Colin Cowdrey

Colin Cowdrey
Lord Cowdrey
Personal information
Full name Michael Colin Cowdrey
Born 24 December 1932(1932-12-24)
Bangalore, British India
Died 4 December 2000(2000-12-04) (aged 67)
Littlehampton, Sussex, England
Batting style Right-handed
Bowling style Right arm leg spin
Role Top Order Batsman
International information
National side England
Test debut (cap 379) 26 November 1954 v Australia
Last Test 13 February 1975 v Australia
ODI debut (cap 2) 5 January 1971 v Australia
Domestic team information
Years Team
1950–1976 Kent
1952–1975 MCC
1952–1954 Oxford University
Career statistics
Competition Test ODI FC LA
Matches 114 1 692 87
Runs scored 7624 1 42719 1978
Batting average 44.06 1.00 42.89 29.52
100s/50s 22/38 0/0 107/231 3/12
Top score 182 1 307 116
Balls bowled 119 4876 59
Wickets 0 65 3
Bowling average 51.21 14.33
5 wickets in innings 0
10 wickets in match 0 n/a
Best bowling 4/22 1/0
Catches/stumpings 120/– 0/– 638/– 38/–
Source: Cricinfo, 4 December 2000

Michael Colin Cowdrey, Baron Cowdrey of Tonbridge, CBE (24 December 1932 – 4 December 2000), better known as Colin Cowdrey, was the Captain of Oxford University, Kent County Cricket Club and the England cricket team in a career that lasted from 1950 to 1976. He was the first cricketer to play in 100 Test matches and held the records for the most runs by a batsman and most catches by a fielder in Test cricket. His 22 Test centuries is an England record shared with Wally Hammond and Geoff Boycott and he toured Australia a record six times between 1954-55 and 1974-75. At Edgbaston in 1957 he added 411 against the West Indies with Peter May, the highest stand for England in Tests. Cowdrey's highest first class score was 307 against South Australia in 1962-63, a record for the MCC and for any tourist in Australia. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1972, a Knight in 1992, a Life Peer by the cricket-loving Prime Minister John Major in 1997 and was posthumously inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame on 24 June 2009.[1] As a batsman he was noted for his classical technique and sweet timing of the ball, the Australian reporter Johnny Moyes writing

His cover-drive was still his chief glory, but other shots were scarcely inferior: the glory of the moon and stars as opposed to the rich glory of the sun. There seemed to be no effort about his work. With a short back-swing he persuaded the ball through the gaps, guiding it with an iron hand inside the velvet glove which disguised his power and purpose.[2]



Colin Cowdrey was born in Bangalore, British India. His father named him Michael Colin Cowdrey, to give him the same initials as cricket's most famous club the Marylebone Cricket Club. He was educated at the Bishop Cotton Boys' School, Bangalore, Homefield Preparatory School, Sutton, Tonbridge School and Brasenose College, Oxford, which he left without taking a degree. He became the youngest player ever to appear in a match at Lord's when, at the age of 13, in July 1946 he played for Tonbridge against Clifton. He scored 75 and 44 and took eight wickets in the match. Four years later he made his first-class debut for Kent County Cricket Club, where he would remain a player until his retirement in 1976. He played for Oxford University in 1952-1954. He was appointed captain of Kent in 1956 and in 1970 he led Kent to their first County Championship since 1913.

Cowdrey made his England debut on the 1954-55 tour of Australia and New Zealand and made his maiden Test hundred at Melbourne in the Boxing Day Test match 1954. He was appointed England Captain in 1959 for a Test match against the country of his birth - he captained England 27 times, appointed and re-appointed due to ill health in 1959-62, 1966, and 1967-69 (Won 8, Drawn 15, Lost 4).[3] After losing the First Test against Australia in 1968 he won 1 and drew 6 of the next 7 Tests, which Ray Illingworth extended to a record run of 27 Tests without defeat between 1968-69. Cowdrey had snapped an Achilles tendon in the summer of 1969 and Illingworth was appointed in his stead, but proved so successful that he was retained even after Cowdrey recovered in 1970. He toured Australia a record six times in 1954–55, 1958–59, 1962–63, 1965–66, 1970–71 and 1974–75, each time under a different captain and four times as vice-captain[4]

In 1963, facing the West Indies in a Lord's Test match, he came in to bat with a broken wrist in plaster (fortunately he did not have to face a ball; if it had been necessary, he said he would have done so holding the bat with one hand). Had he not batted, England would have lost, but his appearance caused the match to be drawn.

