Yesterday I attended a MCC tribute in the Long Room at Lords to Ted Dexter.
I felt honoured to be invited as – although I had got to know Ted well these past few years and his charming wife Sue too in Nice- I had not expected to be invited to such a gathering of cricketing luminaries.
I was pleased that, in focussing on the man, proper regard was afforded to his Sussex career.
Today he would certainly have been centrally contracted but he might have played for Surrey as it was nearer his home in Victoria.
However then – in the early 1960s and not long graduated from Jesus College Cambridge – he would take the Brighton Belle, enjoy kippers and his morning paper and arrive at Hove by 10-39am.
If he stayed over it would be at Arundel Castle as the guest of the Duke of Norfolk.
Yet for all this pleasant but undemanding activity he proved himself an innovative captain, winning the Gillette Cup for Sussex in both its first two years. I had quite forgot until reminded by the tribute video of when Lord Ted was called up by Colin Cowdrey to assist the greenhorns Ted then aged 33 and not playing 1st class cricket for two years requested Sussex for a game He was duly selected against Kent on the dangerously unplayable Hastings wicket now defunct As if this was not hard enough he had to face Derek ‘Deadly ‘ Underwood the best exponent of a rain affected wicket Ted scored 203 not out Tony Greig at the other end called it the finest innings he ever saw. The great John Snow praised Ted in his tribute as “ the greatest player of fast bowling”
Rapidly realising you won games by constraining the opposition he would position fielders on the boundary, much to the disgust of the purists.
He captained England in 30 Tests with a batting average of 49.
He is best remembered for taking on Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith in the famous Lords Test of 1963 when any result was possible on the last ball.
Ted, at his buccaneering best, put the speedsters to the sword with 70 when the game was slipping away.
There was so much to Ted.
He stood as Conservative candidate against Jim Callaghan in the 1964 election; he piloted a Cessna – with his wife and two children Genevieve and Tom aboard – from London to Australia; he invented the ranking system which he sold to Deloittes; he served as chairman of the England selectors but clashed with Ian Botham.
The many parts of Ted Dexter were covered in a film and pictures on the wall of the Long Room and even a mosaic of his ties.
Mark Nicholas was the MC but his family, John Snow and former England captains Andrew Strauss and Mike Atherton paid tribute too.
As I walked – after the reception ended at 3.00pm – around Lords, admiring the plaques on the wall behind the Grandstand heralding the many great cricketing events that had taken place there, on a crisp early autumnal day I felt better in a crowded central London gearing itself for the Queen’s funeral on Monday, the cost of living crisis and the global fears unravelling in Ukraine.