Viscount Cobham

COBHAM, CHARLES JOHN, 10th VISCOUNT, K.C., P.C., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., who died in hospital on March 20, aged 67, was a member of one of the greatest of cricketing families. He himself, as the Hon. C. J. Lyttelton, began to play for Worcestershire in 1932 and, after captaining them on a number of occasions in 1935 and going out to Australia and New Zealand that winter as Vice-Captain of the M.C.C. side under E. R. T. Holmes, was the county's official Captain from 1936 to 1939. This was the more remarkable as at Eton he was nowhere near the XI. But by keenness and close study of the principles of the game he made himself first into a good club cricketer and then into a competent county one.

He never made the mistake of treating first-class bowlers with exaggerated respect. Observing that Mitchell of Derbyshire always started with a googly against an amateur, he played for it and hit a long way out of the ground. He held that, if one used one's common-sense, a great bowler could be hit as far as an ordinary one (and resented it much more), only one would not be able to hit him successfully for so long. Batting on this theory, he often made 30 or 40 in double-quick time when his companions were groping, and thus was more valuable to the side than his average suggests.

A good example is the Yorkshire match at Stourbridge in 1936, played throughout on a turning wicket of the type on which Yorkshire then were regarded as invincible. Lyttelton impressed on his side that, if they played their normal game, they stood no chance at all: if they slung their bats at the ball, one or two would probably be lucky and get a few. He himself set the example. Telling his left-handed partner, Warne, to keep Verity's bowling, he faced Ellis Robinson, an off-spinner, and in thirty-five minutes made 48, including four 6's and four 4's. As soon as he had to play Verity, he was out. Worcestershire won by 11 runs, their first victory over Yorkshire since 1909.

Again, against the Australians in 1938, going in first, he scored 50 and 35, being particularly severe on O'Reilly. His highest score for the county and his only century was 162 that year against Leicestershire. A medium-paced bowler who could make the ball swing, he sometimes opened the bowling and occasionally took a wicket with a very slow ball which he called his flipper.

His county cricket ended with the war, but he continued to play club cricket and indeed found some time to play throughout his period as Governor-General of New Zealand from 1957 to 1962. It was fitting climax in his career when in 1961 at the age of 51 he captained his own team against the M.C.C. at Auckland and made 44 in twenty-one minutes, including two sixes. No one ever enjoyed his cricket more or took more trouble to see that others enjoyed theirs and he amply repaid off the field the debt which he owed to the game.

As President of the M.C.C. in 1954 (a post which his father and grandfather had held before him) he was outstanding. In 1963 he became Treasurer, but had to his great regret to resign next year on becoming Lord-Lieutenant of Worcestershire. For some years he acted as chairman of the committee of the Free Foresters; he was Captain of the Butterflies from 1951 to 1976 and had been Governor of I Zingari since 1956. Moreover he still managed to have an occasional country-house match on his own ground at Hagley, where among the visitors were I Zingari and the London New Zealand Cricket Club. His death is a grievous loss not only to the cricket world, but to the public life of the country. Six days before he died, he was present at the Worcestershire C.C.C. annual meeting where he was extremely gratified at being elected President, a post that was also held by his father and grandfather.

© John Wisden & Co