Dennis Brian Close
February 24, 1931, Rawdon, Leeds, Yorkshire
September 14, 2015, Baildon near Bradford, West Yorkshire, (aged 84y 202d)
Left hand bat
Right arm medium, Right arm offbreak
Forward short leg
More stories have been told about Brian Close, or to be precise his eccentricities, than probably any postwar cricketer except maybe his fellow-Yorkshireman Fred Trueman. Close's courage, batting against the fastest bowling or fielding at short leg, was legendary. Seemingly impervious to pain himself, he used to say to anyone who flinched, or rubbed a bruise: "How can the ball hurt you? It's only on you for a second." On the one known occasion when he was hit by such force that he was knocked off his feet - by a short-arm pull by Hampshire's Danny Livingstone at Portsmouth - Close, sprang up and dismissed the slips and wicketkeeper (who were running towards him in concern) with an angry wave. Because he always tried to play the type of innings he considered the position of the match required, Close's record did scant justice to his talent, which was huge. He was a notably unselfish cricketer, a factor in the respect he won as Yorkshire, Somerset, and briefly, England captain, and the success his teams enjoyed. He was as stubborn as he was unselfish, however, and invariably found a pretext for a dismissal through some outlandish stroke. One from which the Yorkshire dressing-room derived most pleasure came when he was caught off a snow-gathering top-edge as he tried to pull John Price, the Middlesex fast bowler, into the Warner Stand at Lord's: "I had it covered for everything but uneven bounce," was Close's indignant explanation.
Of legendary toughness, Brian Close still holds the record for the youngest player to represent England, when, after a superb allround first season with Yorkshire, he was picked to play against New Zealand in 1949 at the age of 18. He never fully realised the promise of that first season, in and out of the England side over the next 27 years. Batting left, and bowling right-handed, he completed the double in 1949, the youngest player to do so. As a batsman he could defend with great obduracy, but could attack thrillingly, although not always wisely. He bowled medium-pace and offspin, with more consistency than his batting. He lost favour with the England selectors after trying to hit Benaud out of the attack in the 1961 Old Trafford Test, but returned to take England to the brink of victory in the 1963 Lord's Test against the West Indies. In this innings, his highest in Tests, he used unconventional tactics, coming up the wicket to the West Indies pace bowlers. He captained Yorkshire and England with success, but lost the England position after using delaying tactics in a county game. Later internal politics saw him move from Yorkshire to Somerset for the final years of his career. He was famous for his fearless fielding at short leg, where he would rarely duck or move to avoid a hard hit ball. He was also known for his courage against fast bowling, memorably so in 1976, when he was recalled at the age of 45 to face the fearsome West Indies pace trio of Holding, Roberts and Daniel. Subjected to a barrage of short-pitched bowling on the Saturday of the Old Trafford Test in less than favourable light, Close never flinched, and, as always, refused to rub the bruises when hit. In later years he played in the Lancashire League then returned to Yorkshire, and much controversy as chair of the cricket committee. He was an England selector in the late 70's.
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