The phrase “late bloomer” might have been drawn up with Glamorgan's new signing Charlie Hemphrey in mind, with the 29 year-old top-order batsman, born in Yorkshire, raised in Kent and now resident in Australia, joining the Club on a two-year contract.
Having made his first-class debut during 2014/15, Charlie has enjoyed a decent run in the Sheffield Shield with 568 runs during the 2017/18 season at an average of 44, including a stellar performance in the match against Western Australia at The Gabba in Brisbane where he made 171 runs in the game, and won the Man-of-the-Match Award as the visitors were humbled by 211 runs.
A far cry indeed from his early days, growing up in Folkestone and playing 2nd XI cricket for Kent as an off-spinning all-rounder. However, the Doncaster-born player failed to secure a contract with the English county, and despite also playing 2nd XI cricket for Derbyshire and Essex, it was a similar story and led him to quitting his job as a construction site manager and in September 2013 moving to Brisbane where he had earlier spent three winters playing grade cricket.
There was certainly more sunshine, but Charlie’s existence was still none too glamorous, working for Virgin Airlines at Brisbane Airport. “I was looking after the baggage and other matters relating to the plane turnaround - when planes came in and went back out. It was quite physical so it kept me in good shape. I just thought I’d play grade cricket and see what happened. I knew deep down that if I did well there might be opportunities. I always said there was a five per cent chance that I’d play in first-class cricket.”
His batting duly flourished with Charlie being the third highest scorer in Queensland grade cricket in 2013/14, and in October 2014, he was selected for Queensland’s second string (officially called the Under-23s). In his second game, he scored 140 out of 297 against New South Wales, and in February 2015 received a phone call that would change his life, with confirmation that he had been chosen as an opening batsman in the Sheffield Shield match against Victoria.
A first innings duck then followed, but the following week he made 58 against Tasmania before a maiden first-class hundred against South Australia at Brisbane, batting at number three. Charlie reached his maiden century with three off the medium-pace bowling of former Glamorgan star Mark Cosgrove. “I just set my stall out to bat time," he told journalists after the match."There was loads of time left in the match and the wickets at the Gabba get a bit flatter and easier. When I reached a hundred, the biggest thing was just relief. It was something I didn’t know I’d get the chance to do and wasn’t sure that would happen. I was pretty proud and I had a lot of messages over from family and friends in the UK.”
A measure of Charlie’s achievement was that, according to the record-keepers of State cricket, he was the first Englishman since John Hampshire in 1978 to score a century in the Sheffield Shield and after signing terms with Queensland he had – in his mid-twenties - achieved his dream of becoming a professional cricketer and could say farewell to working at Brisbane Airport. Four years on, he has another three first-class hundreds to his name and is a mainstay in the Queensland batting line-up, which boasts Glamorgan’s Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns, as well as Test batsmen Matt Renshaw and Marnus Labuschagne.
2019 will now see Charlie ticking off further long-held goals by playing County Championship cricket – over ten years after having his first summer contract with Kent as an understudy to James Tredwell. “It’s always been my ambition to play first-class cricket in the UK,” he said when agreeing terms with the Welsh county, ”so I am very thankful to Glamorgan for giving me this opportunity. Hopefully, I can continue to put in some good performances for Queensland and bring that form to Glamorgan this season.”