Dominic Cork © Getty Images
Dominic Cork © Getty Images

Dominic Cork, a champion in English conditions, was born August 7, 1971. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at yet another talent that got lost somewhere during the nadir of English cricket in the 1990s.

There was never a dull moment with Dominic Cork in action. The 6’2″ frame measured his run-up; his lithe yet fast run-up culminated in a smooth release; and after the picturesque straight-arm release the ball often swung dangerously late, and if it ever hit the pad of the hapless batsman ‘Corky’ went up in an appeal so wild that it could almost be dismissed as outrageous.

Had Cork not done anything of note he would still have been worth a watch because of his appeal. Wisden wrote that it was a “raucous screech with back arched and both arms flung skywards, delivered with such ferocity that the umpire might fear being blown into the sightscreen.” It was certainly not an exaggeration.

His mercurial self also meant that he was often involved in on-field tussles with the opposition, even if it meant going up to batsmen and pushing them intentionally for virtually no fault of theirs. Unlike most shrewd gamesmen it wasn’t a part of Cork’s psychology to get underneath the batsman’s skin on purpose: it was more about a release of the pent-up aggression he always seemed to have in abundance.

Cork had a lethal out-swinger that lost its nip somewhere during his career, reducing him to one of those bowlers depending heavily on English conditions for success. Even then he finished with 131 wickets from 37 Tests at 29.81 with 5 five-fors (his website, mentions “He played test cricket for England an impressive 37 times taking an incredible 131 wickets”); a solid batsman as well, he did not live up to his full potential, scoring only 864 at 18 with 3 fifties.

Of the 37 Tests he played, 27 were played on English soil, in which he picked up 101 of his wickets. He did a decent job in South Africa, but failed miserably in Australia and New Zealand — the only other countries where he had ever toured. However, like most England cricketers of the 1990s, the performances did not find recognition in the world of cricket due the lacklustre display from England.

At First-Class level, however, Cork’s numbers were far better: from 321 matches he had scored 10,114 runs at 25.03 with 8 hundreds (including a double-hundred) and had up 989 wickets at 26.73 with 36 five-fors and 5 ten-fors as he wandered around England playing for Derbyshire, Hampshire, and Lancashire.

Early days

Gerald Cork, the father of Dominic, was a financial consultant who played cricket in the local league at Staffordshire and South Cheshire. Dominic himself was an ardent cricket-lover who mimicked his heroes from a very young age. He got those unusually long hands from his father, but the attitude, energy, and fierce competitiveness were his own. In an interview to The Independent Gerald said: “It was there right from the moment of his birth. He was conscious that his two brothers were older than him and he competed with them instinctively. Sometimes it caused frustrations, but he always competed to win.”

Cork was first spotted by the Warwickshire coach Alan Oakman but before the Warwicks made a move; Alan Hill singed him up for Derbyshire thanks to a hat-tip from Bob Taylor. He began with Staffordshire and then made it to Derbyshire Second XI. He was so energetic that “The concern of his coach, Phil Russell, was to curb his physical exuberance. Russell would not allow Dominic to bowl when he played for Betley,” reported Stephen Fay in The Independent.

After playing Second XI matches for two years Cork eventually made his First-Class debut for Derbyshire against the touring New Zealanders at Derby. He picked up 2 wickets. After that he played sporadically, picking up wickets at times but never really creating any great impact. The first significant performance came against Sussex at Derby in 1991: swinging it at a brisk pace fast under favourable conditions Cork picked up 4 for 66 and 4 for 25 out of the 16 Sussex wickets to fall.

Then came the big match — against Essex at Derby — where he ran through a line-up consisting of Naseer Hussain, Nick Knight, and Saleem Malik, picking up 8 for 53. Derbyshire won the match by 199 runs. It was Cork’s first five-for, and a major one at that. Suddenly he became a permanent fixture in the Derbyshire team. The contributions with the bat helped his cause, and a couple of seasons later he became an essential part of the England A side.

First taste of international cricket

A few good performances in the shorter version of the game earned him an ODI cap against Pakistan at Old Trafford in 1992; he went on to play only 4 more ODIs in three years, picking up 5 wickets in all but failing with the bat, before getting a fair run in 1995. In between all this he managed to get married at the age of 22.

The next season he earned his Derbyshire cap and celebrated it with his first First-Class hundred: coming out to bat at 58 for 4 against a rampant Courtney Walsh at Cheltenham. Cork helped John Morris add 302 for the fifth wicket in no time before Cork got injured and had to retire hurt: he came back to score 104 in 167 balls with 16 fours and Gloucestershire lost comfortably. It still remains the record fifth-wicket partnership for Derbyshire.

