1942

Not out ... dead

For many cricketers across the world, the idea of ending their lives doing what they love - playing cricket - has a certain romantic appeal

Martin Williamson

December 4, 2004

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Andy Ducat: double international and FA Cup winner © Wisden
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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. A caressed drive through the covers and then ... curtains. For a few that rather morbid ultimate ambition comes true. For one, Surrey and England's Andy Ducat, it not only happened, but it happened in the middle at Lord's.

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."



Bob Attwell: 'I turned round and saw Andy on his back' © Old Cranleighan CC
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Surrey Home Guard won the toss and batted, and at lunch Private A Ducat, who had gone in at No. 5, was 17 not out. "On resuming," Wisden commented, " he scored steadily, taking his score to 29."

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.

Is there an incident from the past you would like to know more about? E-mail us with your comments and suggestions.

Bibliography
The Cricketer - 1921
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1943

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.
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