England news March 23, 2011

Fred Titmus dies aged 78

ESPNcricinfo staff

Fred Titmus, the former Middlesex and England allrounder, has died at the age of 78 following a long illness.

Titmus enjoyed one of the most remarkable careers of any Middlesex player. When he made his first-class debut in 1949 at the age of 16 years and 213 days, he was the youngest-ever Middlesex cricketer at the time. When he made his final appearance in 1982, he had established a record span of 33 seasons, and at 50 years and 276 days was the fourth-oldest Middlesex player, and the oldest to appear for the county at Lord's.

His overall first-class record was a testament both to his longevity and his class. He made 21,588 runs at 23.11, and claimed 2830 wickets at 22.37 in 792 appearances, to establish himself as one of English cricket's finest allrounders. He was also on the books of Watford Football Club.

Despite competing with a number of fine spinners including David Allen, Ray Illingworth and John Mortimore, Titmus played in 53 Tests between 1955 and 1975, claiming 153 wickets at 32.22, including a best of 7 for 79 against Australia at Sydney in 1962-63. His highest score of 84 not out came the following year against India in Mumbai.

He even came back after a horrific boating accident in the Caribbean in 1967-68, when he caught his foot in the propeller and lost four toes. He was back in action for Middlesex by May 1968 and finished the season with 111 wickets, and also topped his county's batting averages with 846 runs at 25.63. His final first-class appearance came against Surrey in 1982. Visiting the Middlesex dressing room for a cup of coffee, captain Mike Brearley decided an extra spinner was needed and thrust him into action. Sure enough, he took 3 for 43 to set up a 58-run victory.

His artistry as a slow and flighty bowler contrasted with a highly developed practical streak that made him a fine judge of a player. "Too intelligent for his ability," was his appraisal of one; of another, a youngster who scored a dashing hundred against Middlesex at Lord's, he commented: "I like to see someone make a bad 'undred before I make my mind up." He made three tours of Australia, and justified his selection each time. But his favourite memory of the country, he claimed, was "The sight of a ground emptying an hour before the close of play."

"Fred Titmus was my mentor, advisor and coach," wrote the former Middlesex bowler and Guardian cricket correspondent, Mike Selvey, in a tribute last year. "Conversation with him - and there were many - was a masters-level cricketing education, his great skill in simplifying things ("only people make a simple game complicated"), coupled with an ability to implant ideas so cleverly that you believed they were yours in the first place."

"Fred will be deeply missed by all those who played with him and by all those who were fortunate enough to have seen him performing for Middlesex and England," read a statement from his county. "All of our thoughts and best wishes are with his wife Stephanie and family."

David Collier, the ECB chief executive, said: "Fred was simply a master of the art of slow bowling and a very popular figure on both the county and international circuit. He will be much missed and we send condolences to his many friends within the game and his family."