A successful tour of India in 1994-95 (19 wickets at 21.36 under unhelpful conditions) with England A  improved his chance to win a Test cap greatly. Whatever doubts were left about his inclusion were eradicated after the Northamptonshire match at Derby: after Derbyshire were skittled out for 113 Cork, by now being given the honour of bowling the first over, bowled unchanged through the innings and picked up 9 for 43 from 22 overs. It was, however, a valiant effort in a lost cause as the Northants chased down 135 for the loss of 6 wickets — but not before Cork picked up 4 for 50, once again bowling unchanged. With 6 more wickets in his next match against Somerset at Derby he eventually won his Test cap.

Test cricket

Cork made his debut in the second Test at Lord’s with England 0-1 down and created an immediate impact. Despite their defeat at home against Australia the West Indies were more than a force to reckon with: Mike Atherton decided to go with five specialist bowlers, with Cork as the only one with any kind of repute as a batsman (though Darren Gough had shown initial promises with the bat as well).

Cork’s career took off well: coming out to bat at No. 7 he added fifty for the eighth wicket, finding an unexpected partner in Peter Martin. He eventually scored a composed 77-ball 30, and when it was his turn to bowl, he picked up 1 for 72. England had conceded a 41-run lead. Once again Cork came handy with the bat, this time hanging around for a 50-ball 23 and helping Graham Thorpe add fifty. West Indies were left to chase 296 after Curtly Ambrose, Ian Bishop, and Walsh were through with the Englishmen.

Cork had makeshift opener Carl Hooper caught behind early, but once Brian Lara took command with a scintillating 62-ball 54 West Indies seemed to be in command at 99 for 1. It was then that the drama began. Cork stuck to the basics, bowling accurately from the Nursery End, and it was the out-swinger that caused most of the damage. Poor Keith Arthurton looked the most helpless of all, scoring a 40-ball duck before Cork found his edge to relieve him of his misery. Other than Sherwin Campbell (who was eighth out after scoring an obdurate 93) and Lara no other West Indian crossed 14. Cork finished with figures of 7 for 43 — still the best bowling figures by an Englishman on his Test debut, eclipsing John Lever’s 7 for 46 at Kotla in 1976-77.

Fun fact: Before the Test started, Cork’s mother-in-law told him that he would toss Dominic’s nine-month old son Greg in the air whenever Dominic got a wicket. Greg lives to tell the tale. In fact, he plays County cricket.

It was a sensational debut, but the English media jumped in eagerness to mar his potential the best they could by calling him “the next Ian Botham.” He was not the first one, and would certainly not be the last one to earn the tag in the 1990s. Sadly, all of them got bogged down by the weight of the tag. Barney Ronay later lamented in The Guardian that Cork’s Tests were “stolen away by a generic breed of in-and-out 1990s England all-rounder that I want to call ‘the Ronnie Iranis’.”

Coming back the series, West Indies had their revenge in the third Test as they won by an innings at Edgbaston despite Ambrose’s injury. Cork, however, showed tremendous mettle, picking up 4 wickets — the first 4 to fall — for 69. Then came the Old Trafford Test.

West Indies knew by now that Cork was the main thorn in their flesh. Cork bowled his heart out once again, picking up 4 for 86 (including Hooper and Lara) to bowl out West Indies for 216. Then, batting at No. 9, he shepherded the tail efficiently to score 56 not out and help add 100 for the last 3 wickets, giving his side a 221-run lead.

West Indies finished the day on 159 for 3 with Lara and Richardson looking in control. The first over of Day Four changed the complexion of the Test: Richardson tried to leave an out-swinger from Cork, but the ball followed him, hit his bat, and came back to hit the stumps; Cork brought the next one into Junior Murray, who was trapped leg-before; the well-pitched up next ball hit Hooper low on the front pad, and Dickie Bird did not hesitate to raise his finger: Cork had become the first English bowler to take a Test hat-trick after Peter Loader against West Indies at Headingley in 1957.

With 4 for 111 Cork was the wrecker-in-chief once again as England levelled the series. The result remained unchanged after draws at Trent Bridge and at The Oval, and Cork emerged a hero from the series. Not only had he topped the bowling charts with 26 wickets at 25.42 (Angus Fraser with 16 was the only one who managed above 10) but also scored 197 runs at 28.14. Of Englishmen only Ian Botham and Frank Foster have scored as many runs in a series while taking 25 or more wickets.