At the beginning of the 1973 English season Cowdrey headed the list of the then all time highest aggregate Test match run scorers with 7700 runs. He ended his career after playing his final Test against Australia in 1974-75. He was called up for this series in the middle of the winter when England batsman had been ruled out due to injury after the 1st Test.[5] Although some in the Australian press ridiculed his recall at 41 (he had been preferred over younger batsmen thanks to good form in the previous season and experience of Australian conditions, although he had not played in Tests for 3½ years), he was given a warm reception when walking out to bat in the 2nd Test of that series at Perth and reported to have shown guts and good technique against the fast bowling of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, despite having not played cricket since the English summer and having only 3 days to prepare himself for the Test after a long, delay-stricken journey to Australia.[6][7][8] In making this tour he became only the second English player to tour Australia six times.[9] He had some success in the 2nd Test (his first match), making 22 and 41, but he struggled thereafter, ending the series with only 165 runs at 18.33.

In total he played 114 Tests and scored 7624 Test runs at an average of 44.06, including 22 centuries (the 241 runs he had scored against the Rest of the World in 1970 no longer count as Test match runs).

In the Reliance ICC Test Player Batting Rankings [10], he was:

  • Highest Batting Rating - 874 on 19 June 1958 (v New Zealand, Lord's, 2nd Test)
  • Highest Batting Ranking - 2nd on 11 June 1958 (v New Zealand, Lord's, 2nd Test)

Following his retirement in 1976, Colin Cowdrey worked closely behind the scenes at Kent, became President of the MCC in 1986 and was Chairman of the International Cricket Council from 1989-1993. He was President of Kent County Cricket Club in 2000.

Other sports

Cowdrey won a rackets blue in his first term at Oxford. He was also a useful golfer playing off a six handicap. He won a prestigious Pro-Am tournament at Turnberry with Brian Huggett. In 1970 he had a hole in one at the 195-yard first hole playing for the Cavaliers against Caymanus Golf Club in Kingston Jamaica.


Cowdrey was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1972, received a knighthood in 1992, and became a life peer as Baron Cowdrey of Tonbridge, of Tonbridge in the County of Kent in 1997, on the recommendation of outgoing Prime Minister John Major, to whom he had become a personal friend and confidant. Cowdrey was one of only two cricketers to be given a life peerage for their services to the game (the other being Learie Constantine).

In 1997 a cricket club in Cowdrey's hometown Tonbridge was renamed in his honour; Cowdrey Cricket Club (formerly Tonbridge Printers CC) plays in the Readers Kent Feeder League West, and can be found here: [1]

Family life

Cowdrey was twice married:

  • Penny Chiesman (1956–1985), with whom he had four children:
    • The Hon. Christopher Stuart Cowdrey, the cricketer and broadcaster (born 1957), married Christel Margareta Holste-Sande 1988; two sons Fabian Kruuse & Julius Lindahl
    • The Hon. Jeremy Colin Cowdrey, a former investment banker and now film producer currently developing a film based on the novel Summer in February by Jonathan Smith[disambiguation needed ] (born 1960), married Philippa Telford 1989, two sons Robert & Charlie and two daughters Kate & Lara.
    • The Hon. Carolyn Susan Cowdrey (born 1961), married Alastair Keith; one son James and one daughter Lucy
    • The Hon. Graham Robert Cowdrey, the cricketer (born 1964), married Maxine Juster 1993; two sons Michael & Alexander and one daughter Grace

Test career

Colin Cowdrey made 22 Test Centuries to match Wally Hammond's England record, subsequently equalled again by Geoffrey Boycott. England suffered only one defeat in the 65 Tests in which Hammond, Cowdrey or Boycott made a hundred (when Cowdrey made 105 against South Africa at Trent Bridge in 1965, but England lost by 94 runs). Of the 22 Tests in which Cowdrey made a hundred they won 10, drew 11 and lost 1 and Cowdrey scored a Test century against all the Test teams he played both home and away.

