Ted Dexter

Ted Dexter has died aged 86

Ted Dexter, one of England’s finest cricketers, who captained both Sussex and England has died aged 86. He passed away peacefully in the Compton Hospice in Wolverhampton on Wednesday surrounded by his family.

Ted was one of the most exciting cricketers who emerged in the Post War period. Like Ranji before him, the prospect of Dexter attacking fast bowling, and driving and cutting them with fierce strokes was enough to put thousands on any gate. He was a cricket thinker who helped to revolutionise the way the game was played and in so doing led Sussex to their first ever trophies in 1963 and 1964. His aristocratic air and seemingly arrogant attitude earned him the title of ‘Lord Ted’ or ‘Lord Edward’. As a player he thrived when playing on the big stage, especially when pitted against Australia and the fast bowlers of the West Indies.

From Radley to Sussex

Dexter was born in Milan on 15 May 1935 and first demonstrated a flair for games at his prep school, Norfolk House in Beaconsfield. From there he went to Radley  where he played in the first XI for four years from 1950-1953, initially as a wicket-keeper, and averaging more than 80 with the bat most years. Leaving Radley, he did his National  Service in Malaya during the Emergency as a second lieutenant in the 11th Hussars. He then entered Jesus College, Cambridge where he played not just cricket but golf and rugby, gaining a Full Blue in cricket in each of his three seasons and scoring over 1,000 runs in two of them. He captained the side in 1958. He first came to national prominence in 1957 as a bowler for the Gentlemen getting 5/8 and 3/47 and he joined Sussex soon after, topping their bowling averages with 7 wickets for 118 runs in 56 overs. The following year, 1958,  Dexter played six innings for Sussex during the long vacation and averaged 18.5 although in all matches he scored 1,565 runs. Dexter was picked for England against New Zealand and in his first Test scored 52  which gave a hint of the promise that was to come.

1959 was Dexter’s first full season of county cricket for Sussex although he had an indifferent summer against India. He was selected for the England side to tour West Indies in the winter of 1959-60 and really established his reputation as a fierce counter attacking player of fast bowling.  He hit 136 in the first Test against Hall and Watson and 110 in the fourth Test topping the England averages. Dexter was made captain of Sussex for the 1960 season, the first of five summers as captain. He had a quiet summer Test series against South Africa but in the 1961 Ashes series,  Dexter had a score of 180 in the first Test to save England  from defeat although Australia went on to retain the Ashes. In the fourth Test Dexter scored a brilliant innings of 76 in 84 minutes to put England in a winning position but a remarkable collapse saw England lose by 54 runs.

Dexter with the 1963 Gillette Cup

Facing Hall and Griffith

The summer of 1963 was an exciting one both for England and for Sussex. In the series against West Indies Dexter took on Hall and Griffith to hit 70 off 75 balls in the second Test before two good spells of bowling (4/38 and 1/7) by Dexter saw England  win the third Test only  to lose the last two matches. That summer also saw Dexter lead Sussex to the first of two successive One-Day Gillette Cup victories. It was in the one day format that Dexter had the greatest impact with Sussex although the club twice reached fourth place in the Championship under his leadership. In the  three day game Dexter was sometimes accused of over-theorising, but in the one-day game  his leadership was exceptional. He understood before anyone else that 60 overs was long enough for teams to build innings and that there was no  need to hit out too early. He also realised that setting defensive fields could set opposing teams a challenge. His own style of batting was also ideal for the one-day game. He was a genuine all-rounder who was often brought on to break up partnerships. In 1962 he took  60 invaluable wickets with his seemingly innocuous medium pace.

Following the 1964 Gillette Cup success Dexter tried his luck at politics by standing against James Callaghan in Cardiff in the 1964 General  Election. Failure led to his being called up for the South African tour but an accident in the summer of 1965 in which he broke his leg saw his effective retirement from both Test cricket and Championship cricket although he continued to play for the International  Cavaliers.

He made a brief comeback in 1968, making 203 in his comeback game against Kent which was enough for him to be selected for the last two matches in the Ashes series, but he failed to make any significant score. Dexter came back in 1971 and 1972 to play a few Sunday League games but he had already begun to concentrate on other interests. He became a broadcaster and writer as well as founding a PR company. He was appointed CBE in the New Year’s Honours List of 2001.

Tasting victory after the 1964 Gillette Cup victory

In Retirement

by the International Cricket Council and formed the basis of today’s system. He was also chairman of selectors for England between 1989 and 1993 although he inherited a weak England team which was defeated 4-0 by Australia.

As well as being a brilliant cricketer, Dexter was a very good golfer and might well have been a professional had cricket not intervened. He flew in his own private aircraft, once to Australia where he was working as a journalist covering a Test series. Following his CBE in 2001, Dexter became President of MCC in 2001/2. He had a spell living in France but moved to Wolverhampton to be nearer his family where he developed new interests, joining a mentor scheme to help local schoolchildren to improve their reading.

In a statement released today, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) described Dexter as “a cherished husband, father and grandfather and one of England’s greatest ever cricketers. He was captain in 30 of his 62 Test matches and played the game with the same sense of adventure and fun that captures much of the story of his remarkable life.” Dexter is survived by his wife, Sue, to whom he was married for over 60 years.