What was more, he had managed to get under the skin of the West Indians. As Matthew Reed wrote, “Mike Atherton positively encouraged him to irritate and annoy the West Indians as much as he did the county cricketers he faced.”

After the aura washed off a bit…

1995 was a phenomenal series for Cork: he scored 589 runs at 21.81 with 3 fifties and picked up 90 wickets at 20 with 4 five-fors and a ten-for. He was named the Professional Cricketers’ Association Player of the Year, and more importantly, a Wisden Player of the Year. Wisden wrote: “The arrival of Dominic Cork last summer was, without question, the most explosive entrance in living memory.”

By the time England toured South Africa that winter Cork was the spearhead of the attack. After a rain-washed Test at Centurion (where England did not bowl) the teams met at New Wanderers: in his first bowl of the series Cork picked up 5 for 84 and 4 for 78 — but his performance was overshadowed by Atherton’s 11-hour match-saving vigil.

He was in business at St George’s Park as well: he began with 4 for 113 but the 3 for 63 in the second innings was possibly the better of the two hauls: in a short burst he removed Jonty Rhodes, Brian McMillan, and Dave Richardson, creating a major dent in their line-up, only to be saved by a partnership between Gary Kirsten and Shaun Pollock.

England lost the series in the final Test but once again Cork showed his pedigree: from 5 Tests he had picked up 19 wickets at 25.52, finishing at par with Allan Donald (who averaged 26.15) as the top wicket-taker in the series. He impressed in the ODIs as well, picking up 10 wickets at 26.40.

Cork took the first wicket of the 1996 World Cup and once again emerged as England’s top-wicket taker with 8 wickets at 27. England crashed out of the tournament to much criticism, and Cork was among the ones who took the flak.

Back home he didn’t exactly have the best of seasons in the twin series against India and Pakistan, and neither did he bowl very well in the County Championship. Playing against Lancashire at Old Trafford, however, Cork pulled off one of the greatest innings of his career. Lancashire batted first and declared at 587 for 9 based on Jason Gillian’s 312. Cork walked out to bat at a woeful 253 for 7 and added 198 with Karl Krikken; he scored 83 not out himself, and then, in the dying stages of the match, blasted his way to an unbeaten 16-ball 34 to pull off a 2-wicket victory. The 198 still remains the record for the eighth wicket for Derbyshire.

Dominic Cork and his round-arm action © Getty Images
Dominic Cork and his round-arm action © Getty Images

A major blow

His personal life, however, went to shambles before the New Zealand tour at the end of the year; his four-year old marriage with Jane was in turmoil. He himself did not do too well on the tour, and the ostentatious aggression that had made him a darling of the media had now played a role in bringing his image down. Cork was branded as a failure and a show-off. Geoff Boycott went to the extent of calling him “a show pony with an attitude problem”, and even phrases like “empty vessels make more noise had started to do rounds.”

Cork later admitted: “Even as I tried my hardest on the pitch, my life was in disarray: my marriage was falling apart and that was all I could think of.” Unable to handle the pressure Cork came back from New Zealand under strange circumstance. He later said in an interview: “When I got back to England, there were cameramen in the trees outside my house and following my car everywhere.”

But Cork was worried, and desperate to get back: “My son was two and I was worried that he wouldn’t know who I was because I was away for so long. I just kept thinking that I had to get home and see him. Walking out of the tour was a very difficult choice to make. I know that some of my team-mates weren’t happy but there are times when you have to put yourself ahead of the game and this was one of them”, he confessed during an interview to The Guardian later. The divorce, however, could not be stopped.

Cork continues

The 1998 home series against South Africa was a gruelling one: Cork began well, picking up 5 for 93 to give England a valuable 119-run lead at Edgbaston, but no play on the final day meant that the Test ended in a draw. South Africa crushed England in the second Test at Lord’s despite Cork’s marathon haul of 6 for 119, and maintained the lead going into the fourth Test at Trent Bridge.

After England conceded a 36-run lead South Africa reached 119 for 3, and the match seemed to be slipping from England’s grip. Then Fraser removed Darryl Cullinan, and in a short burst Cork removed Rhodes and Pollock and came back to snare Hansie Cronje. Having taken the wicket of Jacques Kallis earlier in the innings he played a pivotal role with 4 for 60 to bowl the tourists out for 208. Once again Atherton tamed Donald with 98 not out and England reached home with 8 wickets in hand.

In the keenly contested final Test at The Oval Cork picked up 3 more wickets and scored 24 not out — an innings that turned out to be crucial as England won by only 23 runs. Despite being nowhere close to his best Cork still managed to pick up 18 wickets in the series at 31.83 — finishing just after Fraser’s 24-wicket tally.

