Alec Stewart, regarded as one of England’s cricketing greats, celebrates his 57th birthday on Wednesday, April 8.
Here, the PA news agency looks at Stewart’s career and three more contenders for England’s best ever wicketkeepers.
Stewart was a mainstay of the England side between 1990 and 2003, winning a then-record 118 Test caps. Initially selected as a batsman only, it was not long before he was asked to take the gloves to aid with the balance of a struggling side. Whilst donning the gloves he batted in every position in the top eight, but one thing was consistent – his ability to score runs. He made 15 centuries, including a superb 105 on his 100th Test, and was a brilliant counter-attacking strokemaker in the middle-order. He was handy with the gloves too, ending up with 277 dismissals, most of them accompanied by his memorable roll after taking a catch.
A protege of Stewart, it is no surprise that the Sussex wicketkeeper batsman was the next man to make the position his own for England. Prior’s immediate impact was with the bat as he made a century on debut and his wicketkeeping was exposed to technical difficulties in an early tour of Sri Lanka. Prior went away and worked hard on his game, becoming a key player of the England side that won the 2010/11 Ashes in Australia and became the number one side in the world. His career was ended by injury after 79 Tests, which saw him post 3,920 runs and take 230 dismissals.
Knott was the finest gloveman ever to play for his country and the stats back him up. No Englishman has kept in more than his 95 Tests and nobody has more than his 250 catches. He set the tone on his debut when he proudly recorded no byes and the way he kept to spinner Derek Underwood was widely lauded. He played in an era when making runs were not a prerequisite for wicketkeepers, but still contributed some important innings down the order, scoring more than 4,000 runs. His image was memorable, with his flowerpot sunhat, and he proved an inspiration to future wicketkeepers who would go on to play for England, none more so than Jack Russell.
Making his debut in 1929, Ames’ skills behind the wicket were put to the test three years later when he was the wicketkeeper in the memorable Bodyline series, taking balls at head height and down the legside from the rapid Harold Larwood and Guppy Allen. Long before the days of Adam Gilchrist and Stewart, Ames was the original wicketkeeper-batsman as he scored close to 2,500 Test runs at an average of 40.56 and is the only wicketkeeper in the history of the game to make a century of first-class 100s. He took 74 catches and made 23 stumpings.