End Of An Innings by Denis Compton

IMG_1209 …’Well, whose fault is it then, you cloth-eared bint? Denis Compton’s?!’…

As outrageous non-sequiteur insults go, Basil Fawlty’s is up there. It says something about Denis Compton’s celebrity that his name could be included in this way in a prime-time TV series, almost 20 years after his retirement from the game. I met him in the late 1980s, the year this edition of End Of An Innings was republished. In fact, I didn’t meet him: I was fortunate enough to be on the same table as him at a corporate lunch beano at Lord’s. He was by then 70 and enjoying the sort of repast which Simon Hughes, in A Lot Of Hard Yakka, says was common for Compton at that time. Fred Trueman turned up that day as well. Denis was not thrilled with the way Len Hutton handled Fred during England’s fraught 1954-55 tour of the West Indies, and those sort of observations made End Of An Innings controversial in 1957. (One of the book’s photographs is of Hutton and its caption is ‘JOYLESS CONCENTRATION’). But he also admired Sir Len, not least for his nerveless refusal to take his players off during the Third Test in Guyana despite a riot. ‘I’m not leaving the field…I want another couple of wickets before close of play tonight.’ Similarly, while Compton is honest enough to highlight Don Bradman’s hypocrisy over hostile fast bowling, he talks of his kindness to him and his undoubted genius. Compton (Test average 50.06 and scorer of 123 first-class centuries) was also, by any measure, a great player – but it was the cavalier, sporting manner in which he scored the runs, and played the game, that really counted. Oh, he won an F.A. Cup winner’s medal with Arsenal, as well. The penultimate chapter, bookended by Compton’s final innings for Middlesex at Lord’s, is lovely. He talks about his career and, with affection, about the characters at Lord’s, from a road-sweeper to coaches, ground staff and scorers. He writes in particular about what he has got out of the game, and what he owes it. Club cricketers will recognise what he says. It’s good to know that we have this, if nothing else, in common with the gods.



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