Harold Stephenson 1920-2008 April 25, 2008

Somerset keeping legend Harold Stephenson dies

Cricinfo staff

Harold Stephenson: excellent keeper-batsman and inspirational captain © PA Sport
Harold Stephenson, who was Somerset's first-choice keeper for almost two decades after World War Two, has died at the age of 87.

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.