He Wore The Wyvern: Alex Barrow

Alexander William Rodgerson Barrow was born in Bath on 6th May 1992.  He wore the Wyvern from 2011, when he made his first team debut for Somerset in the County Championship against Hampshire, having played through the youth sides from Under 11 to Under 17.

Raised in Frome he was from a keen sporting family: “My earliest memories of cricket were at Frome CC, where my dad used to play, and his social life was there and I followed him. I didn’t really make a choice.

“I was a keen rugby player too as these were Dad’s two sports – in fact I was a better rugby player than cricketer. I idolised Jonny Wilkinson and Ian Balshaw, who was a Bath player at the time and that was all I wanted to do.

“Mum was a keen hockey player. So I just followed my peers and was always kicking a ball around and you realise you have something; that you can co-ordinate yourself and can pick things up quicker than others.”

But Frome CC offered a good grounding for Alex who played his first senior game aged 7 (“they wouldn’t allow that now!”) and even took a wicket! In the first XI there was a Somerset legend, the “Demon of Frome” himself, Colin Dredge.

“Yes he was playing when I started playing, as were his sons Mark, David and Neil, and those three were crucial in my upbringing as were so many others.”

Alex made his first team debut at 15 but had already attracted the attention of Somerset at a younger age: “I had my first trial at Wells School. Dad always tells the story that I played a shot and Pete Sanderson was walking by and gave a thumbs up and a nod to the coach and that was a defining moment for me.”

By now cricket was beginning to dominate Alex’s sport. His slightly diminutive frame meant he was playing rugby against much bigger lads and his enjoyment drifted a little, especially after he injured a shoulder, but he was making progress with Somerset as he moved through the ranks.

Alex attended King’s College, with some fellow future Somerset stars, and he remembers a career defining innings as a 15-year-old that helped elevate his profile: “When Jos (Buttler) and I put on 220 with Jason Kerr and Greg Kennis watching, that was a big moment. But I was already on the radar, but you didn’t really think about it as a kid, I just loved playing cricket and if I scored then I scored and if I didn’t then you got on with it.”

It was after an academy trial at Weston-super-Mare, where Baz scored an elegant if unspectacular 15, that he was informed by Jason Kerr that he would be joining Somerset’s academy. And it was something he took in his stride.

“I was always pretty good with things like that and just thought, ‘OK, I’m here’.

“I recall walking into my first training session and Daz (Veness) was there – who I kind of knew – and he said ‘alright champ?’, so I was relaxed straight away.

“I look back at that group of players then – we had Jos, Leachy, Callum Haggett, Burkey – all in the year above and Lewis, Mesch, Chris Jones and I the year below, so we had a very good group of players. And credit to Jase for getting all those players through.

“I have a huge amount of respect for Jase. Not just for what he has done for me but for the club, as a coach I think he is brilliant and Somerset are in very good hands with him.”

The young Baz learnt about Jason Kerr’s strong disciplinary edge and the perils of social media after Somerset lost a T20 final to Sussex. But this ultimately proved to inspire him: “I put on Twitter that Somerset had bottled it, and I said it as a disappointed fan.

“I went to bed and saw in the morning on my phone that it had caused a bit of a storm and thought I had blown it – that I would be chucked out.

“When I went in on the Monday Jase pulled me to one side and reminded me that – no matter how disappointed I was – that when you are in the academy you are part of the club even though you may not think it. And you stick together.

“So that was a tough lesson to learn, even at 16. Jase and Andy Hurry put me through it a bit. But I felt I owed them after that.”

But Alex was in a good place. In his last year at King’s College in 2010, he was the leading Wisden schoolboy batsman, scoring 803 runs at an average of 160.60. And he batted like a player always expecting to get runs.

He was soon in the Somerset 2nds as an opening bat, scoring 50s regularly. But it was all part of the learning: “It was a step up because you are playing against better players. I remember playing at The Oval against Surrey and they had Meaker, Jordan and Chris Tremlett as their bowling attack.

“I got 50 in the one-dayer and 50 in the three-dayer so did OK. I wanted to score more runs, of course, but I was doing well enough and was very confident.”

The runs were flowing; after a game at Filton College, where Baz and Meschede both scored hundreds to chase down 221 in 20 overs, Alex got the call that Brian Rose wanted a word: “I was pretty positive this would be good news. So I went into the room and he asked me straight out, ‘what do you want to do?’, and I said ‘I want to be a cricketer for Somerset’, and he offered me a contract.

