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Cowdreys batting was a fusion of grace, timing

Published: Tuesday, December 5, 2000, 23:53 [IST]
 
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London: Colin Cowdrey's batting was a perfect fusion of grace, timing and concealed power and he was one of England's top two batsmen for most of his 20-year Test career.He was born, literally, to cricket greatness when his father gave him the initials MCC - Michael Colin - at birth in Bangalore, India, on Christmas Eve 1932.He achieved almost every ambition that his father must have wished for him, playing in 114 Tests, scoring 7,624 runs for England and taking 120 catches - all record achievements at the time.In 1975, after an absence of four years from the international arena, his technique and courage were freshly acknowledged when he was required in an injury crisis in Australia.At the age of 42 - 20 years after his first Ashes visit - he earned the admiration of yet another generation of Australian spectators by withstanding the awesome Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson on his sixth trip to Australia.His first tour was as an uncapped novice in 1954 and on his next four trips he was vice-captain every time - a record - to Peter May, Ted Dexter, Mike Smith and Ray Illingworth.He was in genuine competition to lead England on two of those tours, but was never destined for that special honour - although he did captain his country frequently during the 1960s and achieved the rare feat of victory in a series in the West Indies in 1968.Despite his usual fluency while batting, he occasionally, however, allowed himself to be restricted by routine bowlers and a shade more ruthlessness might have improved his prolific record.Yet the killer instinct would have reduced the charm of a Cowdrey innings, which exactly matched the mood of a summer day in Kent, his county for 26 seasons. He led Kent successfully between 1957-1971.Cowdrey announced himself at an early age when as a 13-year-old he was the youngest cricketer to play at Lord's. After leaving Oxford University he was an inspired choice for Len Hutton's team in Australia.He vindicated the selection instantly with 54 in the second Test and 102 (out of 191) in the third.In both classic contests he established, with May, the batting platform from which Frank Tyson's fast bowling won the series. This began his association with May - two supreme amateur batsmen.Cowdrey opened for England against Australia in 1956 and again in 1960, but was fundamentally a number four.He reunited with May in a stand of 411 against the West Indies at Edgbaston in a landmark innings that eliminated the previously deadly Sonny Ramadhin.Cowdrey, on that occasion, displayed his "professional" streak by repeatedly padding up to Ramadhin outside the line of the stumps, as the law then allowed without fear of being lbw.That innings was necessary, but far more characteristic than the 154 he then scored. His innings, including the centuries, contained enchanting strokes on the off-side where he seemed able to manipulate the ball anywhere from square cover to long off.Although built on solid lines, he was a nimble runner between wickets, as might be expected from a top class squash and rackets exponent. He could also tumble spectacularly in the slips.In 1986 he succeeded to the presidency of MCC, but his year in office was troubled by international and internal bickering, with the MCC members rejecting the annual report.Cowdrey also enjoyed a spell as chairman of the International Cricket Committee.Six years later he was awarded a knighthood for services to the sport and in 1997 he joined the House of Lords as Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge.Copyright @2000 AFP. All rights reserved

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