Graham Roope, the former Surrey and England allrounder, collapsed and died in Grenada yesterday. He was 60.
Roope will probably be best remembered for his outstanding close catching - he was one of the best slip fielders of his generation - and it was this as much as his batting that won him 21 Test and eight ODI caps between 1973 and 1978. He scored 860 runs in Tests at 30.71 as well as holding 35 catches, and was unlucky in that he seemed to be on the verge of finding his feet when he was discarded - he made seven fifties, but never reached three figures.
He was at his best in backs-against-the-wall situations. At Karachi in 1977-78 he batted for almost five hours in making 56 (ended by a shocking lbw decision) to bail England out after they had collapsed to 107 for 5. And in 1975 at The Oval he made his Test-best of 77 against Australia after England followed-on. They saved the match, but England did not tour that winter and Roope was given a torrid working over by West Indies early the following season in a warm-up match and that cost him his place when the Test series started.
He toured twice with England. In 1972-73 he visited India and Pakistan, where he made his Test debut, and in 1977-78 was on the trip to Pakistan and New Zealand.
Geoff Arnold, the current Surrey bowling coach, who played with Roope for club and country, spoke to Cricinfo about his memories of his former team-mate. "He was a very affable and jovial guy. He was especially good against quick bowling and would often walk back with them to try and get them on his side."
"As a slip fielder he was outstanding, I'd put him in the top half a dozen I've ever seen. He held some stunning catches off me for Surrey and England. In fact, if he ever did drop a catch it was often the easier ones that were coming straight at him. He had great reflexes as a goalkeeper and this showed when he was at slip."
And off the pitch, too, Arnold said Roope was a character: "He could talk the hind legs off a donkey in the changing rooms and was a great weather forecaster. We thought he could sense a drop of rain 300 miles away."
The corkscrew-curled Roope was also a bit of a lucky charm - England only lost twice when he played. He was also the man at the other end when Geoff Boycott completed his 100th first-class hundred at Headingley in 1977.
A front-foot middle-order batsman, Roope was a mainstay for Surrey for a decade and a half, and his best season came in 1971 when his 1641 runs at 44.35 were key to the county winning the Championship ( he also took 59 catches in that summer). His medium-pace bowling was also effective, more so in his early career. In 1968 he captured 50 wickets. He appeared in four one-day finals, finishing on the winning side only the once in the 1974 Benson & Hedges Cup.
He represented Berkshire both before and after his first-class career, and was also a decent football goalkeeper, playing for Wimbledon, Kingstonian, Woking and Corinthian Casuals. After retiring he coached and did some commentary work.