"I always believed that the day my age exceeds my batting average it would be time to consider calling time on my career."
And so as his age creeps up towards 42 and with his batting average hovering around that same mark, Alistair 'Lordy' Brown announced that he would be retiring from all cricket at the end of the current season. Surrey fans everywhere should salute a fine servant to the club and the game.
There is a temptation to think of Brown as an under-achiever, and I'm sure he himself would have liked to have done better in an England shirt (or perhaps have been given more chance to do better) but in Surrey colours he didn't disappoint, to which nearly 15,000 first class runs plus over 10,000 List A runs for the county will attest.
He will of course be remembered mainly as a one day player, in part because he holds the one day cricket world record for his 2002 innings of 268 - after which the Long Room bar at the Oval is named, and also because he is the only player to have recorded two double century scores in limited overs cricket (he scored 203 against Hampshire in 1997). But lest we forget he was an important part of the massively successful Surrey side that won three Championships in the late 90s/early 2000s.
I best remember Brown in two innings, starkly contrasting ones at that. I am struggling to remember which exact game the first was but looking through the records it was probably this game against Gloucestershire at the Oval in 2006. Brown came to the wicket with the score at 295-3, Mark Ramprakash was on his way to a mammoth 292 and Surrey to 639 (and an innings and 300 run win). It was probably three or four balls into Brown's innings, a particularly unkind and vocal member of the watching crowd cried "bat properly!". Brown promptly smashed the next ball for four and was clean bowled a couple later.
My next and most vivid memory is that faintly ridiculous innings of 176 off 97 balls against Gloucestershire again, at the Oval in 2007. He helped Surrey to 496-4, smashing the 50 over world record and he also set a new opening partnership record for Surrey - putting on 294 with James Benning (remember him?!). Brown was probably well into his innings when he smashed a six as straight as a die, it came racing towards me sitting on the pavilion balcony, or so I thought as it dipped and headed instead towards the woman sitting three rows in front who let out an enormous scream before diving out of the way as the ball crashed into her seat. I'm quite sure I would've snaffled it comfortably...
I was hugely disappointed when he was released by the club in 2008. As he showed as recently as last season when he scored almost 900 runs in a Nottinghamshire side which won the title, he could still have played a role for us. He would have doubtless enjoyed exchanging fastest strike rates with Rory Hamilton-Brown, Jason Roy et al. Not only was he a fine striker of the ball and sharp slip fielder, I'm sure his mischievous character would've fitted in well with this current crop of youngsters.
I am sure Surrey fans everywhere would want to wish Ali Brown the best in retirement, having played cricket at the top level for over 20 years and in three decades, he deserves a rest.