DateLine: 8th December 2005
As an opener, good starts were expected from Peter Bowler. This he achieved in recording hundreds on debut (and in his first innings) for both Leicestershire and Derbyshire. Although he was out for just 10 in his maiden innings for Somerset, a collapse by the Cidermen prevented him from doing better than 84* in the second innings, and thus he was left short of a remarkable achievement, although he had failed to reach double figures in 3 First-class knocks for Tasmania. Bowler was an opener who oozed class and steadiness even as a junior player. Indeed, his total of 1,725 First-class runs in the 1988 season was a Derbyshire record for a debut season until Mohammad Azharuddin captured the record in 1991. Bowler’s accumulative instincts and defensive excellence made an excellent opening foil to Kim Barnett, and allowed the skipper to indulge his taste for attacking flair. When it is remembered that John Morris and a young Chris Adams followed Bowler in the order, his stabilising value to the campaign becomes even more apparent. The Barnett/Bowler opening partnership was the bedrock of Derbyshire’s Sunday League triumph in 1990, and although he made only 4 in the Benson & Hedges final in 1993, Derbyshire would probably not have won even their preliminary round tie against Gloucestershire without a man of the match winning knock of 92 from the opener.
Whenever the hypothetical question of who the best English player never to play Test cricket in the 1990’s was, Peter Bowler’s name will surely be near the top of the list. After 2,044 First-class runs (at 65.93) in 1992, the fact that he didn’t even get an A tour that year (while Tony Middleton and Mike Roseberry did) was a selectorial disgrace, especially as that was in an era where Derbyshire pacemen had their bowling figures downweighted because of the seamer friendly greenness of the Derby wickets. Such frustration at his unjust non-selection for England may have contributed to his deteriorating relationships at Derbyshire, and 1994 also saw persistent back trouble limit him to averaging 23.73, a very poor season by his own high standards. It was sadly ironic that the captaincy of Kim Barnett (the opening partner with whom he’d had so much success) was a key reason for him wanting to leave.
Bowler’s reputation was so high (despite his poor 1994 and the fact that he was now in his thirties) that Somerset were happy to offer Bowler a five year contract. With nearly 3,000 First-class runs in his first two seasons at Taunton, the move clearly suited Bowler. Many players in their mid-thirties who had such mediocre seasons as Bowler did in 1997 and 1998 might have called it quits. It is therefore to his credit that he bounced back to feature in both Somerset’s very strong limited-overs campaigns of the early Millennium seasons and their second placed finish in the Championship in 2001, the Cidermen’s highest ever placing. It always seemed strange to describe Bowler as an evergreen when his hair was so flecked with grey, although nearly 20,000 First-class runs, a retirement season average of 49.23, and his last game played at the age of 41 tell their own tales of his quality and durability. Indeed, his will to win and competitiveness was seen in the fact that just a month before his final match he was disciplined by the ECB after an on the field spat with Shane Warne. For all the debate and controversy that Bowler’s career occasionally generated, he was a premier example that batting is done best when it is done simply and correctly.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)