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For many cricketers across the world, the idea of ending their lives doing what they love - playing cricket - has a certain romantic appeal
December 4, 2004
Ducat's name these days is largely forgotten, but he was a well-regarded and well-known sportsman in the decades before and after the First World War. He first played for Surrey in 1906, and he finished in 1931, playing one Test, against Warwick Armstrong's powerful Australia, in 1921. As a footballer, he played five times for England - three games in 1910 when he was with Woolwich Arsenal, and two more in 1920 while with Aston Villa. In that same 1919-20 season, he captained Villa to victory over Huddersfield in the FA Cup final at Stamford Bridge. Four years later, he suffered a broken arm in a pre-season net, and, unable to play any cricket that summer, he devoted his attentions to managing the struggling Fulham FC (who he played for since 1921), a post he held until he was sacked in May 1926. Remarkably, his two years as their manager only slightly restricted his availability for Surrey.
When he retired, the popular Ducat was employed as cricket coach at Eton College. He also found time to work as a journalist, reporting for various London newspapers on cricket and football.
In 1942, Ducat was 56 but, according to those who knew him, exceedingly fit - Wisden said that he was "well-set-up, vigorous, healthy-looking and careful-living". On July 23, Ducat appeared for Surrey Home Guard against Sussex Home Guard at Lord's, one of many such morale-boosting matches on the ground during the war.
Bob Attwell, a chemist from Cranleigh, was a team-mate of Ducat's on that day. "In the dressing-room before the game we all remarked how fit he looked," he told me almost 60 years later. "His body was deeply bronzed and hadn't an ounce of excess fat on it. He told us that he had visited his doctor for a check-up the day before, for insurance purposes, and had been told he was good for another 20 years at least."
Attwell, who was batting at No. 6, was the non-striker and Jack Eaton, an occasional wicketkeeper for Sussex, the bowler who sent down a yorker which Ducat jabbed down on. "Andy hit the ball past me to mid-on," Attwell recalled, "and I was returning to the crease after backing-up and I heard a gasp ... I turned round and saw Andy on his back." According to some of other players, Ducat had dropped like a stone and was dead as he hit the ground. "All I could do was remove his false teeth, give his heart a thump, and give some massage and artificial respiration," Attwell explained. "But it was all to no avail."
Ducat was carried from the field on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital in Paddington where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The subsequent post-mortem gave the cause of death as failure of a heart that showed signs of definite weakness.
Back at Lord's, Ducat's wife and daughter were unaware of the tragedy. "He had brought them up with him on the coach and they had gone into town on a shopping spree," Attwell said. "It was most distressing for them when they returned to the ground to discover what had happened."
It was Attwell's last game before joining the army - "not the most pleasant of send-offs" - and he carried on playing a good standard of club cricket until he was well into his seventies. He died earlier this year, aged 92.
Ducat remains the only man to have died during a game at Lord's, although in 1870, George Summers of Nottinghamshire was struck on the head there by John Platts of MCC. He died as a result of the accident a few days later.
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The Cricketer - 1921
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1943
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