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Full name Arthur Rex Alston
Born July 2, 1901, Faringdon, Berkshire
Died September 8, 1994, Ewhurst, Surrey (aged 93 years 68 days)
Other Commentator, Journalist, Author
Education Trent College, Derbyshire; Clare College, Cambridge
Rex Alston was, along with John Arlott and E. W. Swanton, one of the triumvirate who dominated radio cricket commentary in the years after the war while Brian Johnston was still concentrating on television. He was an all-round sports broadcaster and in the 1940s and 1950s his precise, light baritone was a familiar sound on rugby, tennis and athletics as well as cricket. He looked rather like a vicar - his father was a Suffragan Bishop - and sounded like a schoolmaster: he taught at Bedford School until the war, when some BBC men were billeted on him and one suggested his voice might be just right. He was a considerable sportsman: on the wing for Bedford and Rosslyn Park, running second in the 1923 University athletics match to Harold Abrahams - later his partner in the commentary box - and playing cricket for the Crusaders at Cambridge and for Bedfordshire, whom he captained in 1932.
Alston commentated on about a hundred Tests, but did hardly any after 1964, three years after he had officially retired from the BBC. Thereafter he wrote a column in Playfair Cricket Monthly, notable for its fierce opposition to the break with South Africa, and continued reporting county matches for the Daily Telegraph until 1987. He made a broadcasting comeback that year on the Saturday of the MCC bicentenary game when, despite some understandable difficulties ("It's little Abdul what-not. He's a good bowler, my word he is"), he delighted everyone so much he was given a 20-minute encore. His broadcasting style was described as "pleasant and courteous" in an obituary in The Times in 1985. This was accurate; however, Alston was not dead. A mix-up in the office had led to his obituary being published instead of merely updated for the files. By a horrid coincidence, Alston had collapsed the previous evening at a dinner and so had the doubly disconcerting experience of being shown his obituary by a nurse at the Westminster Hospital. Reports that he found it all very humorous were as exaggerated as his death. The following year he proved his fitness by remarrying and became perhaps the first man to have his death and marriage reported in The Times in that order. He ascribed his continuing vigour to daily cold baths.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack