Sunday, 15 May 2011

Lord Ted

Dexter in full flow
'Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.'  So says Shakespeare in his only cricket play, Twelfth Man.

This familiar quote is thrice true for today's birthday boy E R Dexter, 76 on 15 May.  When Fantasy Bob was a primary school pupil in baggy grey shorts and scruffy tie, Lord Ted was the first larger than life sporting hero to beam into the living room.  Even now in the repose of what must be described as maturity, when FB closes his eyes to summon the shadows of cricket past it is the image of Dexter that makes its flickering way across the screen with the strangled tones of Peter West's commentary.

Lord Ted's playing record is top drawer - 62 Tests with a batting average of 47.89 and 66 wickets, but he may well have been born 50 years too early.  He was a T20 bat at a time when T20 had never been thought of.  A dasher, a compulsive attacker, the faster they bowled the harder he hit it.  It is no accident then that he skippered Sussex to victory in the first limited overs competitions when the Gillette Cup started.  What would he have made of the World Cup?  What fee would he command in the IPL?

One of 31 boundaries
In the First Test of the 1961 Ashes series Dexter made 180, the largest knock for England against Australia since the war and dominated by 31 cracking boundaries.  It was alleged that his stumping in the last minutes of the match was due to him trying to hit Bobby Simpson for six so he could make a double century.

In the famous Fourth Test at of that series he blasted 79 in 84 minutes to take England to the verge of victory but his dismissal set off an England collapse and the series was lost.

He was one of the first and remains one of the few to clear the MCG sight screen - playing for MCC in a tour match against the Australian XI he thrashed 102 in 110 minutes with 2 sixes and 13 fours. 

In 1963 he Chrisgayled 70 in 81 minutes off Hall and Griffiths.  This was the Test that will also be remembered for Colin Cowdrey coming in to bat with a broken arm to avert defeat.

Dexter was made captain of England at 27, the youngest ever and only beaten when Mike Atherton was appointed at the age of 26.

Doubly excellent -
spot the difference
Lord Ted's subsequent career had highs and lows and a lot of greatness thrust on him as President of the MCC and Chair of Selectors and other roles.  He was a reforming administrator although England's performances lurched from one extreme to the other during his time. Inevitably there were controversies and arguments.  Perhaps the most charming venture was the Hunt the Fast Bowler Game when, fed up with the power generated by the W Indies and Australia compaired to English namby pamby milksop seamers he instituted a 'Your Country Needs You' search for likely lads who had the frame to become fast bowlers.  Training and development regimes were prepared.  An open entry system was launched and many were composed in the pub just before closing time, none made it through to the higher reaches of the game.

Some folk have all the luck - had cricket not given him a living Lord Ted could have made a fortune as a golfer.  He also married the 60s equivalent of a super-model - which proved endlessly distracting to journalists.

Happy Birthday, Lord Ted, an inspiration to FB and a true great.


  1. When W.G.Grace was playing in a match, the entrance fee was surcharged accordingly. The same could almost have been said for Ted Dexter -an inspiration, as you say, to every cricket-loving schoolboy of the early 60s. Like most of them, I was disappointed by his early retirement from the game (precipitated, if I remember, by a faulty handbrake and a garage wall) but the memories are all great ones.

  2. Many thanks - yes an unfortunate accident - but even then FB thinks he came back and blitzed 200+ in a county game - but the truth is that he probably got bored with the game being so good. Not a fate that FB is at risk of.