Former Essex batsman Gordon Barker has died at the age of 74 after a long illness.

Barker scored 21,895 first-class runs for the county in a career which stretched from 1954 to 1971. He passed 1000 runs 16 times, with a best of 1742 in 1960.

He was born near Leeds and was playing in the Bradford League when he was spotted by Doug Insole, the Essex captain, in an army game. Insole persuaded Essex to sign him, and he went on to become the sixth-highest run-scorer in the county's history.

"Gordon was a wonderfully gritty opening batsman who in his early days formed a highly entertaining and slightly bizarre partnership with Dickie Dodds," insole, now the county's president, told the Essex website. "He went on to become one of county cricket's best opening batsmen and one of its most engaging characters."

After retiring, Barker became cricket coach at Felsted where he produced players such as Nick Knight, Derek Pringle and John Stephenson.