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Full name Alexander Coxon
Born January 18, 1916, Huddersfield, Yorkshire
Died January 22, 2006, Roker, Sunderland (aged 90 years 4 days)
Major teams England, Yorkshire
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm medium-fast
|Only Test||England v Australia at Lord's, Jun 24-29, 1948 scorecard|
Yorkshire's oldest capped player Alec Coxon died peacefully four days after his 90th birthday, some four decades after his turbulent career had ended and less than 24 hours after he had emptied his glass and bade farewell to his friends. So, contrary to myth, he was not indestructible.
Tall, lean and decidedly mean, he was a splendid fast-medium bowler, as well as a dogged, journeyman batsman and reliable fielder, mostly at slip, and many sound judges thought he was worth more than his solitary Test against the Australians at Lord's in 1948. He may well have been given a second chance had umpire Claud Woolley agreed that he had trapped Don Bradman plumb lbw on the back foot with an inswinger before he had scored. Alec had already snared Sidney Barnes, caught by Len Hutton for a duck, and was convinced the greatest scalp of all was his.
But it was not to be and he ended with match figures of 3 for 172 off 63 economical overs and he was not selected again. That sole cap made him the third oldest surviving England player after Somerset's Norman Mitchell-Innes, who is 91, and Dennis Brookes, of Northamptonshire, who was 90 in October.
Perhaps his irascible nature weighed against him, though he was keen to puncture one of cricket's more enduring legends - that he once punched Denis Compton. "It simply didn't happen," he said. "The truth is that we had a difference of opinion and exchanged a few heated words during a drinks break on the field in a festival game. Denis was a very good batsman who made up his own shots but I can't say I liked him. He had fancy ideas about his own importance. He needed to keep his feet on the ground and I believe now what I told him that day, that he'd have been all right if he'd been born a Yorkshireman.
There has also lingered lively speculation about why he abruptly left Yorkshire at the end of 1950 after enjoying his best season with 131 wickets at an average of 18.60, but he always indignantly denied the committee sacked him. The reason, he always insisted, was because he was passed over for the MCC party to tour Australia that winter. Disillusioned, he accepted an offer to play for Sunderland as the first £1,000-a-year professional in the Durham Senior League.
Alexander Coxon - known widely as Alec - was born in Huddersfield in 1916, one of 11 children. After stints as a professional in the Bradford League with Brighouse and Saltaire (as well as being a versatile defender for the former football league side Bradford Park Avenue), he went straight into the Yorkshire side at the age of 29 when first-class cricket recommenced after the Second World War. While his hostility and bluntness upset many, he was also hugely sociable with a lively sense of humour that won many friends; he was a human chameleon capable of warmth and wrath, rudeness and charm, generosity and outrageousness. Stories inevitably abounded about such a larger-than-life character, some distorted, some fiction but many true, one of which now belongs to cricket's folklore. It happened during a Minor Counties match at a rain-sodden Old Trafford when the Lancashire Seconds batsman Roy Collins was hitting a century off Durham bowlers, Coxon included, who were having difficulty keeping their feet. Sawdust was called for and, when an inexperienced ground boy arrived with a sack full and asked where to put it, Alec pointed and ordered: "Right there." The lad did as he was told - and deposited the lot in front of the stumps right on a good length.
The match had to be halted and the players returned to the pavilion while groundstaff shovelled and swept it away. One Durham player Ken Land remembered gleefully years later: "It was more like a butcher's shop than a cricket pitch. We thought it was hilarious and even the umpires were chuckling." But one man did not see the funny side; the captain RB `Bill' Proud, a huge man and strict disciplinarian known as the `Durham Ox' - and Alec never played for the county again.
In recent years we spent many Saturdays together watching South Shields CC in the summer and the club's twinned Westoe rugby team in winter. Three days after his
last birthday Alec, a greatgrandfather, lifted his pint glass - he only ever drank beer - and
said: "Here's to my family, my friends and sport which have given me such a wonderful life." He died the next day.
Clive Crickmer, The Wisden Cricketer
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