Ken Grieves

GRIEVES, KENNETH JOHN, died suddenly at his home in Rawtenstall on January 3, 1992, aged 66. For many years after the war Ken Grieves represented to English cricket followers the epitome of the Australian professional, ferociously hard on the field, delightfully charming off it. He played 452 matches for Lancashire between 1949 and 1964, scoring runs, taking wickets and - above all - snapping up close-to-the-wicket catches. Unusually for an Australian, he also played soccer and made 147 Football League appearances as a goalkeeper for Bury, Bolton and Stockport.

Grieves was brought up in Sydney and stepped into the New South Wales team when first-class cricket was resumed in Australia on a non-competitive basis in 1945-46. He made a lively hundred against the Australian Services. However, he was less successful the following year when the Sheffield Shield resumed and in 1947 he accepted an offer to play for Rawtenstall in the Lancashire League. The club had been hoping to sign Keith Miller instead. Two years later Lancashire signed Grieves and he was an immediate success. He made 128 and took five for 64 against the New Zealanders at Old Trafford and it looked as though he might achieve the double. However, the captain, Nigel Howard, like some of his successors, appeared to undervalue and underuse Grieves's leg-spin, and he finished with 1,407 runs and 63 wickets.

In the wetter summers that followed 1949, his fallibilities began to be exposed. He was no stylist, preferring the cut and pull to anything else, and attacking in general to defence. He still managed to pass 1,000 runs in all but two of his 15 seasons. His bowling was comparatively neglected but he more than made up for this with his close fielding on either side of the wicket, though Lancashire followers of the period recollect most the leg-trap he formed with Jack Ikin and Geoff Edrich when Roy Tattersall was bowling.

He took a record 555 catches for the county, 205 in the four seasons 1950 to 1953, 63 in the 1950 season alone, eight in a match against Sussex in 1951. In the hot summer of 1959 he achieved new batting heights: 2,253 runs, an unbeaten 202 against the Indians at Blackpool and an important innings of exactly 100 at The Oval that helped prevent Surrey winning an eighth consecutive Championship. He passed 1,500 runs again in 1961 but retired and went into business in 1962 when Lancashire, beginning a long period of decline and turmoil, turned to the club cricketer Joe Blackledge as their captain.

This anachronistic move was not a success and Grieves came back to lead the side in 1963. Initially, there were signs of improvement but in 1964 the team went backwards again with dissent inside the team and growing anger amongst the members. Lancashire announced that they intended to build a new team who would "pay a proper respect to the captain". Grieves was blamed, sacked as captain and went back to the leagues. He later returned to Old Trafford, served on the committee for 13 years and was elected a vice-president in December 1991.

In his full career he compiled 22,454 runs at an average of 33.66, a total boosted by a successful tour of India and Ceylon in 1950-51 with Leslie Ames's Commonwealth Team, hit 29 centuries, held 608 catches and took 242 wickets at a cost of 29.78. His former team-mate Alan Wharton paid tribute to his loyalty, true sporting instincts and a sense of fun which never deserted him, even when the going was roughest.

© John Wisden & Co