Home > Features > The Bard of Barnsley
picture of Darren Gough with penguin
Darren 'The Dazzler' Gough might have hung up his bowling boots but he is determined that his unique system for targeting the opposition will live on.

The Bard of Barnsley

He terrorised batsmen all over the world for nearly two decades, but as he bows out of the game Darren Gough reveals the secrets of his success.

As he prepares to swap his cricket whites for a glittering showbiz career Darren 'Dazzler' Gough is determined that the twenty years of cricketing wisdom accumulated in his fast bowler's brain will be passed down to the next generation of Yorkshire and England quicks.

855 first class wickets (including 229 in his 58 tests) plus the small matter of 598 one-day scalps suggests a bowler who knew a thing or two about getting batsmen out.

But, as Gough himself is first to admit, it is more than just natural ability that gets wickets -it's the players who do their homework who get the best results.

picture of Darren Gough with shoe
"Big shoe - what shall I do?"

Gough remembers well the wise words of senior players back in his debut season of 1990.

"When I started at Yorkshire a lot of the old pros like Arnie Sidebottom, Phil Carrick and David Bairstow had been around for years and they knew the strengths and weaknesses of pretty much all the other players in county cricket. They would tell me “so-and-so doesn't like short stuff” and “so-and-so plays around straight ones early on”. It was never written down so you had to carry all this information around with you in your head. Sometimes I would forget what they had told me about a certain batsman and bowl the wrong type of delivery at them early on. It used to drive them crackers."

But one day the Dazzler devised a system which helped him remember precisely what to bowl to each batsman every time he came across them in the middle.

Gough recalls how it started. "Late in 1993 we were playing a game against a Sussex team that included Martin Speight. I knew that Speight had a particular weakness but I just couldn't remember what it was. In the end I asked our captain Martin Moxon and he reminded me - “Martin Speight can't play straight”. I kept repeating that over and over until I got him out with a quick yorker."

What started as a simple aide memoire for the ex Sussex and Durham keeper began a habit that served Gough well throughout the rest of his career. From that moment on the Yorkshire speed man had a rhyme for everyone.

By the beginning of the 1994 season Gough was prepared and ready to unveil his unique methods on unsuspecting batsmen up and down the country.

picture of David Boon
"David Boon - moves too soon" was used to limit his effectiveness during the 94/95 Ashes series.

"The first game of that season was a warm-up against our arch rivals Lancashire at Old Trafford. I took 5-75 in the first innings using my new method ... “Warren Hegg plays to leg”, “Nick Speak - give it a tweak”, “John Crawley - plays short balls poorly”, “Peter Martin - very slow starting”, “Stephen Titchard - hit the pitch hard”. I'm no poet laureate but this sort of stuff comes pretty easy to me," says Gough with pride.

The new system paid instant results as Gough blazed an early season trail through county batting line-ups and straight into the England team for the first time.

"I used my new system on my test debut against New Zealand. I got 4 wickets in the first innings: “Mark Greatbach - bat and pad catch”, “Martin Crowe - runs too slow”, “Dion Nash - tends to slash” and “Chris Pringle - block the quick single”. I remember them all to this day."

"It's the easiest way that I know to have an active game plan for each opponent. Some players couldn't cope with the mental side hence: “Owais Shah - laugh at his car” or “Martin Saggers - just look daggers”. Other players had technical faults that could be exploited, such as “Steven Crook tends to hook”, or quirky habits ... “Ryan ten Doeschate - nervous starter”. Now that I'm retiring I'd like to make sure that all this knowledge isn't lost."

However, not all of Gough's team mates past or present have been quite so enamored of the system. A few saw its merits but the majority felt it was a waste of time.

picture of "The Hole In The Wall" contestant
A contestant in Goughie's new show The Hole In The Wall sizes up the next challenge.

"To be honest it's not that hard to have a plan for the opposition batsmen and remember it without having to write a stupid poem" says Alex Wharf, who played with Gough during his days at Yorkshire. "Goughie really struggled to come up with rhymes for certain players that weren't utterly pointless. I always remember him saying to the lads before a game against Leicestershire “Darren Maddy - he's the daddy” and then “Phil De Freitas hates potatoes”. I can't see how that was meant to help us."

Other Gough memory aides that fell flat were: “Vikram Solanki - needs a clean hankie”, “Martin McCague - gay plague” and “Andrew Strauss - Finger Mouse” - most of which served only to confuse opposition and team mates alike.

Gough is undeterred. He is convinced that his quirky rhymes have an important role to play in the modern game. His next project is to write down all of his couplets and present them to the Yorkshire coach Martyn Moxon for safekeeping.

"I know Martyn is very keen to get my list under lock and key. Its tactical dynamite and I'd hate it if it fell into the wrong hands. I know that lots of the other county coaches have adopted this system. They even had one for me: Darren Gough - plays through the off. I'm setting up a similar system for my new television show ... “Hole In The Wall - career freefall”. I've not lost it."