Last year I drew the former England captain Ted Dexter before a talk he was giving at a cricket club close to his home in Wolverhampton. When I asked him to sign my final drawing he said there was a problem, as he was suffering with “the yips” but, taking his morning crossword fountain pen and, after several careful practice efforts, he signed using mainly capitals.
When the club suggested asking him to autograph a limited run of 50 to raise funds, I told them, with concern, about his writing difficulty. They asked and he duly signed the complete run. After his talk he declined any fee but asked the club to donate to the band his grandson plays in, “to improve his credit there”.
I became a Sussex supporter in the 1950s, having seen Ted Dexter and the wicket-keeper Jim Parks thrillingly thrashing the ball in all directions in a county match at Hove, where my grandmother lived. Of course I loved it when “Lord Ted” played for England or led Sussex to victory in the Gillette Cup Finals of 1963 and 64.
But my favourite memory came at Lords against Middlesex in a Bank holiday match in 1959. Ted had been building up a head of steam in the morning, and seemed irritated when interrupted by lunch. There was a somewhat dreary oompah-oompah brass band performing for the substantial holiday crowd who had the temerity to keep playing after the resumption of play, much to his visible annoyance.
At the first opportunity Ted chipped an exquisite shot for six into their midst, as though delivering a golf ball onto the green with pin-point accuracy. It was clearly a warning shot, but still the band played on. Of course there was only ever going to be one victor in this battle of wills, as the hushed crowd clearly understood.
As soon as Ted next faced the bowling we braced ourselves. Sure enough he strode down the pitch and delivered a savagely unorthodox upper-cut of a shot that crashed audibly against some poor bandsman’s instrument, precipitating a mad scramble of musicians out of the firing line. Ted got a standing ovation from the mainly Middlesex supporters.