Remember Duncan Fearnley Bats?

I’ve been too busy this week to think about the ODIs. Sorry. With all the rain around they sound like a damp squib anyway – although it was good to see the lads pick up a win in a T21 yesterday. In the meantime Alan Gibbs is back with an article about Duncan Fearnley. Remember their bats? What was your favourite brand back in the day? Alan has picked out his …

With cool stripes at the bottom, names like ‘Magnum’ and ‘405’ adorning it, owning a Duncan Fearnley was like owning a Ferrari for schoolboys. They were coolest bat an aspiring cricketer could have. Some had the Gray Nicolls Dynadrive, some had the GM, but the one that looked the best was always the DF.

Since I was an awful cricketer , I didn’t own one – preferring wielding the V Caribbean that I had neither the strength or skill to hold. I didn’t consider myself worthy of a DF ‘Attack’ let alone a Magnum.

When Graham Hick smashed 405 for Worcestershire against Somerset in 1988, he did so with a Duncan Fearnley. The celebration was making a bat for him, and we all thought he was going to be England’s saviour. He’d blossomed at the one-day level, but could succeed at the Test level? Hell no. This was England in the 1990s. Hopes turned to despair faster than a can of Shandy Bass went flat.

But it wasn’t all about Hick. In the 1970s and 1980s cricketers like Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, and Ian Botham all used DFs at one point. And they smashed people round the park with them. Sunil Gavaskar, Allan Border, Allan Lamb, Graeme Pollock, Wasim Akram and Martin Crowe … the names go on. All of them scored runs for fun with DF-adorned willow.

On a county level, Duncan Fearnley will always be associated with Worcestershire. The brand, named eponymously after its owner, had an ordinary career with the home team (20.58 in the late 60s). But when he based his bat factory in Worcester, and later became the county’s chairman in 1986, his place in Worcestershire folklore became assured. After he took over at the top job, Worcestershire ruled the roost, helped itself to two County Championships and numerous one-day trophies.

Unfortunately, however, as time wore on, the Fearnley brand began to struggle. It became more difficult to compete in a world where the Indian willows were cheaper, and the Indian market was expanding at such a pace that no-one could keep up. When you go from Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards to Vikram Solanki you know things are falling away.

In 2018, some international sponsorships still maintain their relationships with teams. Sandpaper or not, Gray Nicolls still gives their cash to the Australian team. GM and the South Africa team is a partnership. Sareen Sports has the Indian market, for the most part.

England – a local team – prefers its kits to be made by Adidas and its players play for the highest bidder. And Virat Kohli, the current god of cricket, doesn’t need your cricket sponsorships. MRF, a tyre maker, is taking care of that.

Right now, Duncan Fearnley seems to be battling it out merely to survive, so big-time sponsorship is out of the question. In a world where bigger brands are keeping their relationships they simply can’t afford it. It’s a shame.

But when the world gets nostalgic about their cricket, the Three Stumps and their sponsees made an unbeatable team. Just look at this DF XI:

  1. Sunil Gavaskar
  2. Graham Gooch
  3. Viv Richards
  4. Martin Crowe
  5. Allan Border
  6. Ian Botham
  7. Wasim Akram
  8. Ravi Shastri
  9. Stephen Rhodes (WK)
  10. Graham Dilley
  11. Joel Garner

12th Man: Graeme Pollock

Even though he had a bat named after him, Graham Hick wouldn’t get anywhere near the side. We also went for Rhodes because he was part of a successful Worcestershire side, but we couldn’t find another keeper. If anyone’s got better ideas for a DF-sponsored wickie, please let us know.

Alan Giggs

2018-10-19T13:43:53+00:00October 18th, 2018|Nostalgia|26 Comments


  1. James Morgan October 18, 2018 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    I was lucky enough to own a DF Magnum as a kid. It was the best bat I ever used. I made my first two centuries with it.

    The sticker at the top of the bat face read “Entirely British Made In Worcester, England”. I still keep the bat today even though it broke years ago. Just couldn’t bear to throw it out.

