Denis Compton


The Cavalier of Cricket

Denis Compton

Denis Compton

The start of this year's cricket season on St. George's Day the 23rd of April, 1997 proved to be a sad day, for the "Cavalier of Cricket" Denis Compton died.

Born on the 23rd of May, 1918 Denis Charles Scott Compton lived in Hendon, North West London where his mother Jessie and father Henry ran a Painting and Decorating business. Living with his sister and elder brother Leslie, later to become the Middlesex wicket keeper and play centre half for Arsenal and England, Dennis learnt his cricket defending the lamp post in Alexandra Road where they lived.

Denis attended Bell Lane school, Hendon where his father captained the old boys cricket eleven and naturally Denis was taken to matches. When Denis was twelve his father's team found themselves a player short and he filled the vacancy, to the dismay of the visiting team, for he dispatched the ball to the boundary all round the ground. Soon making his mark Denis captained the Elementary Schools' team and made a century at Lords.

The next season he joined the M.C.C. ground staff at Lords and was paid twenty five shillings a week, the same as he was getting at Arsenal football club during the winter, for he was an equally talented footballer. Now things started to happen, for at fifteen he scored a century for the M.C.C. against Suffolk at Felixstowe. At seventeen he shared a century partnership with E. W. Swanton for Middlesex second eleven against Kent at Folkestone. At eighteen he was in the full county side batting at number eleven. The next year he was playing against New Zealand in a Test Match in which he scored 65 runs.

In his first Test against Australia in 1938, when he was twenty, he became the youngest Englishman to score a Test hundred. The second world war the intervened and it was not until 1947 that Denis had a real chance to shine again. 1947 was undoubtably his best for he scored 3,816 runs including eighteen centuries with an average of 90 runs per game. He still holds the record for the fastest century scored in three hours one minute against North Eastern Transvaal in Benoni, South Africa in 1949.

Using his lightweight bat, weighing two ponds two ounces, more like a fencing foil than a club, he was a delight to watch for his quick footwork allowed him to play his strokes late and enthral the crowds with his late cuts and leg sweeps. It was said that when he was on the ground there was magic in the air. He was a delight to watch when batting and thrilled and enthused all who saw him. Denis could also bowl left handed and was famous for his chinaman, a left handed off break. His easy go manner in everyday life sometimes affected his fielding for he did not always pay attention and missed many a catch.

Although a professional, playing the game he loved for money, he thought that you should play the game of cricket to enjoy yourself and this he did to the full. He always wanted to please. Denis was the first professional to have a manager and he was soon to be seen on posters and advertisements advertising Brylcreem hair cream and subsequently became known as the "Brylcreem Boy".

He scored 38,942 runs, including 123 centuries made at an average of 51.8 and took 415 catches including 5,807 Test runs during his career, which was brought to an abrupt end with a football injury to his right knee that would not repair. His winters, when he was not on a cricket tour, were spent playing football for Arsenal. Although a right handed batsman he kicked with his left foot and played on the left wing in one hundred and eighty five games for his club between 1932 and 1950 scoring 90 goals. He represented his country fourteen times at football and won an F.A. league championship medal as well as a cup winners medal in the 1950 Cup Final against Liverpool. This match unfortunately signalled the end of his sporting career for he finished with his right knee heavily bandaged.

He was made a C.B.E. in 1958 and was President of the M.C.C. for seven years with the great honour of having a stand named after him at Lords. His like will never be seen again. © BA

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