R.I.P. Brian Close

Brian Close versus Michael Holding - England versus the West Indies - Old Trafford 1976.

another Yorkshire legend gone.

The youngest and probably hardest and bravest man to play test cricket has died aged 84. The start of the cricket season was the sound of leather on Brian Close.

Yorkshire have had some greats over the years from Wilfred and Schofield to Herbert and Sir Leonard, Hedley and Bill to Maurice and Fred, Geoffrey and Raymond to Vaughan and Root. With many more in between, including Dennis Brian Close.

While not scoring the runs of of some nor taking the wickets of others – he ranks 9th for batting and 15th for bowling – Brian Close will be remembered as a Yorkshire great.

Remembered for his braveness, hardness and his longevity. The latter saw him make his England debut in 1949, the same year as his first class debut for Yorkshire, aged 18 years and 14 days – a record that still stands to this day, that year saw him do the 100 wickets, 1000 runs double again the youngest to do so – the former and latter saw his last test in 1976, aged 45. His last first class outing was in 1986, aged 55.

That last Test match, against the touring West Indies, is probably what Close will be remembered for most. But as England captain he went unbeaten in his seven games, winning six of them.

Facing one of the most formidable, fastest, meanest and brilliant test bowling units ever seen, on a surface that was cracked and unpredictable, one over against Michael Holding stood out and will be well remembered for a long, long time…

That Close showed some hurt on one of those deliveries showed that it would have seriously felled any mortal being. Jim Laker commentating said Close would be a mass of bruises when he gets back into the pavilion and he was. Black and blue with seam marks all over the right hand side of his body, after being out in the middle for nearly three hours, wit just pads, gloves and bat for protection, no helmet, no body armour.

But it wasn’t the first time for Close. Twelve years earlier he’d faced the pace bowling of another set of West Indian mean machines, Charlie Griffith and Wes Hall, where he’d walked down the pitch to them letting the ball hit him just to avoid the lbw.

And then there was the catches close in at short leg. Unflinching catches, where today you’ll see dive out of the way, Close stood his ground, again helmet-less and armour-less.

After being ignored by the rest of the England team when he was a youngster Close became a great help to younger players. Nurturing talents such as Ian Botham and Viv Richards after his move to Somerset, after petty committee members again tried their best to scupper Yorkshire and had him sacked in 1970. So what if he told some Lancastrian where to go?

Hell he even made it up with the rest of the greats from that great Yorkshire side of the 1960s that won six County Championships, with him captaining four of them.

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