“It felt great. Jase shook my hand and, when I went downstairs, Daz was there and he had the biggest smile on his face and he said, ‘the hard work starts here champ!’

“It was probably the greatest day of my life!”

Alex was called up to represent England U19s with team-mate Lewis Gregory in their one day and T20 series’ versus Sri Lanka, scoring 50 on debut to help England win the first ODI at Fenner’s. He featured in all four remaining matches, the series ending drawn with two wins each and one no result: “I think Jase pushed my case for me. So I went up to Durham and scored 70-odd in a practice match against Durham 2s and then was told I was in the team next day. And I scored 50 which was nice.

“I actually kept Lewis out of the T20 team and we both knew I was no T20 player even then. But we had a laugh about it as we knew it wasn’t going to last very long!

“But it was great – Joe Root was in that side.”

Alex was building good friendships, particularly with flatmate George Dockrell. And the long days can test relationships: “I always say the mates you make in sport are the most solid. You go through real ups-and-downs with these guys and you see them at their best but also see them at their worst. Cricket means long days together.

“But there are things I will share with Dockers in 20 or 30 years’ time and we will still have a laugh about it.”

It was a disappointing end to George’s Somerset career, one that promised so much more: “Yeah, Rosey brought him over and all looked good for him. Then Dave Nosworthy came in, didn’t like the fact that he was away with Ireland a lot, and that was it. That’s what happens.

“I couldn’t believe he never got picked up by another county.”

Alex’s first team opportunity came on 27th April 2011 at Southampton, where he scored a tidy 14, falling LBW to Briggs after Trescothick’s masterful 227. Old schoolmate Buttler (61) and Kieswetter (58) – were also in the runs. Somerset won the game by nine wickets.

“I’d had a good start to the year and scored 150, a couple of 80s and a 90 in the 2s.

“We fielded first and I felt really good walking out. I stood at square leg next to Ian Gould and felt great. There was no grand gesture – I was just told to get on with it!

“I walked out to bat and everyone started clapping, because Tres had got to 150 and I was still on 0. I was facing Griffiths, who was bowling quick, and De Wit, who was even quicker and I managed to clip it for four. I was relieved to get off the mark.

“But it didn’t show on the scoreboard and Liam Dawson was at square leg and he was saying, ‘he’s still on nought, lads.’ Then Ian Gould got on his radio and asked them to get the scoreboard right. So I got my runs and from there I can remember the runs I got. A few lovely cover drives off Griffiths. It was a good feeling.”

But a big shock was in store for Baz in Hampshire’s second innings when skipper Trescothick threw the ball to him to bowl, and he managed to snare Neil McKenzie late on day 3. But it would be his only wicket in first-class cricket.

His highest score to date came in a home game against Durham when he scored 83 in a chanceless knock. He obviously looks back on this with great pride:

“The circumstances needed it because we needed to save the game. The message came out for me to stay out there and get a hundred but I had never been in that position before, at the end of a County Championship game. We had saved the game and Collingwood came to shake hands when Craig Overton ran out to say, ‘stay there until you get your hundred!’

“So Graham Onions said, ‘Give me a brand new ball, I’m going to knock his head off’, but he meant Jamie Overton, who was batting with me, and not me. So he bowled a few short ones to Jamie and I wasn’t prepared for him to get hit, or break an arm for me. And ultimately I had done what I wanted to do so decided to go for it instead.

“But I never got my hundred – and never got a first-class hundred – so that is disappointing. But I wouldn’t have wanted the Durham boys to throw the ball up and give me a hundred either. So I have no regrets doing what I did even though it would have been a dream come true.”

It was in this game that Baz played against the opponent who impressed him the most: “Ben Stokes was a real battler in this game, and the stakes were high. He wasn’t yet in the England side but his name was on everyone’s lips. I really enjoyed the battle with him.”

Baz went a little closer to a first hundred when he hit 88 against Northants, and this would prove to be his highest first-class score.  But his favourite innings was against Derbyshire, an unlikely choice given his score was somewhat modest in a home defeat that looked like it would condemn Somerset to relegation from the top flight of the Championship: “I scored 30-odd but batted a long time with Compo. But we needed to fight and we did.

“Compton was brilliant for me. He was in the 90s and every time I scored a run he ran down to congratulate me like he had scored them.

