John Morris can look back on almost two decades of top-flight cricket with considerable pride – and a reputation as an entertaining and at times swashbuckling batsman – but he must be as aware as anyone that his career might really have ‘taken off’ if he hadn’t.
A Twenty-minute trip in a Tiger Moth bi-plane over Queensland in 1990 effectively ended his international hopes after just three Test matches. It was during an up-country game against a state side at Carrara that Morris joined David Gower in a joy ride in the skies; they had each been dismissed in the game and thought they had time before they might be needed to field. Gower piloted the plane and ‘buzzed’ the cricket in play below them, batsman Allan Lamb making mock efforts to ‘shoot them down’ with his bat; however entertaining all this was to the aviators and the public, it did not go well with the England touring party.
The side was not having the best of tours and the Tour Manager Peter Lush and skipper Graham Gooch were furious with Gower and Morris, even at one point threatening to send them home summarily. In the event, the pair were fined £1,000 each, the maximum under the touring rules, and Morris was not picked for an England Test team again.
Morris was selected for the end-of-tour One Day International series, his best performance was a top score of 63 not out in the first match at Adelaide, which was not enough to see England to victory.
John Morris was born in Crewe, Cheshire on 1 April 1964; Gower, the other ‘fool’ in the Tiger Moth, was also born on 1 April, seven years earlier which might be one explanation for their preference for a practical joke. Morris, the son of a railwayman, made his start in senior cricket in another railway county, Derbyshire, aged just 18 when he played against the visiting Pakistanis at Chesterfield in 1982. His next First-Class game was not until the following June but from then on, he was a fixture in the top order and played for Derbyshire until 1993. He was not on good terms with his county captain – Kim Barnett – and chose to join County Championship newcomers Durham. He played for them, helping to establish the county as effective and viable members of cricket’s elite, until 1999. At an age, 36, when most players would be looking to wind down, he signed for his third county and moved to Trent Bridge.
An average of 30 in his first season with Notts was a disappointment, but in his second and final summer with them, that average improved to 45.71. As the fates so often decree, his final First-class appearance came against Derbyshire at Trent Bridge, after earlier in the season he had scored an undefeated 136 against his former county at Derby.
John Morris played 362 First-Class matches, scoring 21,539 runs at 37.32 with a top score of 229 v Gloucestershire in 1993, he made 52 centuries and 104 half-centuries and took 156 catches. In a similar number of List-A games, 350, he made 8,362 runs at 27.06 with 10 centuries and 40 Fifties and a best of 145 against Leicestershire in 1996. It is an impressive record but could, perhaps should, have been even better.
He was never more than an occasional bowler but he certainly was part of a great cricketing occasion – whilst with Durham, it was from his bowling that Brian Lara hit the boundary that took him to the world record score of 501!
Morris later returned to Derbyshire as Head of Cricket but was sacked in May 2011, during the club's County Championship match against Essex.
In 2018, Morris along with his son, opened a wine bar in Duffield, Derbyshire
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 553