gough took six wickets in his first Ashes Test.
Defeat in Melbourne in the 2nd Test was to follow but Gough was again amongst the wickets, taking seven wickets in the Test Match and showing selectors exactly why he deserved his spot on the plane. With the series on the line and England needing a win to avoid another Ashes disappointment, the 3rd Test in Sydney would be the next stop for England. The iconic Sydney Cricket Ground was the venue and Darren’s performance in this match would become the stuff of Ashes legend.
Spectators could see that Gough was up for this one. Eyes wide, sweat pouring from the brow under the baking Australian sun, he attacked the crease with intent, delivering the ball with his trademark hostility. First, he had the wicket of Boon, Steve Waugh followed not long after and wicket keeper legend Ian Healy would be his third victim. Now on a roll and bowling with pace, accuracy and confidence, there was no stopping this Rhino’s charge. Three more wickets followed, and Gough had a first innings six wicket haul in what was only his fourth ever Test Match.
Gough also came to the batting party – slogging the likes of Warne and McDermott around the park, scoring a magnificent 51. Could this stellar performance help clinch victory for the English? Sadly, it wasn’t to be, and the 3rd Test match was drawn meaning Australia’s 2-0 series lead was unassailable and as holders of the urn, even a series draw meant The Ashes would stay Down Under.
Gough may not have ended the game on the winning side, but his Man of The Match performance single-handedly saved England from defeat, put him on the international cricketing map and established him as a truly inspiring cricketer in what was a sadly uninspiring era for English cricket.
To hear the full story from Darren himself, take a look at the full interview below.