DAVID Barker smashed the first century of his career, finishing on a superb 161 on the opening day of the new season for Bristol club Old Park after being forced to miss the complete 2017 summer because of serious illness.
The production planner smashed 17 fours and seven sixes in a home Bristol & District Division 13 match at Frenchay against Chilcompton Sports.
And he also contributed two catches at slip, including a one-handed full-length dive that Andrew Strauss would have been proud of, to help clinch a 121-run.
David’s innings was the highest last weekend in Gloucestershire, and he was only one run away from featuring in the top 20 list of national scorers.
Even more remarkable is the fact that earlier this year David ended 18 months of treatment for bowel cancer which included five operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
He was so concerned that he might never be able to bat or bowl again that he began to consider umpiring as a way to remain involved with the sport.
He said: “I did think about whether I could cope again with cricket … I went to our nets at the end of February which was a gentle reintroduction but you don’t do much running. In that respect Saturday was a bit of a trial.”
It was one he passed with flying colours after Old Park lost the toss and were asked to bat.
David, in turn, was asked to open after in the recent past batting mainly in the middle order.
He added: “The wicket was as soft as anything, but I watched the first ball go through and thought, ‘I’ve got 40 overs, let’s see what happens if I can build an innings’.”
David, whose previous highest score for Old Park was 47 not out, was cheered from the boundary by wife Nicola and his daughters Rosie and Lauren who arrived at Frenchay shortly after he reached his half century.
He said: “That was quite a milestone after everything that had happened … I began to really relax and started hitting it around.”
David soon reached the first century of his career – cruising past his previous best of 89 for former club Basingstoke Post Office – and went on a hitting spree before being caught in the last over of the innings.
David, who was 53 on Thursday, reflected: “If you had said to me before the game that I would get a 50 and go on to 100 and then 150 I would have just laughed!
“When I was batting I was thinking about last year, about sitting in hospital and getting Facebook updates on the games.
“I wasn’t nervous Saturday, nothing can really be worse for me than 2017 so it meant the pressure was off. It’s still hard to believe what happened out there.”