  2. Giles Falconer October 18, 2018 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    I was never good enough to warrant a DF bat, but recognised them as damn good. (I owned about 3 bats whilst playing cricket for about 30 years, man & boy – the last was a Gunn & Moore Cannon, suspiciously undamaged after being used for a decade or more!) Glad to hear they are still around.

  3. Cricketcricketcricket October 18, 2018 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    Tbh, small English made brands are actually fairly profitable but DF seem to have decided to play hard done by.. nit sure why. Zero effort

  4. Vashtar October 18, 2018 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    To be honest i dont remember Viv Richards with a DF.. i remember him wielding a Stuart Surridge Jumbo!! The first really ‘big’ bat, although a toothpick by todays standards!

    • James Morgan October 18, 2018 at 8:19 pm - Reply

      I can’t paste pics into the comments but here’s a link to Sir Viv using a DF. I seem to remember him using an SS at some point too.


      • John Swannick October 19, 2018 at 12:15 am - Reply

        Not just used but there was a DF VR model.

        And who could forget Bob Willis’ DF? I think it was called an Atomic which had holes drilled into the blade – smaller on face than back – to reduce wind resistance! On the one rare occasion when it received prolonged use is apocryphally supposed to have disintegrated!

        • Simon H October 19, 2018 at 8:00 am - Reply

          Willis famously once went out to bat and forgot his willow altogether (against Pakistan in 1982 I think it was).

  5. John Swannick October 18, 2018 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    How could you leave David Steele out of this galaxy line-up.

    And I am sure Bruce French used DF at one point, risking the wrath of Notts maker GM, but can’t find any pictorial evidence.

  6. Marc Evans October 18, 2018 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    The first bat I ever owned was a Gunn & Moore, but like many a club cricketer I spent most of the time using club bats, so wasn’t particularly fussed about the makers name. The thing I remember most about the Fernley logo was how often the stumps seemed to be adorned with it. When I was a nipper my old man made me use one as a bat to hone my hand eye skills. I still remember being able to play keepy-uppy well into three figures and felt as proud doing that as if I scored runs with a bat.
    Still, the list of Fernley users in the above article is pretty impressive, so I guess they must have been good.

  7. Alex Ferguson October 18, 2018 at 9:53 pm - Reply

    As a Worcestershire fan I always wanted a DF but they looked too good and were too expensive.

  8. AndyB October 18, 2018 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    I use a Kookaburra Blade these days (at 63 I need a lighter bat and it was the lightest I could get!). But in the 80’s I used a Newbery (at least from ’86). The Newbery was a big beast (mine weighed 3’2) but had a much lighter pick up than other makes with similar weight. I tried other makes at the time (including DF) but never found one to match my old Newbery.

    • Marc Evans October 19, 2018 at 12:58 am - Reply

      I remember playing in a double wicket competition for Amiss’s benefit in the 70’s (just as a fielder) and changing in the same room as the great man and his Warwickshire colleagues. The variety of bats there was amazing, all apparently within a few pounds of each other, but with a totally different feel, depending on which part of the bat had the extra timber. Amiss had a high backlift so the extra weight was higher up the blade to make this less of a strain and expanding the sweet spot. Later I remember seeing Allan Lamb’s bat, where the extra timber was lower down, which explained why he used virtually no backlift and plenty of wrist, yet retained that awesome power that allowed him to hit sixes with what seemed like forward pushes.
      Always had a soft spot for Lamb, as every season he would try to knock the cockerel weather vein off the the top of the score box at Edgbaston. Never saw him do it, though there were many close shaves.

      • James Morgan October 19, 2018 at 7:41 am - Reply

        Nice story. Lamb was a really good player. I remember his great efforts against the Windies quicks when everyone else was ducking for cover and hiding in the dressing room.

        • Marc Evans October 19, 2018 at 9:46 pm - Reply

          Lamb was one of the few batsmen I ever saw who seemed to relish the challenge of pace and he had some serious quickies to contend with. Now there was a genuine test no4.

