There are around 50,000 lawyers in London so there’s plenty of choice and, between them, they have all bases covered and possess all talents – but only one of them has scored a triple-century at Lord’s.
Warwickshire supporters will recall Mark Wagh as a stylish opening batsman whose straight drive in particular was a thing of beauty. The former King Edward’s School pupil played for the Bears from 1997 to 2007 before four seasons at Nottinghamshire, whom he helped lift to the County Championship title in 2010.
Wagh ended his career with 12,455 first-class runs, mostly elegantly harvested, at an average of 38.80. But, although he is now still only 40, an age at which over the years many were still playing county cricket, that drive has been emphatically consigned to history. It no longer coruscates even in club cricket as Wagh concentrates his energies and expertise upon life as a competition lawyer with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, based in the capital’s Fleet Street.
To me, playing cricket always seemed a constant state of experimentation without knowing the outcome.Mark Wagh
Not for him, when he retired from cricket in 2011, the path taken by many professional cricketers, into teaching or coaching cricket. For Wagh was always interested in life beyond the cricket bubble – and keen to explore it.
“There were two reasons why I didn’t want to coach,” he said. “Firstly, I asked myself ‘would I know what to say to a player who asked me: ‘how do I get better’? That was a fundamental question to which I couldn’t answer ‘yes’. To me, playing cricket always seemed a constant state of experimentation without knowing the outcome.
“The second reason was that I was keen to try something else, something outside professional sport. Law was a direction which interested me so I had started my exams while still playing for Nottinghamshire.
“I specialised as a competition lawyer which basically involves evaluating whether big companies are growing unfairly at the expense of the competition; trying to keep monopolies at bay, for example. It can be quite long hours, but I enjoy it. It’s interesting work because alongside the aspects of law to apply there are business insights and economic factors that you have to weigh up, about whether the market place is fair.
“I look back fondly on my cricket career but it all seems a very long time ago. I did play club cricket briefly but no longer even do that. When you work reasonably long hours during the week, it’s a stretch to then play club cricket which takes up one of your days off, pretty much 9am to 9pm.
Will I play again? I’ve got no plans to, though part of me does wonder.Mark Wagh
“And, to be honest, it’s not much fun getting stick off some lippy bowler – either justifiably if I had messed up, or not justifiably just because I was a former pro. So I stopped playing.
“Will I play again? I’ve got no plans to, though part of me does wonder. A few people have said to me you are a long time retired.”
If Wagh ever does decide to brandish his bat again, plenty of captains would be delighted to have him at the top of their order. His batting skills, supplemented by off-spin bowling which brought 100 first-class wickets, took him to the brink of England selection with inclusion in the national academy and selection in the preliminary squad of 30 for the ICC Trophy in 2004.
His 31 three-figure scores in first-class cricket include that triple-ton: 315 against Middlesex at Lord’s in 2001. It was only the fourth triple-century struck at the ground, after those by Jack Hobbs, Percy Holmes and Graham Gooch, though fellow Bear Nick Knight added another three years later.
Wagh’s cricket career contains much to be proud of, including the highest score ever made by a Warwickshire player in the county championship at Stratford-upon-Avon (167). Lancashire were the sufferers that day, in 2004, as they were for Wagh’s career-best bowling, a nifty seven-for at Edgbaston in 2003.
Yet that career was adversely affected as Wagh became unsettled at Edgbaston, culminating in his premature departure from a county which many people believed the former Oxford University captain was destined to lead.
“I look back at my cricket career with a degree of disappointment,” he said. “I enjoyed a lot of it, of course, the better days and the wins and the trophies, but overall I didn’t get as far as I would have hoped when I started.’
I think I got into too technical a mindset, too hung up about trigger- movements and how was my head moving and my arms were moving.Mark Wagh
“There were good days, the triple century at Lord’s was one, of course, but it was always a challenge to achieve those good days and, when they came, to sustain them. Quite a lot of my Warwickshire career came with the squad in a period of transition after the great success of the mid-90s and I think that process took its toll on a few of us.
“I think I got into too technical a mindset, too hung up about trigger- movements and how was my head moving and my arms were moving. I was very lucky that when I went to Nottinghamshire their overseas players were David Hussey and Stephen Fleming and they had an incredibly laid-back approach to cricket. Basically, they just told me to go out there and bat.”
Good strategy – because batting, never mind Wagh’s modest assessment of his own career, was something that he was rather good at.
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