He played his first Ashes series that winter but never got going, scoring only 39 runs and picking up 4 wickets from the 2 Tests he played. That one poor series saw him out of the England Test side.


Derbyshire, however, gained from Cork’s presence that summer: Phil DeFreitas had filled Dean Jones’s shoes as the stop-gap captain the last season; in 1999, however, Cork was appointed full-time captain. In all he played 14 matches that season, scoring 535 runs at 26.75 with 4 fifties and picking up 55 wickets at 22.34 with 4 five-fors.

England hosted the World Cup for the first time in 16 years, but Cork was left out. Before the season, however, Cork fell out with the Derbyshire Committee, demanding more power as captain. When these demands were not met Cork asked Derbyshire to release him with four seasons still left in his contract. Derbyshire refused, and after a lot of tussles eventually gave in to Cork’s demands.

Determined for a comeback, Cork began the 2000 season on a high, scoring runs and picking up wickets on a consistent basis. He was eventually picked for the home series against West Indies for the second Test at Lord’s after Ambrose and Walsh led West Indies to an innings victory at Edgbaston. Cork’s out-swingers were back: he bowled fast, he moved the ball around in favourable conditions, and he picked up 4 for 39 as West Indies were bowled out for 267 on the second morning. However,

when Ambrose and Walsh struck back to bowl England out for 134 it seemed that an encore of Edgbaston was on the cards. It took 26.4 overs for the three English fast bowlers bowl out West Indies for 54. Ridley Jacobs was the only batsman to reach double-figures. It began with Gough; and while the wrecker-in-chief was Andy Caddick, who picked up 5 for 16 bowling unchanged, Cork played his part his part as well with 3 for 13. When England came out to bat on Day Two any part of all four innings took place on the same day for the first time.

Walsh, however, turned out to be a more than formidable force to contend with on Day Three as England slumped to 140 for 6 when Cork walked out to join Nick Knight. Walsh had picked up all 6 wickets. With 48 still to be scored Knight and Cork scored at painstaking pace before Franklyn Rose ended Knight’s misery: the southpaw had scored a 46-ball 2 before edging one to Jacobs.

With the tail exposed, Cork decided to counterattack. He lost Caddick, leg-before to Ambrose. They still needed 28. However, he found a capable partner in Gough who hung around doggedly, lending Cork all the support he needed as our hero scored a 49-ball 33 not out with 4 fours and a six to see his side home by 2 wickets.

Cork had found his rhythm back: he picked up 4 for 23 on the Day One at Old Trafford but some obdurate batting helped West Indies save the Test. He picked up 3 for 33 at Headingley in another West Indies humiliation where they were bowled out for 61 and lost by an innings. He finished off the series with 5 for 73 at The Oval as England clinched the series 3-1.

Cork finished the series with 20 wickets from 4 Tests at a ridiculous 12.25 and played an instrumental role in winning the Wisden Trophy. Though he finished behind Walsh, Gough, and Caddick in wickets (he had played a Test less than each of them) he headed the bowling average for either side.

Between the fourth and fifth Tests Cork gave Durham a ruthless hammering at Derby. Derbyshire were down at 121 for 6 after leading by 23 when Cork joined Matthew Dowman: the pair added 258 for the seventh wicket — the record seventh-wicket stand for Derbyshire. Cork eventually scored 200 not out — the innings that would remain his highest at First-Class level.

Surprisingly, Cork’s international career went steadily downwards from there: he played in only 6 more Tests spread over four series and two years. He picked up 13 wickets at 41.77, and though the entire attack was tamed by Rahul Dravid that series, it was Cork who eventually got the axe.

The Oval Test turned out to be his last. He went to Sri Lanka for the Champions Trophy soon afterwards, and after returning without a wicket, was dropped from ODIs as well. In the interim Derbyshire gave him a benefit year in 2001.

He led them for another season that turned out to be a rather eventful one. In the match against Leicestershire he called Brad Hodge ‘a cheat’ when the Australian had claimed a catch off Steven Selwood after the ball had crossed the rope. “I blame the win-at-all-costs culture of cheating which is taking cricket down the road that has made football such a sleazy game. In football it’s diving, shirt-pulling, conning refs and feigning injury. In cricket, it is claiming catches on the bounce, pretending that the ball hasn’t gone over the rope and players standing their ground when they’ve thick-edged it to slip,” said Cork in an interview to Daily Mail.

When ECB Chairman Tim Lamb criticised him Cork dismissed them with the word ‘pathetic’ and earned himself a £1,000 fine and a 3-match ban.