“But he was absolutely brilliant for us for a couple of seasons. To watch someone go about their business that way.”

When asked who his favourite player was, the answer is a little obvious given the stature of his choice at Somerset: “Of course Tres is a massive influence on the dressing room. I grew up watching him play and it was surreal when you got to play with him.

“But you soon realise he isn’t just a great cricketer but a lovely bloke too. He made it very easy to be in that changing room. He was a huge influence on me.”

Baz celebrates with teammates in Northampton in 2014

In 2012 Baz made national headlines after an incident in a home game against Surrey that lead to angry scenes whilst dividing opinion. Alex was at the non-strikers end when he was controversially ran out while backing up by former team-mate Murali Kartik, which led to the Indian being vociferously booed by the fans who once cheered him. Some blamed Kartik, some said Baz should have remained in his crease. Kartik had previously upset James Hildreth in the same game when he lavishly celebrated after dismissing him and gave Chris Jones a similar send-off too.

“He wasn’t in the best of moods during the game. I just couldn’t believe it happened. He came out saying he had warned me and all that but he was bowling to Tregs when he said something, and I honestly didn’t know what he said. But I also know I am not five yards out of my crease.

“I was about six inches outside the crease – doing what any batsman would be doing – and, had he just bowled it, then everything would have been fine. But instead he turned around and took the bails off. I couldn’t believe it.

“Then Gareth Batty came over and asked what was going on and the umpire explained to him, and he said (to Kartik), ‘are you sure you want to go ahead with this?’

“Murali said ‘yep’, and Batty repeated the question several times, and Murali kept saying, ‘he is out, so yes, I want to go ahead with this’. So the umpire said, ‘sorry Alex, but I guess that’s out?’

“So I walked off and I could hear the boos ringing out. I went to the gym, not the changing room, and just sat there. I was having a really bad summer and this just wasn’t the thing to do. I didn’t talk to Murali about it afterwards – I shook his hand, and Batty’s hand – and never talked to him since.

“I still think Murali was out of order. If he wasn’t in such a bad mood then he wouldn’t have done it. He was a very passionate bloke but would he have that to Tres? No.”

The whole incident prompted much debate and the games experts all seemed to have an opinion: “I was watching Sky a few days later and there was Mike Atherton calling me a cheat. He hadn’t seen the incident – only on a video 100 metres away – and I remember thinking that that wasn’t right. That really disappointed me. I was not trying to gain any advantage and every cricketer does the same.”

Another bizarre incident involved Alex and former England batter James Taylor after Baz had effectively overturned the umpire’s decision to give Taylor out. Alex had dived to his right in an attempt to take a catch but dropped it. When he saw Taylor walking he called him back but the tabloids seemed to have it in for him and he still copped some flack.

Keeping against Worcestershire in 2014

Up to 2013, Alex’s opportunities keeping wicket were limited due to the presence of two international keeper’s at Somerset; Craig Kieswetter and Jos Buttler. After Buttler left for Lancashire Baz was named as Kiessy’s understudy but, in July 2014, every Somerset fans nightmares were confirmed when Craig suffered a horrendous injury off a David Willey bouncer at Northampton. It would ultimately finish Kieswetter’s cricket career. Baz was handed the gloves but he was far from delighted with the outcome.

“No not really. I was absolutely gutted when Jos left because he is a Somerset boy and I am a Somerset fan. I was in the mix with all that was happening, fully aware of why, but it was all disappointing. As a club you wanted to keep both (players) but Jos was a home-grown player and we could have done more to keep him and Craig.

“Everyone assumes Jos will come back but he was very upset when he left because it wasn’t handled well. And that sticks with people. So I wasn’t shouting ‘yippee’ at all.

“After Craig left, well I wasn’t good enough to be a first choice wicket keeper. There’s a big difference between someone like me and a top class keeper. Standing back I felt comfortable, but up close it was different. Tweds (Paul Tweddle) got me to a place where I could do it but look at the best – someone like Bruce French – and they have that gift standing up.

“I was effectively a good fielder but with gloves on. That’s all.”

When Matt Maynard joined Somerset in 2015 he announced to the group of players that Somerset would not be signing a new keeper and Alex would be number one with James Regan as support. This added a new pressure to Baz: “I was a part-time keeper, not full-time. Sarge knew that and I was happy to stand in and help out. But when you are first choice you can’t make the odd mistakes you may get away with when filling in. You have to take everything cleanly all the time.”

