Thursday 24 April 1997

Thanks for the fun, Denis

By Tim Rice

DENIS was really famous. As famous as any English cricketer has ever been and as gifted, too. In the years after the War his name, along with that of Len Hutton, epitomised cricket, and in Denis` case, cricket as fun. One might have known nothing about motor racing but had heard of Stirling Moss, nothing of table tennis but had heard of Johnny Leach, nothing of football but had heard of Stanley Matthews - the name applied to cricket and Denis.

He seemed not to care for runs and records but they came his way in profusion. He batted (and bowled) with elegant insouciance, but beneath this apparently carefree approach was a cast-iron resolve to win, for Middlesex, for England, for fair play. This was even on the rare occasions when he lost all form, as on Freddie Brown`s tour of Australia, when he would wonder if he was holding the right end of the bat - or when the gods smiled and he would wonder if he even needed a bat, as when he and Bill Edrich called all before them 50 years ago.

He earned his fame and he wore it lightly. Women loved him and the respect of his strongest opponents became lifelong friendship. His devastating good looks may have mellowed down the years but the charm never wavered. He inspired affection from the least sentimental of men. The sun always shines when his admirers look back - the Compton sweep, the Compton drive, or even the Compton misunderstanding about a run, are always replayed to a full house at Lord`s in the middle of a perfect summer.

He will probably be late walking through the gates of Heaven, but a heartfelt "Sorry, old boy" to St Peter will earn forgiveness. Thank you, Denis, for the fun.

Source :: The Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/)