With Derbyshire finishing at the bottom of Division Two the Derbyshire Director of Cricket Dave Houghton insisted on Cork’s sacking from the post of the captain. Cork subsequently requested to be released after the first year of his three-year contract — an offer to which his county agreed.

Move to Lancashire

Cork started off well for Lancashire after earning his cap in 2004, picking up 3 for 61 and 5 for 58 in only his second match against Sussex at Hove, and followed it up with 7 for 120 against Middlesex at Lord’s in the next match. His performances were hampered by an ankle injury, but he still managed to score 437 at 24.29 and pick up 38 wickets at 30.10.

He continued to perform for Lancashire, scoring runs and picking up wickets every season. He was once again fined in the 2007 C & G Trophy after verbally abusing a doping control officer. He was fined £2,500 (later reduced to £500) and suspended for one match. His appearances became less and less frequent as the formidable Lancashire seam attack, consisting of James Anderson, Andrew Flintoff, Sajid Mahmood, and Kyle Hogg often kept him out of the side. Lancashire eventually terminated his contract in 2008 to breed younger players — much to the agitation of Flintoff and the captain, Stuart Law. Cork himself reacted with the words “it hurts, decisions like this”.

Move to Hampshire

After Hampshire offered Cork a two-season deal, and he started off very well with 4 for 10 and 2 for 27 to help his side to victory over Worcestershire at Rose Bowl in his first match. He hunted them down again that season, this time at New Road, with 5 for 14, leading to a 10-wicket victory.

Nic Pothas assumed the role of the Hampshire captain in the absence of the injured Dimitri Mascarenhas. However, an out-of-form Pothas stood down midway during the season, and Cork was asked to lead the side at 38. Even at that age Cork bowled beautifully and led Hampshire to the Friends Provident Twenty20 final.

Playing against Somerset at Rose Bowl Cork picked up Jos Buttler and Arul Suppiah, and hit Kieron Pollard on his eye with a vicious bouncer (Pollard was looking dangerous on a 7-ball 22 at that point of time); the West Indian had to be rushed to the hospital. Thanks to a 79-run fourth-wicket partnership between Neil McKenzie and Sean Ervine Hampshire managed to tie the final, but were declared winners as they had lost fewer wickets.

The victory not only earned Cork another season’s contract, but he was also made a full-time captain for the 2011 season. The last season was good for neither Hampshire nor Cork. They fared way below par in both the Championship and the One-Day formats. In the Twenty20s, however, Cork led Hampshire to the semifinal yet again: once again it was Somerset — this time at Edgbaston.

Shahid Afridi’s brutal slogging helped Hampshire reach 138 for 4 in 15.5 overs before rain intervened. Somerset were set 95 in 10 overs, and with only 4 to be scored off the last over Cork removed Buttler; Suppiah was run out in the last ball, Cork conceded 3, and the match ended in a tie yet again — only for Alfonso Thomas to pull it for Somerset in the super over.

After the match Cork went on to pay homage to his father, who had passed away from cancer a couple of weeks back. “I was just looking up to say thank you to my dad. I asked him to help me out with the last ball and he did. But also I was trying to keep the guys calm,” Cork later said in an interview to The News.

His father’s illness also meant that Cork missed quite a few Championship matches: though he had gone past the 10,000-run mark he fell short of the 1,000-wicket mark by a mere 11. At the end of the season Hampshire decided to terminate his contract, following which Cork decided to end his 21-year long First-Class career. “There were offers out there, I considered them long and hard and looked at where I wanted to be in my life. Losing my father a month ago, who was one of my biggest inspirations, makes you think about your life and take stock. I want to get back to family life — cricket can make you a selfish person, and it’s time to give it back to people,” Cork said after retirement.

He went back to spending more time with his second wife, Donna. Of his retirement Ronay wrote: “With the retirement of Dominic Cork this week I feel the time has come finally to mark the passing of cricket’s forgotten decade. Stop all the clocks. Beep the horn of your sponsored Rover saloon. Because Cork is gone — and it is unexpectedly sad.”

Later years

Cork is a commentator for Sky Sports, and was commentating for the Pakistan Television Corporation when the Sri Lankan bus was attacked by terrorists in 2009. He has also commentated in IPL and has worked as a summariser for Test Match Special. Paired with Finnish figure skater Alexandra Schauman Cork participated in Dancing on Ice (Series 6) in which they were eliminated after the fourth week.

Greg, he of the being-bounced-by-grandmother fame, is also an all-rounder. He made his way through various age-level teams at Derbyshire and has played List A and Twenty20 cricket for them.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at He can be followed on Twitter at