After a decent preseason Alex dropped Paul Collingwood in the first game with what he calls “a relatively easy catch” when he was on 40 and he went onto make 140. But he was in decent form before damaging a finger against the touring Kiwis. Thinking it was broken two x-rays suggested no damage so Baz battled on through the pain barrier, but effectively keeping with one hand. This ultimately led to a downturn in form with bat and gloves and Alex knew he was under pressure: “I knew I was going to get dropped. It was frustrating as I had a great chance to be the first choice keeper here but messed it up.”

A few more high profile dropped catches in an away game at Durham followed, alongside a second innings duck, and Alex boarded the team bus for the long journey home. When the team stopped at one of the service stations, he was approached by Matt Maynard: “He asked me how my hand was and I just asked him to tell me what he was going to tell me. He confirmed I was going to be left out for a few weeks.

“Whilst that was a relief, the timing and place was not on. I’m stuck on a bus for another six hours and I wanted to let go but couldn’t. Back at Taunton I got into my car and just cried. I didn’t play another champo game that year.”

As a replacement Somerset drafted in international Luke Ronchi and former Hampshire stalwart Matthew Bates at different times. Alex recalls this being a very testing time. But he enjoyed some success in the one-dayers and second string and this prompted some praise from Maynard for the way Alex kept battling.

“I knew the club was going to sign another keeper, and I was expecting someone like Steve Davies, so when the email came through and we had signed Ryan Davies I was surprised, especially after we had let Bates and Reegs go.

“So 2016 comes around and I thought there would be a bit of competition but Ryan started from the off and I thought that was a little unfair. You have two young guys and one has played five games and I had played more but hadn’t proved myself.”

Out of the team it did look like Baz would have one opportunity to regain his place: “We played Pakistan here and assumed I would play, but the team sheet came through and I wasn’t on it, so I asked Jase what was going on and he wasn’t sure.

“And from there I knew I wasn’t going to get a new contract; I didn’t score enough runs to warrant a new contract, and I wouldn’t have deserved it. The club took any decision out of my hands and it was a relief come the end. I have no bitterness toward the club.”

But Alex Barrow walked away with his head held high. In first-class cricket he scored four 50s taking 71 catches. In List A he scored 388 runs with a highest score of 72 taking 24 catches and one stumping. Baz told the Beeb at the time: “”I have been very lucky to have played with some fantastic players and with some great friends.”

Batting v Middlesex in 2016

In 2017 he became player-coach at Exeter CC and enjoyed a good season personally, scoring 700 runs in 14 games, in a side that narrowly avoided relegation. Alex became Exeter’s captain in 2018 and his team has made a great start, winning six of the first 7 games and sit in second place. Baz is in good form, scoring 107 against Bovey Tracey and 96 against Exmouth.

He now works at King’s College, looking after the keepers and batters, and has a position at Kings Hall as well. And he is grateful to former Somerset paceman Stefan Jones who has handed Alex a chance to work at Wellington School and has been a major help in securing Baz some coaching work. And even though his schedule is busy he is still a regular visitor to the Cooper Associates County Ground and thinks the club is in good hands with the current director of cricket and head coach.

“I didn’t want to leave with any bitterness. Initially it was tough watching after years of playing here and not being part of it. But my flatmates are all cricket fans and they would tempt me down here and my attitude now is that I have played here and it was great.

“I still want the boys to win and do well. Whether that be Tres or Tregs or the younger guys like Bessy and Leachy.

“Sarge and Jase will be brilliant. I think Jason could have taken the reins sooner as these two really understand the club inside out. The youngsters – Lewis, Leachy, the Overtons – they have all come through with Jase being a huge part so there is automatically a lot of respect there.

“Sarge is a great man-manager and a Somerset man. These guys are strong at building cultures. And you know there is a very clear action plan. I think that is very exciting.

“This is such a good and well supported club and I am a fan too.”

Alex Barrow reflects on his time as a professional cricketer with Somerset with pride and very little regret: “I’m not sure I would change much if I could. I trained as hard as anyone and battled back from four major operations. I worked my nuts off to make it happen – anyone would say that. So I won’t lose sleep at night thinking I could have done things differently.

“Of course I would like to have scored more runs, but I put so much pressure on myself that come the end I was scared stiff walking out to bat.

“It was my dream to play for Somerset and I achieved that.  No-one can take that away from me.”