Sunday, August 27, 2006


Cricket Obits

Carefully hidden away in the one place I would normally never think to look -- namely, the sports section -- this week the Independent of London excerpted a couple dozen entries from a "a new bizarre collection of obituaries published in the Widsen Cricketers Almanack since 1892."

A few samples...

DOYLE, SIR ARTHUR CONAN, MD, the well-known author, born at Edinburgh on 22 May 1859, died at Crowborough, Sussex, on 7 July 1930, aged 71. Although never a famous cricketer, he could hit hard and bowl slows with a puzzling flight. (It is said that Shacklock, the former Nottinghamshire player, inspired him with the Christian name of his famous character, Sherlock Holmes, and that of the latter's brother, Mycroft, was suggested by the Derbyshire cricketers.)

AINLEY, ANTHONY, who died on 3 May 2004, aged 71, was an actor and a keen club cricketer for The Stage and London Theatres CC. "He was an eccentric and very effective opening bat who appeared in full body padding, sunblock, helmet and swimming goggles," according to his fellow-actor Christopher Douglas, "and he had a penchant for charging down the track and smashing the ball back over the bowler's head." Ainley followed his father Henry on to the stage, but found his greatest success on television as The Master, the arch-enemy of Doctor Who, in the 1980s. At one club game at the time, Ainley's fame preceded him, and the Sutton and Cheam Herald ran a headline above its match report proclaiming that "Inter-Galactic Terror" had been visited upon Surrey. A complex character, he usually took his cricket teas alone in his car - possibly because, according to one report, he "despised cheeses of all kinds".

CRISP, ROBERT JAMES, DSO, MC, who died in Essex on 3 March 1994, aged 82, was one of the most extraordinary men ever to play Test cricket.... His defining moment came in the Second World War when he was an outstanding but turbulent tank commander, fighting his own personal war against better-armoured Germans in Greece and North Africa. He had six tanks blasted from under him in a month but carried on fighting.... before being invalided out in Normandy. The king asked if his bowling would be affected. "No, sire," he is alleged to have replied. "I was hit in the head."

FOWLES, JOHN ROBERT, who died on 5 November 2005, aged 79, was a novelist whose work included The French Lieutenant's Woman. Cricket remained a lifelong interest, from the time Fowles learnt the game from the Essex captain, Denys Wilcox, at Alleyn Court prep school in Westcliff-on-Sea. While watching England nervily bat to victory over the West Indies at Lord's in 2000, he was joined in his living-room in Lyme Regis by a stranger asking the score. When Fowles told him, the visitor sat down and watched with him until Dominic Cork had hit the winning runs. Only when he asked how much Fowles charged for bed and breakfast, did both men realise that the stranger had walked uninvited into the wrong house.

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