The recall of Ben Foakes to the England Test side underlines the contribution Surrey’s keepers have made to the national cause. Richard Spiller looks back at those who have come before.
The story of Ted Pooley is a tragic one.
His brilliant work behind the stumps, aiding left-arm spinner John Southerton for Surrey in many dismissals for 17 years from 1866 ensured he was set to be behind the stumps for England at the inaugural Test against Australia 11 years later.
But Pooley’s work on the field was in contrast to his waywardness off it. When that Test came to be played, Pooley was languishing in a prison cell in New Zealand following a dispute. He had previously been suspended by Surrey for “insubordination and misconduct” and in New Zealand, while injured, he was involved in a row over a bet he had taken when umpiring a tour match.
Pooley was arrested for alleged assault and although subsequently acquitted, it spelt the end of his Test career before it had even started. He died bankrupt and in a workhouse.
The former Surrey scorer Keith Booth wrote a fascinating book on Pooley’s life.
Having started his career with Kent, Henry Wood’s appointment as groundsman at Streatham qualified him for Surrey by residence, making his debut in 1884. He quickly became an integral member of John Shuter’s burgeoning team and played his first Test against Australia at The Oval four years later – a side picked by the Surrey committee, as was their privilege in those times.
Sadly, eyesight problems limited him to four Tests but not before he became the first England keeper to make a century, making 134no against South Africa at Bloemfontein.
Surrey’s keeper for 25 years, ‘Struddy’ played 28 Tests for England between 1910 and 1926, his final appearance helping Percy Chapman’s team win back the Ashes at The Oval.
Strudwick was 46 by then, a year from the end of a first-class career which brought him 1,493 dismissals – a record for the time – and he was acknowledged as one of the all-time great wicketkeepers. His gentle demeanour made him among the most popular of players too.
He might have played more Tests had he been a better bat but his colleagues maintained that he more than made up for that in his primary role.
Once Strudwick retired, he became Surrey’s scorer for another 30 years and, when asked how a keeper should avoid finger injuries, he advised that they should rinse their hands in the chamber pot each day to harden them. It’s not known how many took that tip.
Born in Kennington – within sight of The Oval – Arthur McIntyre devoted his life to Surrey cricket. Originally a leg-spinner, he made his first-class debut just before the Second World War and was 28 by the time cricket restarted. But he was to be a key figure in the Surrey side which won seven County Championships in a row in the 1950s, a magnificently agile wicketkeeper who relished standing up to the seam and swing of Alec Bedser and the spin of Tony Lock and Jim Laker.
That McIntyre played only three Tests was down to the presence of Kent’s more spectacular if less consistent Godfrey Evans. His only appearance against Australia, in 1950-51, was as an extra batter and he was run out after being called for an impossible fourth run by Evans.
McIntyre took over from Andy Sandham as Surrey coach at the end of the 1950s, which prolonged his Surrey career by another two decades.
In the wreckage of England’s tour to Australia in 1958-59, which was lost 4-0, Roy Swetman took over from Godfrey Evans, having been identified as his long-term successor.
Swetman’s emergence encouraged Arthur McIntyre to curtail his playing career and concentrate on coaching and he was England’s first-choice through 1959 and into their following winter’s tour of West Indies. But he faded away, his England career lasting just 11 Tests, and Swetman retired aged 28. He came back again later, to play two seasons for Nottinghamshire before packing up again, a third spell seeing him enjoy three years with Gloucestershire.
Single-minded and determined, Jack Richards made a remarkable transformation from tailender at the start of his career in 1976 to scoring a century in an Ashes Test.
He had to keep to a fine variety of bowlers for Surrey, making acrobatic takes from Sylvester Clarke’s thunderbolts while unpicking the wiles of spinners Intikhab Alam and Pat Pocock. His first international recognition came when he was picked as Bob Taylor’s deputy for the tour to India in 1981-82, where he made his ODI debut.
