Somerset keeping legend Harold Stephenson dies
The war meant he did not play competitive cricket until 1947, by which time he was 27, and after a season at Durham, his county of birth, he moved to Taunton as a professional on the recommendation of Mickey Walford. He played a few games as a batsman in 1948 but took over from Wally Luckes in the following summer and held his place until he injured his back in a fall at his home in May 1964.
In 1949 he made 83 dismissals - including a remarkable 45 stumpings - to break the county record and also chipped in with 735 runs. A breezy player and cheeky runner who was a genuine keeper-batsman, he went on to pass 1000 runs four times and made seven hundreds. He took over as captain in 1960 and quickly established a reputation for honesty and cheerfulness, despite leading a side with few stars and little money. His popularity was such that he forged a tight unit that finished third in the Championship in 1960 and again in 1963.
The end of his career does not reflect well on the county he served so well. He was expected to make a full recovery and Stephenson was planning on resuming in 1965 but the committee instead released him. It has been suggested that his loyalty to his players might have counted against him. He moved on to Dorset with equal success.
He was the only Somerset wicketkeeper to make more than 1000 dismissals and his haul of stumpings in 1949 remains a county record, as does his career tally of 309. He also scored 13,195 runs at 20.08 in his first-class career.