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News

Former England captain Ted Dexter dies aged 86

A powerful middle-order batter and medium-pace bowler, Dexter played 62 Tests, leading the side in 30 of those

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
26-Aug-2021
Ted Dexter, 1962

Ted Dexter scored more than 21000 runs and claimed 419 wickets during a first-class career that spanned 12 years  •  Getty Images

Ted Dexter, the former England captain, has died at the age of 86. A powerful middle-order batter and medium-pace bowler, Dexter played 62 Tests, leading the side in 30 of those, scoring 4502 runs and taking 66 wickets although his life off the field was as just as notable as his cricket feats.
In a first-class career that spanned from 1956 to 1968, he scored more than 21000 runs and claimed 419 wickets. A broken leg suffered when he was attempting to push his broken down car in 1965 impacted the latter stages of his career, although he made a brief comeback to the Test side in the 1968 Ashes and would later play Sunday League games in 1971 and 1972.
"No English cricketer bred since the war has so captured the imagination of those inside, outside and far from, the boundary ropes of our big cricket grounds," said the introduction to his profile as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year in 1961.
His Test numbers as captain (average 53.93) were even higher than his outstanding career figure of 47.89 which included nine hundreds. His debut came against New Zealand in 1958 where he made a half-century with his first hundred arriving three games later against the same opposition in Christchurch.
His tally of 481 runs in the 1962-63 Ashes remains the most by an England captain in Australia while in the 1959-60 series against West Indies he had made 526 runs and 65.75. "Tall, upright and commanding, Dexter played the short-pitched bowling better than anyone else and thoroughly justified the faith of the selectors in choosing him, despite some earlier disappointments," Wisden reported of his performance in the Caribbean.
One of Dexter's most iconic performances was his 70 off 75 balls against a West Indies attack featuring Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith at Lord's in 1963 during a match that came down to the final over with all four results possible and Colin Cowdrey coming out to bat with a broken arm.
A magnificent all-round sportsperson Dexter, who was known by his nickname of 'Lord Ted', also excelled at golf while his life outside of cricket was remarkable.
"Ted Dexter was one of the most accomplished batsmen of his era. His ability to dominate fast bowling was admirable and his superb batting against the West Indies and Australia teams is remembered by all," said ICC acting chief Geoff Allardice in a statement. "He also made notable contributions to the game in various capacities post-retirement and helped develop the players' rankings that are so popular today.
"Ted was honoured to be one of this year's special inductees to the ICC Hall of Fame and it is really sad to hear the news of his passing. On behalf of the ICC, I would like to extend my condolences to his family and friends."
In 1964 he stood as a Tory candidate in the General Election and after his playing days he held a variety of roles including a broadcaster and journalist, running a PR agency, co-wrote a cricket-based crime novel, Testkill, and developed what would later become the ICC ranking's system. A qualified pilot, he also once flew himself and his family to Australia in 1970-71, making 20 stops on the journey.
In 1989, he took on the position of England's chairman of selectors - the year 29 players were used in the Ashes - which he held until England's 1993 defeat against Australia. It was a period of precious little success in Test cricket, and Dexter was often criticised, but England reached the final of 1992 World Cup and he also set important changes in motion such as the move to four-day Championship cricket.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph last year, around the publication of his autobiography, 85 Not Out, he was asked about what he would have been like playing in the current era. "Oh yes. I think I would have been heart and soul," he said. "I think I would have been off to India in the IPL at the drop of a hat to earn hundreds of thousands. I am glad I didn't, frankly, because the rest of my life would not have been so interesting if I was fairly cushy and had plenty of money in the bank as a player."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo