Denis Compton

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Denis Compton
D.C.S.Compton1954.png
Personal information
Full name Denis Charles Scott Compton
Born (1918-05-23)23 May 1918
Hendon, Middlesex, England
Died 23 April 1997(1997-04-23) (aged 78)
Windsor, Berkshire, England
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Batting style Right-handed
Bowling style Left arm unorthodox spin
Relations RCD Compton (son)
PMD Compton (son)
NRD Compton (grandson)
International information
National side
Test debut (cap 297) 14 August 1937 v New Zealand
Last Test 5 March 1957 v South Africa
Domestic team information
Years Team
1936–1964 MCC
1936–1958 Middlesex
1944/45 – 1945/46 Europeans (India)
1944/45 Holkar
Career statistics
Competition Test FC
Matches 78 515
Runs scored 5807 38942
Batting average 50.06 51.85
100s/50s 17/28 123/183
Top score 278 300
Balls bowled 2710 36640
Wickets 25 622
Bowling average 56.40 32.27
5 wickets in innings 1 19
10 wickets in match 0 3
Best bowling 5/70 7/36
Catches/stumpings 49/– 416/–
Source: Cricinfo, 23 April 1997

Denis Charles Scott Compton CBE (23 May 1918 in Hendon, Middlesex – 23 April 1997 in Windsor, Berkshire) was an English cricketer who played in 78 Test matches and spent his whole cricket career with Middlesex. He was also an accomplished footballer who played most of his football career at Arsenal F.C..

A right-handed batsman and slow left-arm chinaman bowler, Compton is regularly credited as one of England's most remarkable batsmen.[1] He is one of only twenty-five players to have scored over one hundred centuries in first-class cricket.[2] In 2009, Compton was posthumously inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.[3] The Denis Compton Oval and a stand at Lord's Cricket Ground are both named in his honour.

Cricket career[edit]

Early years[edit]

Compton was born and raised in the north London suburb of Hendon. He was the second son and youngest child of Henry Ernest Compton and Jessie Anne Duthie; he had one older brother, Leslie Harry (born 1912) and one older sister, Hilda (born 1913).[4] He was educated at an elementary school and joined the MCC ground staff at Lord's in 1934. By the late 1930s, Compton was one of England's finest batsmen, and remained at the top of his profession for some twenty years. His dashing approach to batting and the sheer enjoyment he exuded endeared him to a generation of cricket lovers. As an all-rounder Compton was a right-hand bat and a slow left-arm Chinaman bowler.

He scored his first Test century aged just 19 in 1938 against Don Bradman's touring Australians. Later in the same series he scored a match-saving 76 not out at Lord's; this innings was scored on a rain-affected pitch and greatly impressed Don Bradman. In 1939 he scored 2468 runs for the season, including 120 against the West Indies at Lord's.

As with many other sportsmen of his generation he lost some of his best years to the Second World War, during which he served in the army in India. He was posted at Mhow, Central India. He was granted permission to play for the Holkar team in the Ranji Trophy, India's national cricket tournament. It was in India that he began his close friendship with his Australian counterpart as Test cricketer, footballer and national hero, Keith Miller. They played against each other in the match at Calcutta between the Australian Services team and East Zone. The match was interrupted by rioting when Compton was on 94 and one of the rioters who had invaded the pitch ran up to Compton and said "Mr Compton, you very good player, but the match must stop now", which Miller gleefully repeated whenever Compton came to the crease subsequently. In recognition of their friendship and rivalry, the ECB and Cricket Australia decided in 2005 that the player adjudged the Player of the Series in the Ashes would be awarded the Compton-Miller medal.

1947[edit]

England toured Australia in the 1946-47 Ashes series and though they were beaten by the powerful Australian team, Compton distinguished himself by scoring a century in each innings of the Adelaide Test.

Back in England, Compton produced a season of cricket that established him as a British household name, and one of the greatest cricketers of his era. Helped by a rare summer of sunshine,[5] Compton thrilled the war-weary English public with his cavalier batting. Against the touring South Africans, Compton scored five centuries, one for Middlesex and four for England, accumulating 1,056 runs at an average of 88.

According to former journalist Frank Keating, Compton's personal favourite innings of that summer was for Middlesex against Kent at Lord's.[6] Chasing 397 to win, and needing to score at nearly 100 runs per hour,[5] Compton led the way with a dashing 168, but Middlesex fell short by 75 runs.[7]

Cricket writers Neville Cardus and John Arlott acclaimed Compton's achievements. Cardus wrote:

Never have I been so deeply touched on a cricket ground as in this heavenly summer, when I went to Lord's to see a pale-faced crowd, existing on rations, the rocket-bomb still in the ears of most, and see the strain of anxiety and affliction passed from all hearts and shoulders at the sight of Compton in full sail ... each stroke a flick of delight, a propulsion of happy, sane, healthy life. There were no rations in an innings by Compton.[6]

Arlott, who had written his first cricket book that summer, concluded with a tribute to Compton:

To close the eyes is to see again that easy, happy figure at the wicket, pushing an unruly forelock out of the eye and then as it falls down again, playing off the wrong foot a stroke which passes deep-point like a bullet ... never again will the boyish delight in hitting a ball with a piece of wood flower directly into charm and gaiety and all the wealth of achievement.[6]

Later career[edit]

Against Bradman's Invincibles in 1948, Compton was England's standout performer in a losing cause. In the First Test at Trent Bridge he scored 184 in the second innings after Australia had established a first innings lead of 344, and it looked as though he might save the match for England until he lost his balance to a short-pitched ball from Miller and hit his wicket. In the Third Test at Old Trafford, Compton scored an unbeaten 145 in the first innings, when no other batsman made more than 37. He had scored only four runs when, while facing a bumper barrage from Ray Lindwall, he edged the ball onto his forehead. Compton was forced off the ground with a cut head, given two stitches, and ordered to rest despite wanting to return to the crease.[8] He eventually came back out when England was teetering at 119 for 5 and enabled the team to reach 363. This was the only match that England did not lose, and if so much time had not been lost to the weather they might have won it. In the series he made 562 runs at 62.44, against fierce fast bowling from Lindwall, Miller and Bill Johnston.

On the MCC tour of South Africa 1948–49 he scored 300 against North-Eastern Transvaal in just a minute over three hours – still the fastest triple-century ever in first-class cricket. His first hundred took 66 minutes (he said, "I was getting a sight of the bowling"), his second 78 minutes (he was not out overnight and had to play himself in again next morning), and his third hundred took just 37 minutes. Reminiscing about the match later, Compton compared the South Africans' bowling with a decent county side, but criticised their catching (he had been dropped before he reached 20).[9]

A picture of misery; Denis Compton leaving the Melbourne Cricket Ground after having been told he was unfit to play in the Second Test because of his swollen knee. In a roller-coaster tour he averaged 7.57 in the Test series and 92.11 in his other First Class matches.

He toured Australia for 1950-51 Ashes series as vice-captain, the first professional in the 20th century to be awarded the position, but had a dismal tour because of a recurring knee problem caused by an old football injury. He averaged only 7.57 in the Tests, but 92.11 in his other first-class matches. He became the first professional to captain the MCC for an entire game, Jack Hobbs having taken over from the injured Arthur Carr in 1924–25. He and Len Hutton made the winning runs in the Fifth Test at Melbourne, the first time Australia had been beaten since 1938. On the 1954–55 tour his departure was delayed for a remedial operation on his knee and he joined the team in Australia by plane. In the First Test at Brisbane he badly cut his hand when he hit a billboard while fielding and batted at the bottom of the order. He missed the Second Test. He came third in the England Test averages (38.20), but topped the tour averages (57.07) and made three centuries. In his last Test against Australia in 1956 he made a dazzling 94 despite having just had his right kneecap removed.

Compton finished his cricket career after playing 78 Test matches with 17 centuries at an average of 50.06. In all first-class cricket he scored 123 centuries.

Compton jointly captained Middlesex County Cricket Club between 1951 and 1952, with W.J. Edrich.

Football career[edit]

Personal information
Playing position Outside Left
Youth career
1933–1935 Nunhead
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1936–1950 Arsenal 54 (15)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Compton also played football, beginning his career at non-league Nunhead during the 1934–35 season before joining Arsenal. A winger, he made his debut in 1936, and won the League in 1948 and the FA Cup in 1950. Arsenal also won the old First Division in 1937–38 but he only made seven league appearances that season.[10] However, the latter part of his sporting career was dogged by knee trouble: the knee had been damaged in a collision with the Charlton goalkeeper; he was limited to 60 official (i.e. non-wartime) appearances and 16 goals. He represented England in wartime 12 times, but never in a full official match.

Personality and legacy[edit]

Compton's absent-mindedness was legendary. Colin Cowdrey writes that Compton turned up for the Old Trafford Test of 1955 against South Africa without his kitbag. Undaunted, he sauntered into the museum and, borrowing an antique bat off the display, went on to score 158 and 71. This absent-mindedness was particularly obvious in his tendency to run out his partners at the crease: Trevor Bailey declared that 'a call for a run from Compton should be treated as no more than a basis for negotiation.' Typically, at his brother Leslie's benefit match in 1955, he managed to run him out before he had faced a single ball.

Peter Parfitt, the Middlesex and England batsman, was a speaker at a major celebration in London for Compton's 70th birthday. He claims that the chief guest was called to the telephone by a lady who had heard about the dinner: eventually, he agreed to take the call. "Denis," she said, "it's me, your mother. You're not 70, you're only 69."

Denis Compton's career performance graph.

After retiring from sport, Denis Compton became a journalist and later a commentator for BBC Television. He was made a CBE in 1958. He became the first former professional cricketer to be elected President of Middlesex County Cricket Club in 1991. He served two terms, until a week before his death from septicaemia in Windsor, Berkshire aged 78.

Compton's death, on St. George's Day, coincided with the opening of the 1997 County Championship season, and pavilion flags across the country were lowered to half-mast in his memory.[6] The MCC named the twin stands at the Nursery End at Lord's Cricket Ground, in his and Bill Edrich's honour. Cricket writer Colin Bateman noted however that it was "a dull, practical structure which does little justice to their mercurial talents and indomitable spirits".[11]

He was also honoured at the Shenley Cricket Centre, where the main pitch is named the Denis Compton Oval. This is where his grandson, Nick Compton, set the Middlesex record for the 6th wicket partnership in List A cricket (142* BL Hutton & NRD Compton v Lancashire at Shenley 2002).

Commercial sponsorships[edit]

With his contemporary the footballer Stanley Matthews Compton was the first British sportsman to make a substantial living by exploiting his sporting reputation to provide advertisements and endorsements. For many years he was the public face of the Brylcreem range of men's haircare products (for an example see page viii of the 1955 edition of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack). Denis Compton developed a close working relationship with Royds Advertising, and its Chairman, who at that time was Nicholas Royds.

Family life[edit]

Compton's elder brother Leslie also played cricket for Middlesex and football for Arsenal and England.

Compton was married three times; his first wife was Doris Rich, a dancer, and they had a son, Brian.[12] With his second wife, Valerie Platt, Compton had two sons, Patrick and Richard, both of whom would go on to play cricket for Natal.[12] Compton married his third wife, Christine Franklin Tobias, in 1975, with whom he had two daughters, Charlotte and Victoria.[12] His grandson Nick, son of Richard, made his Test debut against India at Ahmedabad during the England cricket team's 2012–13 tour of India.[13]

Test centuries[edit]

The following table summarises the Test centuries scored by Denis Compton.

