Alan Knott was born on April 9, 1946, in Belvedere, Kent. He was a former wicketkeeper-batsman who represented England at the international level in both Tests and ODIs. Alan Knot made his Test debut at the age of 21 against Pakistan at Nottingham, which England won by 10 wickets. He took 7 catches (3 in the first inning and 4 in the second inning) in the match, and Mushtaq Muhammad dismissed him on zero.
Philip Eric Knott was one of the purest eccentric wicketkeepers there can ever have been. He played alongside many great English cricketers. But many saw him enough over the years. He was a teammate, opponent, or simply observing him on TV to get the very real sense of a genius at work.
His departure from World Series cricket opened a door into the England team for Bob Taylor, with whom he played many times, and Taylor’s own class as a gloveman was itself a clue as to the quality of the man who had been referred to him year after year.
Alan Knott’s superior batting played a part in this; as keepers, they were both outstanding. It would feel wrong not to include someone in a list of this sort who was a specialist wicketkeeper, as opposed to those such as Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara, and AB de Villiers, who, fine keepers though they were or are, were chosen for their sides as much, if not more, for their batting skills.
Alan Knott had the silkiest of hands. People often say that you only notice a wicketkeeper when he is doing things wrong, and, on that basis, it was easy to overlook how well Alan Knott was doing his job. Keeping the wicket standing back for fast bowlers and standing up to the stumps for spinners are very different tasks, but his technique and movement were always excellent.
The ball just seemed to nestle into his hands every time he took it. Many remember him taking a catch off quite a thick edge while standing up to a left-arm spinner. Probably Derek Underwood, with whom he formed a great alliance. His hands just seemed to glide into the right position, and you were left wondering how on earth he could have reacted so quickly.
Very few keepers would have held that catch; most would have seen the ball clatter off their wrist. Keeping does not get any better than that. Taylor ran him close, and so many cricketers feel privileged to have played alongside both. As talented wicketkeepers sometimes are, Alan Knott was a complete eccentric, but only bonkers in an endearing rather than an irritating way.
Concentrating intently on every ball that is bowled for hour after hour probably encourages a certain quirkiness and fastidiousness; they feel everything must be just right if they are not to commit the inexplicable, costly error. One of Knott’s obsessions was keeping himself ultra-fit, at a time when fitness was not quite the prerequisite for England’s selection as it is now.
Like Jack Russell, another member of the wicket-keeping fraternity with oddball tendencies, Knotty looked a bit of a shambles in his beloved floppy white hat, but you hardly cared about that when the ball went so precisely and regularly into the gloves. He was born for his work. He established himself as Kent’s regular keeper at the age of 18, and having been chosen for his first Test at 21, he cemented himself as England’s first-choice gloveman within months, excelling on his first winter tour of the West Indies under his Kent colleague Colin Cowdrey in 1967–68.
England had been through several keepers in the previous couple of years, and we’re grateful for the stability Knott offered. He became a central figure in a highly successful England Test side in the late 1960s and early 1970s and helped Kent win multiple championship titles and one-day trophies. He was also a very gutsy, pugnacious batsman who made a specialty of digging England out of trouble in a resourceful, unorthodox fashion.
His strengths as a keeper were his massive strengths as a batsman too. Alan’s agility and quick-footedness made him nimble around the crease and therefore difficult to bowl to. His ability to concentrate for long periods and watch the ball closely helped not only when he was standing behind the stumps but when he was in front of them too.
It was a great testament to his batting skills that he coped better than most of England’s specialist batsmen with the raw pace of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in Australia in 1974–75. Only Dennis Amiss scored more runs for England in that series; a defiant century at Adelaide was one of five three-figure scores Knott made in Tests.
He may have used unusual methods at times, but he would not have scored the runs he did in that series—with no helmet for protection in those days, of course—had he not possessed a fundamentally sound technique. He also took another century off Australia in a famous partnership with Geoff Boycott at Trent Bridge in 1977, when they rescued England from a desperate start that had seen Derek Randall fall victim to Boycott’s famously erratic running between the wickets.
In 95 tests, Alan Knott scored 30 half-centuries in addition to his five hundred, which suggests impressive reliability. In later times, keepers were expected to offer more with the bat than they were then, but his Test record of 4,389 runs at an average of 32.75 put him in the all-rounder class for his generation.
Alan Knott finished with what was then a Test record of 269 dismissals, which would have been many more had he not signed up with Kerry Packer for a rebel tour of South Africa—decisions that meant he appeared in only six Tests after 1977. He was only 35 at the time of his last test and could easily have kept going for a few years beyond that.
A renowned cricket journalist, Simon Wilde, describes him as “a natural gloveman, beautifully economical in his movements, and armed with tremendous powers of concentration”. His test career ended against Australia at the Oval, the 6th match of the Ashes series, in 1981. He scored extraordinarily well in 70 not-out innings that saved the match.