Peter Rochford remembers the most spectacular West Indian of them all. This article first appeared in Wisden Cricket Monthly in 1991

Chesterton wrote of the Legend of the Epic Hour. On a June day in 1928, with Lord's Cricket Ground the perfect backdrop for cricket drama, Learie Constantine enacted those words to the full. A Middlesex declaration at 352 for 6 and half the West Indian batting gone for 79, the script for a Middlesex victory was running unhindered; until, that is, Constantine decided to ad-lib.

Pulling and driving with astonishing ferocity, he cracked 86 spectacular runs from 107 in less than an hour, leaving the tourists 122 behind. Far from content at saving the follow-on and keeping the West Indians albeit remotely in contention, Constantine put his own interpretation to the play.

He came at Middlesex with an awesome speed, hitting the stumps five times in taking 7 for 57, a devastating second spell bringing him 6 for 11 in 6.3 overs as Middlesex made only 136. But 259 to win was still an unlikely achievement, and ever more so as the West Indians, following the script religiously, lost five wickets with 138 runs still needed. But a great artists can enliven even the most prosaic last act.

The prompters were gone, the script in disarray. If Constantine had used a sea-axe from the county's coat of arms the carving of the bowling would have been no more incisive. Inside the epic hour Connie s' fearsome assault brought him 103 from 135 and victory by three wickets.

It also meant an early end to the season for Jack Hearne. A brave but imprudent attempt to field, off his own bowling, a crackling straight-drive smashed his finger before rattling into the pavilion rails.

The last days of June were no help to the Tudor Rose at Northants either. First the batsmen wilted. Constantine got among them to the tune of 7 for 45; six bowled, including a hat-trick. He then reduced the bowlers to an impotent gaggle, cracking five sixes and 12 fours in a scintillating 107 from 146 in only 90 minutes. The Rose was emphatically uprooted when Constantine returned to pluck out six of them for 67 runs as Northants were undone for 208.

Connie's father, Lebrun went with the West Indians to England twice in the 1900s, and had much to do with his cricket development while also painting a realistic view of untried roads ahead. But even the most loving and optimistic parent could hardly envisage the son of a plantation worker not only becoming an international figure in sport and politics but in 1969 becoming a peer of the realm.

Constantine found the hypocritical distinction between his status as a cricketer and that of a citizen totally abhorrent. Yet never did he misuse his unique standing with the public. Successfully suing the Imperial Hotel in 1944 for refusing him accommodation, he gently drove home the point by accepting only nominal damages.

Professional cricket provided the wherewithal to study law. Old Lebrun would quietly and modestly have nodded his approval when, in 1954, the young man he had guided through those early days was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple.

Because of league commitments Constantine played only 18 times for his country, and it was in the homely warmth of Lancashire that he found a sympathetic if not total understanding of his campaign against colour prejudice.

Nelson won the Lancashire League eight out of the 10 seasons he was there. He was bestowed with the freedom of the Borough in 1963, cricket being not the only reason. He deserved the honour. They deserved the man.

Constantine's Test career closed at The Oval in 1939; and to his own script. First he took 5 for 75, then in another glorious Chesterton Hour of cavalier batting he thrashed Nichols and Perks for 78 out of 103. One back-foot shot off Perks rocketed to the Vauxhall end for a memorable six. Hammond was said to be nonplussed. Constantine, one suspects, lost little sleep over that!