  • In the column Runs, * indicates being not out.
  • The column title Match refers to the Match Number of his career.
Denis Compton's Test Centuries[14]
# Runs Match Against City/Country Venue Year Result
[1] 102 2  Australia Nottingham, England Trent Bridge 1938 Drawn
[2] 120 6  West Indies London, England Lord's 1939 Won
[3] 147 15  Australia Adelaide, Australia Adelaide Oval 1947 Drawn
[4] 103*
[5] 163 18  South Africa Nottingham, England Trent Bridge 1947 Drawn
[6] 208 19  South Africa London, England Lord's 1947 Won
[7] 115 20  South Africa Manchester, England Old Trafford 1947 Won
[8] 113 22  South Africa London, England Kennington Oval 1947 Drawn
[9] 184 23  Australia Nottingham, England Trent Bridge 1948 Lost
[10] 145* 25  Australia Manchester, England Old Trafford 1948 Drawn
[11] 114 29  South Africa Johannesburg, South Africa Ellis Park 1948 Drawn
[12] 114 33  New Zealand Leeds, England Headingley 1949 Drawn
[13] 116 34  New Zealand London, England Lord's 1949 Drawn
[14] 112 44  South Africa Nottingham, England Trent Bridge 1951 Lost
[15] 133 58  West Indies Port of Spain, Trinidad Queen's Park Oval 1954 Drawn
[16] 278 61  Pakistan Nottingham, England Trent Bridge 1954 Won
[17] 158 70  South Africa Manchester, England Old Trafford 1955 Lost

Media[edit]

Denis Compton is mentioned in Fawlty Towers, series 1 episode 2 "The Builders". Upon arriving back at the hotel Basil notices that his cut price builders have made a mess of some renovations. Basil and Polly discuss whose fault this is with Basil blaming Polly "you were left in charge" and Manuel "he was supposed to wake you" before Basil sarcastically asks Polly "well whose fault is it then you cloth eared bint? Denis Compton's?"

Compton is referred to in the second episode of series 2 of Ever Decreasing Circles, "The Cricket Match", when Martin explains to his neighbour Paul that Compton never undermined his county captain George Mann, despite being the better player.

In Tim Rice's Oscar acceptance speech for the song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight", he thanked Denis Compton "a childhood hero of mine".

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Player Profile: Denis Compton". ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  2. ^ "List of batsmen who have scored 100 centuries in first-class cricket". 
  3. ^ "Benaud, Gooch, Compton, Larwood and Woolley inducted into Cricket Hall of Fame". 
  4. ^ Bartlett & Croudy, 1998
  5. ^ a b Easterbrook, Basil. "Compton's record season". ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d Keating, Frank. "Denis Compton – talisman of hope, 1998... Delightful man". ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  7. ^ "Middlesex v Kent at Lord's, 13–15 August 1947". Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  8. ^ Lynch, Steven (2 September 2013). "Bruised but not shaken". ESPN Cricinfo. 
  9. ^ Compton's 300 remembered
  10. ^ "1937–38 competition statistics". 11v11.com. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  11. ^ Bateman, 1993, pp. 58–59
  12. ^ a b c "OBITUARY: Denis Compton". Telegraph. 24 April 1997. 
  13. ^ "Nick Compton". Cricinfo. 
  14. ^ Statsguru: Denis Compton, Cricinfo, 16 March 2010.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bateman, Colin (1993). If The Cap Fits. Tony Williams Publications. ISBN 1-869833-21-X. 
  • Croudy, Brian; Bartlett, Kit (1998). D.C.S. Compton. Famous Cricketers (39). Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians. ISBN 0 947774 95 5. Retrieved 28 December 2014. 

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Walter Robins
Middlesex County Cricket Captain
1951–1952
(jointly with Bill Edrich)
Succeeded by
Bill Edrich