Darren Stevens: A Domestic Cricket Veteran Par Excellence

Cricket is such an unpredictable sport that it does not give every aspiring personality a chance to showcase his or her talent. And this is a case of a cricketer who is a genuine pace-bowling allrounder. Despite delivering consistent performances, Darren Stevens never got a chance to play for England in International Cricket.

Competitions from Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood proved too strong for him. While both of them played more than 50 Tests for England, Stevens’ time was slowly running out. When Collingwood retired from International Cricket in 2011, Stevens was already 35. So, he had little to push given that England invested heavily in allrounders like Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes.

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Early Career and Setbacks

Darren Stevens debuted in 1997 for Leicestershire and started his career as an opening batsman. In 1999, he scored his 1st First-Class hundred in the 4th match of his career. He remained in the fringes till 2001 but with strong performances in the 2002 county season, he was in the 30-man probable England squad for the 2003 World Cup.

After two mediocre 2003 and 2004 seasons, Leicestershire released him and then he joined Kent in 2005 season.

Dream seasons with Kent (2005, 2010, 2013)

After relocating to Kent in 2005, Darren Stevens had a great season with the bat, scoring 1277 runs at an average of 49.11 in 16 matches. He scored 4 hundreds and 6 fifties with a best of 208 runs. He also took 17 wickets in that season. In the 2006 season though, he averaged a sedate 39 with the bat.

His performances in the Pro-40 league bought Kent on the verge of promotion. His good performances, both with bat and ball, in 2005, 2010 and 2013 County Championship seasons won him the Player of the Year award for Kent.

In 2010 season, Stevens scored 935 runs in 14 matches at an average of 44.52. He scored 4 hundreds and 2 fifties with a best of 197 and took 27 wickets. In 2013, he scored 1268 runs in 15 matches at an average of 63.40. He scored 4 hundred and 7 fifties with a best of 205* and took 32 wickets.

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T20 career and further setbacks

Following good performances in the County T20 Blast, Stevens was selected to play in Zimbabwe’s T20 series in 2009. He also played for New Zealand’s domestic team, Otago, in 2010-11 season. He also played in Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) for Dhaka Gladiators in 2012 and 2013 season. Dhaka Gladiators won the title in both seasons, however Stevens was charged by the ICC for failing to report two corrupt approaches in connection to games in the BPL. He hit a double-hundred (205 runs) in the last match of the 2013 County Championship thinking it as a last game. However, he was proved not guilty by tribunal in February 2014.

Stevens played for Comilla Victorians in BPL for 2015 season and the team was crowned champions. So, he was a part of the winning franchise in 3 BPL titles.

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Career after turning 40

While Stevens turned 40 in 2016, his thirst for scoring runs and taking wickets didn’t die. He is still ageing gracefully like wine and had hit his highest First-Class score of 237 runs against Yorkshire in 2019 at the age of 43. Stevens hit 597 runs in 12 First-Class matches at an average of 33.16. He scored 1 hundred and 2 fifties with a best of 237 runs and took 52 wickets also that season at an average of 17.57 with five 5-wicket hauls. He also took his best bowling figures in First-Class cricket of 8/75 against his former team, Leicestershire in 2017.

Stevens took 29 wickets at an average of 16 in the 2020 County Championship and was the third-highest wicket-taker. At the age of 45, he began the 2021 season by becoming the oldest player to score a County Championship century since 1986. Later in the season, a record-breaking contribution of 160 out of a stand of 166 for the 9th wicket in the match against Glamorgan was set, the highest ever proportion of any stand over 100 in First-Class cricket; coming in with Kent 80-5 he managed the batting from 128-8 until out at 294-9.

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Darren Stevens will be remembered as modern folklore of English Cricket and who knows, had he got a chance to represent England, he would have pipped allrounders like Paul Collingwood, who wasn’t a very impactful player and Andrew Flintoff, who was injury-prone.

Featured Image: Darren Stevens | Twitter

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