        • James October 20, 2018 at 11:08 am - Reply

          I think I would suggest that neither Gooch nor Robin Smith ducked and wove against the West Indies quicks but otherwise agreed.

          • Marce Evans October 22, 2018 at 12:24 am - Reply

            Agree about Gooch taking them on but I never felt he relished it. Never rated Smith in the same class as Lamb, though he would walk into the present side. I guess growing up on the dryer faster wickets in South Africa has some bearing on this. They’ve always produced good fast bowlers to this day with Morkel and Steyn still a threat to anyone.

      • AndyB October 19, 2018 at 8:15 am - Reply

        Your point about backlift and wrist is interesting. I find that the need for lightness is driven by a loss of wrist and lower arm strength with age, rather than overall strength and power. Thanks to retirement and 4 gym sessions a week my overall strength (measured by such as deadlift or bench press) is still good……but the wrists are not what they once were. And others of my age tell me it is the same for them.

        • Marc Evans October 19, 2018 at 9:57 pm - Reply

          That’s real dedication Andy. Hope you have some successs to make it worthwhile.
          Until a few years ago, when arthritis took over, I used our local boxing gym for pre-season limbering and found a sensible fixed program worked wonders to keep me going, especially in the field. I found flexibility more of an issue than power, so was always careful not to be too ambitious in challenging the boxing fraternity there to bench press etc.
          As a batsman I was quite happy to keep the ball on the ground and settle for 4’s. The new age heavyweight bats where you can mishit 6’s have no appeal.

  9. Matt October 19, 2018 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    These days, I think DF is the supplier of clothing for ECB’s ACO shop that kits out umpires up and down the country (and half of Europe). I think the coach’s association also sells DF gear still as well.

    Not really the same as seeing the legends of the game wielding their blades though.

  10. Comte October 19, 2018 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Many many years ago, when I was but a small person, I picked up a DF bat at an exhibition. I knew that I could make good runs with it but it was too expensive for my parents to buy.
    Years later I handled a Fender Stratocaster guitar and has the same feeling – I knew I could do good things with it. Years after than I bought one and that particular dream was fulfilled. But my batting was crap.

  11. muffin October 19, 2018 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    As I remember, when Ian Botham left Somerset over the Richards/Garner affair, the Duncan Fearnley connection was why he initially went to Worcestershire.

  12. James October 20, 2018 at 11:12 am - Reply

    For me Graeme Pollock is rarely if ever 12th man in a “best of” team. I’d probably play him ahead of Martin Crowe. He was THAT good.

    • Marc Evans October 22, 2018 at 12:42 am - Reply

      Totally agree about Graham Pollok and there were a few other South Africans from that apartheid era that lost many of their best test years and would be much better known if they had been able to play uninterrupted, though some of them did come to England and had success on the county circuit. Players like Clive Rice and Eddie Barlow being top all rounders and county captains for many years.

  13. Visu T October 25, 2018 at 2:26 am - Reply

    Got a DF Magnum when I was 16 playing at school in Australia in the mid-80’s. Every single boy in every team that I played for after that wanted to borrow it. An absolute monster of a bat- way too heavy for me at that age but once I gained a bit of wrist and forearm strength with age, my God – what a piece of wood. Still have it, nearly 35 years later, edges taped up, bat tape across the blade holding it together, but alas the sweet spot is no longer what it was. Will never throw it out and I am still playing club cricket so need to replace it. Any suggestions on which of the current bat brands might come closest to a DF? Am partial to the English manufacturers and have always liked the feel of a GM Maestro. Thoughts?

    PS- interesting that MRF bats don’t sell that well down here. They are made with a sub-continental profile and thus have a lower sweet spot for wickets that don’t bounce as much. Otherwise I would have ventured down that path.

    • Lee January 7, 2019 at 1:16 am - Reply

      Duncan Fearnley still make the Magnum!

  14. Lee January 7, 2019 at 1:17 am - Reply

    Rod Marsh used Duncan Fearnley there’s your wicketkeeper!

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