Brian Halford
19th December 2019

Lord: “I was driven to the game by Dennis with Alvin as the other passenger”

Turn to page 576 of the 1986 edition of Wisden and you will find a report of the championship match between Warwickshire and Yorkshire at Edgbaston.

The drawn game contained three centuries. Dennis Amiss and Geoffrey Boycott each scored an unbeaten 103: Amiss’s 72nd first-class century for Warwickshire and Boycott’s 100th for Yorkshire.

But the most eye-catching innings of the match by a mile came from a less-vaunted player: Gordon Lord. “A magnificent maiden century” was how Wisden’s correspondent described the 24-year-old’s work.

Opening the batting, he scored 199 from just 252 balls with four sixes and 29 fours. It was a glorious knock by the left-hander, compiled mostly in alliance with Alvin Kallicharran, with whom he added 206, and Amiss, with whom he added 100 before agonisingly running himself out going for his 200th run.

"I got to 199 – and then ran myself out! I played the ball to Ian Swallow in the covers and he parried it. I called Dennis for a single and was about three yards short."

Gordon Lord

In his tenth championship match, Lord, a Bear through and through having been born in Edgbaston and attended Warwick School, had shown the ability which had been honed in the Bears’ age-groups by Alan Townsend, Alan Oakman, Derief Taylor, Steve Perryman, Steve Rouse, and Neal Abberley.

Lord had arrived. Yet within 18 months he had departed. After just 31 games in all competitions for Warwickshire, he joined Worcestershire where he spent five years before embarking upon a distinguished coaching career. He would become one of the most highly-respected coaches in the game – and those coaching skills owed plenty to what he experienced and learned as a player trying to battle through at Edgbaston.

His 26 first-class innings for Warwickshire brought 508 runs – 199 of which arrived in that one dazzling knock against the White Rose.

“It was a good pitch and I was in good nick,” Lord recalls. “It was a rain-interrupted game and during one break our manager David Brown, who was such a brilliant mentor to me in so many ways, came up to me and said: “Lordy, you should p*** your way to a hundred here. There was so much encouragement around and not just from my own team. As I got past 150, David Bairstow, the Yorkshire keeper, said: ‘Come on lad, get to 200, you won’t get many chances to do that.’

“I got to 199 – and then ran myself out! I played the ball to Ian Swallow in the covers and he parried it. I called Dennis for a single and was about three yards short. I was devastated, but I was elated as well, of course.

“But then came the pressure of following it up and I just never had that self-confidence that you need. Some guys go out there to bat and visualise pinging the next ball through the covers for four. I visualised edging it to second slip. In cricket the difference between success and failure is so much in the mind and I never really had the belief.

“I remember much later on coaching Ben Hollioake for England Under 15s. He was playing a year above his level and had so much talent but was not in great nick so I was saying to him in the nets, ‘keep going, son, keep going, you’re a good player.’

“He came down the net to me and said ‘Lordy – if I may call you Lordy? – I know I’m a good player. Just tell me how I can become a better one.’ That’s belief!”

For any young cricketer emerging into a county first team, there is much to get the head around. Not least often the fact that suddenly you are mingling with your heroes. For Lord, that meant sharing a dressing-room, and a car, with Bears legends Amiss and Kallicharran – which was a little bit awe-inspiring, but also educational.

“We played against Nottinghamshire and I was driven to the game by Dennis with Alvin as the other passenger,” said Lord. “These were my heroes growing up and now here they were taking me to a match.

“They were talking about Mike Hendrick and how, against a young batsman, he would bowl a bouncer, which wasn’t the danger ball as he wasn’t that quick, but then he’d float up an away-swinger, quite wide next ball, and that was the danger ball as he’d nick the batsman off. Sure enough, when I got out there, along came the bouncer and then the slower, wider one. I left it and looked up the other end and Andy Lloyd nodded at me. I had been listening!”

Released by Warwickshire, Lord wrote around the counties and Duncan Fearnley stepped in to take him to Worcestershire for whom he went on to score nearly 3,000 runs at 28.13. He earned his cap at New Road during a 1990 season which brought him the Dick Lydon award for best team man. Having spent the first half of the season in the 2nd XI, he then hit such form that he posted 1,000 first-class runs in a season for the first time.

“I had five great years at Worcester at a time of great success for the club but gradually I realised that my future lay in coaching and coaching development,” he said. “I found it really fulfilling to help young players improve and in 1992 was lucky enough to be appointed as a coach at the National Coaching Association, as it was then. From 1992 until 2017 I worked for cricket’s governing body and loved it until I was head-hunted by the Rugby Football Union.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them as head of professional coaching development before leaving to set up my own business, Get Coaching Ltd, which I now run.

“I have been very lucky to have a career which has taken me to some wonderful places and introduced me to a lot of wonderful people. Playing for Warwickshire seems like a long time ago, but I recently received my commemorative cap, which the club sent to all former players as part of the 125th anniversary, and that brought it all back. That was a lovely gesture by the club and made me feel all over again how proud I am to be a former Warwickshire player.”