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Full name Alexander Skelding
Born September 5, 1886, Leicester
Died April 18, 1960, Westcoates, Leicester (aged 73 years 226 days)
Major teams Leicestershire
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm fast
Alexander Skelding, the former Leicestershire bowler and one of the best-known umpires in first-class cricket over the past 30 years, died at his Leicester home, after a sudden illness, on April 18 at the age of 73. A genial, bespectacled figure, his ready wit on the field became almost proverbial, though his reputation as a humorist in no way diminished the high respect that all accorded his umpiring decisions. He was born in Leicester on September 5, 1886, and after playing for local clubs, joined the Leicestershire ground staff as a fast bowler. He made his debut in county cricket in 1912, and played fairly regularly in the two seasons before the first world war. It was in the middle and late 1920s, however, when he was around his 40th year, that he showed remarkable skill as agenuinely fast bowler; indeed, he was at times freely admitted to have been the fastest bowler in the country. His best season was 1927 - his benefit year - when he exceeded 100 wickets, and his most outstanding performance was to dismiss eight Nottinghamshire batsmen for 44 runs on a perfect pitch at Leicester in 1924. Altogether for the county he took 593 wickets at an average of 24.67 until he retired in 1929. He joined the list of first-class umpires in 1931 and soon established himself as one of cricket's characters as well as a fearless umpire. He umpired his last first-class game in 1959, and of modern umpires he was second only in length of service to the late Frank Chester.
Alexander Skelding, who died at Leicester on April 17, aged 73, stood as a first-class umpire from 1931 to 1958. He began his cricket career as a very fast bowler with Leicestershire in 1905, but, because he wore spectacles, was not re-engaged at the end of the season. He then joined Kidderminster in the Birmingham League and achieved such success that in 1912 the county re-signed him and he continued with them till 1929. His best season was that of 1927, when he took 102 wickets, average 20.81. Altogether he dismissed 593 batsmen at a cost of less than 25 runs each. One of the most popular personalities in the game, he always wore white boots when umpiring and he was celebrated for his sense of humour. It was his custom at the close of play to remove the bails with an exaggerated flourish and announce: And that concludes the entertainment for the day, gentlemen.
Alec was the central figure in many amusing incidents. Once in response to an appeal for run out, he stated: That was a `photo-finish' and as there isn't time to develop the plate, I shall say not out. In another match a batsman who had been celebrating a special event the previous evening was rapped on the pad by a ball. At once the bowler asked: How is he? Said Alec, shaking his head sadly: He's not at all well, and he was even worse last night. Occasionally the joke went against Alec. In a game in 1948 he turned down a strong appeal by the Australian touring team. A little later a dog ran on to the field, and one of the Australians captured it, carried it to Skelding and said: Here you are. All you want now is a white stick!
Asked in his playing days if he found spectacles a handicap, Alec said: The specs are for the look of the thing. I can't see without'em and on hot days I can't see with'em, because they get steamed up. So I bowl on hearing only and appeal twice an over.
One of his most cherished umpiring memories was the giving of three leg-before decisions which enabled H. Fisher of Yorkshire to perform a unique hat-trick against Somerset at Sheffield in 1932. I was never more sure that I was right in each case, he said afterwards, and each of the batsmen agreed that he was dead in front.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?