Foxes Flashback - Phil DeFreitas' Test Debut
Phil DeFreitas (Test Debut, 14th November 1986)
A slightly different, but important anniversary today. ‘Daffy’ made his England debut at the Gabba as a 20-year-old. His mature 40 in the first innings, during which he put on 92 for the 8th wicket with Ian Botham helped England to a first innings of 456. Australia could not compete with this and followed on, and with five wickets in the match it was a great test debut with England winning by 7 wickets. It was also the last time that England won a Test match at the ground.
Legend has it that when he came through the Grace Road gates in July 1984 to play for the Middlesex under 25 team against their Leicestershire counterparts, he knew that this was where he would play his best cricket, it would be home.
He had been born on the Windward island in the West Indies of Dominica and had moved with his parents to London at the age of 10. The summer of 1984 saw him on the Lord’s ground staff, with periodic matches for the Middlesex junior teams. MCC coach Don Wilson had tipped off Leicestershire’s Ken Higgs that Phil was a young cricketer worth watching. Though he scored only 22, his innings included hitting sixes off Leicestershire’s opening bowlers, Gordon Parsons and Jonathan Agnew and by the end of the day a contract with Leicestershire was as good as sealed.
In a career of 21 seasons he scored 10,991 runs and took 1,248 wickets in first class matches. He may very well be the last cricketer to achieve this feat. He had two spells with Leicestershire, 1985 to 1988 and 2000 to 2005, during which time he was captain for a season and a half.
His first spell with the county saw his England debut, and an Ashes winning tour of Australia in 1986/87. During the Adelaide test, three Leicestershire players were in the team (David Gower and James Whitaker being the others). It was hard for him to adjust to county cricket when he returned, and he moved to Lancashire at the end of 1988.
This period saw his most successful bowling, with 30 wickets in the 6 Test matches of 1991, though he was always frustrated that he was not an automatic choice for the Test team, in the way that he seemed to be for the one-day internationals. In all he played 44 tests and 103 one day internationals.
The loss of his England place and increasing frustration at Old Trafford saw the move south to Derbyshire and then to Leicestershire again until the end of his career.
He very much stepped into the breach to lead the county in 2003, a year which saw the double relegation in both the county championship and the one-day league. It was a poor reward for throughout his career he had regularly been one of the most successful all-rounders in the English cricket.
Though he retired from first class cricket in 2005 he has continued to play club cricket, coach and talent spot as recently as 2019 he helped Rothley Park win the Everards Leicestershire Premier League.