The mercurial Cornishman had to wait until the Ashes tour of 1986-87 for his moment in the limelight. Sent ostensibly as Bruce French’s deputy, he was picked ahead of him throughout the five-match Test series, which England won 2-1. Although he made a duck in Brisbane, Richards more than made up for it by cracking 133 in the next match at Perth, adding 207 for the sixth wicket with David Gower in a mammoth total of 592-8dec.
French regained his spot the following summer and Richards gained only three more Test caps, two of them in the 1988 series against West Indies in which England were thumped 4-0. His last appearance came at The Oval in his testimonial year but it proved a mixed season – he lost his England place to Jack Russell and was released at the end of the season in skipper Ian Greig’s clearout of senior players. At 30, a career of eight Tests and 22 one-day internationals was over.
All-round ability can be a mixed blessing.
Alec Stewart’s 133 Tests for England – there were 170 ODIs as well – saw him frequently switching from opener to keeping and entering lower down the order before he settled into the latter role for the final stages.
Opening was the role he relished most and 51 Tests in the top-order included nine centuries, two of them in the same match as England beat West Indies in Barbados in 1994. But more often than not, efforts to balance the side meant Stewart’s skill with the gloves was utilised – of the 13 Tests he played at The Oval (usually the final game of the series), he kept in 12 of them.
A total of 263 catches and 14 stumpings were the fruits of his labours, Stewart’s final appearance in both Test and first-class cricket seeing him carried around The Oval by his England team-mates after they had beaten South Africa in 2003.
Nowadays, his many duties as Surrey’s director of cricket include lengthy sessions preparing Ben Foakes and his fellow county keepers.
Recognised as the finest English keeper of his generation, Ben Foakes has suffered more than his share of the vicissitudes of his trade.
Ironically, when he gained his first opportunity – as a late replacement for the injured Jonny Bairstow – Foakes capped it by making a century in Sri Lanka. Within five Tests he was on the sidelines again but has been called upon whenever England head to Asia for his ability to cope with the turning ball.
Foakes also played an important – if typically understated – role in the upsurge of fortunes under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum in 2022-23, keeping with his typical elan and scoring important runs. It was not enough to save him from another frustrating Ashes summer on the sidelines in 2023 but he returned in India for his 21st Test, and was a crucial part of a historic win in Hyderabad.
Ollie Pope established a sparkling reputation as a young wicketkeeper in his early days, playing at Guildford – where he made his Surrey Championship aged 15 – and Cranleigh School.
When he broke into first-class cricket, it was batting which proved by far his primary role, deputising for Ben Foakes on a number of occasions, while long injury lay-offs for shoulder injuries and the arrival of Jamie Smith to the dressing room at The Kia Oval meant his keeping gloves got even less use.
But England have found use for Pope behind the stumps. When Jos Buttler dropped out at the last minute in New Zealand in late 2019, Pope stepped in capably despite just five first-class matches in the role making him the least experienced England keeper since Dick Young appeared against Australia in Sydney in 1907.
Pope was back in action briefly in the last Ashes series down under, filling in for Jonny Bairstow in the second innings of the Sydney Test.
And last winter he took over at short-notice from a sickly Foakes in Pakistan, scoring a century and taking seven catches in the opening Test at Rawalpindi, retaining the role for the second Test in Multan before his county colleague returned. Who would bet against another outing at some stage?
As a specialist bat, Jamie Smith established himself high in Surrey’s order in 2023 as they retained the County Championship. Yet his abundant talent also means he is regarded as one of England’s aspiring wicketkeepers, having already donned the gloves for two ODIs against Ireland at the end of the season. Last winter he struck the fastest England Lions century in a first-class match, against their Sri Lankan counterparts in Galle.
He is currently playing in the SA20, backed by the ECB to work on short-form skills rather than touring India with the Lions. Who knows which role he will fulfil when he is back in England colours?