Colin Cowdrey's 22 Test Centuries
No Century Test Opponents Season Venue City Country Result
1 102 Third Test  Australia 1954-55 Melbourne Cricket Ground Melbourne  Australia  England won by 128 runs
2 101 Second Test  South Africa 1956-57 Newlands Cricket Ground Cape Town  South Africa  England won by 312 runs
3 154 First Test  West Indies 1957 Edgbaston Cricket Ground Birmingham  England Match Drawn
4 152 Second Test  West Indies 1957 Lord's Cricket Ground London  England  England won by an innings and 36 runs
5 100* Third Test  Australia 1958-59 Sydney Cricket Ground Sydney  Australia Match Drawn
6 160 Third Test  India 1959 Headingley Stadium Leeds  England  England won by an innings and 173 runs
7 114 Third Test  West Indies 1959-60 Sabina Park Kingston  Jamaica Match Drawn
8 119 Fifth Test  West Indies 1959-60 Queen's Park Oval Port of Spain  Trinidad and Tobago Match Drawn
9 155 Fifth Test  South Africa 1960 Kennington Oval London  England Match Drawn
10 159 First Test  Pakistan 1962 Edgbaston Cricket Ground Birmingham  England  England won by an innings and 24 runs
11 182 Fifth Test  Pakistan 1962 Kennington Oval London  England  England won by 10 wickets
12 113 Second Test  Australia 1962-63 Melbourne Cricket Ground Melbourne  Australia  England won by 7 wickets
13 128* Second Test  New Zealand 1962-63 Basin Reserve Wellington  New Zealand  England won by an innings and 47 runs
14 107 Third Test  India 1963-64 Eden Gardens Calcutta  India Match Drawn
15 151 Fourth Test  India 1963-64 Feroz Shah Kotla Delhi  India Match Drawn
16 119 Second Test  New Zealand 1965 Lord's Cricket Ground London  England  England won by 7 wickets
17 105 Second Test  South Africa 1965 Trent Bridge Nottingham  England  South Africa won by 94 runs
18 104 Second Test  Australia 1965-66 Melbourne Cricket Ground Melbourne  Australia Match Drawn
19 101 Second Test  West Indies 1967-68 Sabina Park Kingston  Jamaica Match Drawn
20 148 Fourth Test  West Indies 1967-68 Queen's Park Oval Port of Spain  Trinidad and Tobago  England won by 7 wickets
21 104 Third Test  Australia 1968 Edgbaston Cricket Ground Birmingham  England Match Drawn
22 100 First Test  Pakistan 1968-69 Gaddafi Stadium Lahore  Pakistan Match Drawn
Red lines are Cowdrey's individual Test innings scores (blue dot indicates finished not out). Blue line is the average of the past ten innings

Career highlights

  • 1950: Made first appearance for Kent County Cricket Club, the start of a 26-year playing association with the county.
  • 1954: Chosen for Australian tour and made England debut in the first Test. Maiden Test century in the third.
  • 1957: Partnership of 411 with Peter May to save Test against the West Indies. Appointed captain of Kent.
  • 1959: Captained England for the first time.
  • 1962: Highest first-class score, 307 for MCC against South Australia.
  • 1963: Batted with a broken wrist to help England avoid defeat by the West Indies at Lord's.
  • 1965: His best season for Kent with 2,039 runs at average of 63.42.
  • 1968: Captained England to a 1-0 Test series victory in the West Indies.
  • 1970: Led Kent to their first County Championship since 1913.
  • 1971: Played last home match against Pakistan, and retired from Kent captaincy.
  • 1972: Awarded the CBE.
  • 1975: Final Test, his 114th, at the age of 42 as an emergency replacement on tour of Australia.
  • 1976: Retired from first-class cricket with 42,719 runs at an average of 42.89, including 107 centuries, highest score 307.
  • 1986: President of the MCC in its bicentennial year, later chairman of ICC.
  • 1992: Knighted for services to cricket.
  • 1997: Appointed to the House of Lords as Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge

He was the first cricketer to play 100 Test matches.


The MCC flag flying over Westminster Abbey on the day of Cowdrey's memorial service

Lord Cowdrey died of a heart attack on 4 December 2000, aged 67, having suffered a stroke earlier that year. His memorial service at Westminster Abbey on 30 March 2001 was attended by many luminaries of the cricket world and the tribute was given by John Major. Major said:

"He left us too soon, but it was a gem of an innings. He lived life with a clear eye, a straight bat and a cover drive from heaven. He was a true Corinthian."

Colin, The Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge, CBE, is buried in the churchyard of the tiny Pre-Conquest church of St Nicholas in Poling, West Sussex, the church that he attended regularly. The epitaph on his simple headstone was written by John Woodcock and reads...

"...some journey, some life, some coverdrive, some friend."

Cowdrey Lecture

The MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture was inaugurated in 2001 in memory of the late Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge, a past President of MCC, who - together with another former Club President, Ted Dexter – was instrumental in the Spirit of Cricket being included as the Preamble to the 2000 Code of the Laws of Cricket. Famous cricket personalities share their own experience for the Spirit Of Cricket. Among other cricketers and renowned dignitaries who have delivered the lectures in the past, include Geoffrey Boycott, Imran Khan and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In the year 2009, Adam Gilchrist gave the famous speech. The 11th MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture was given by the Sri Lanka cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara at Lord's on July 4 2011. It was an hour-long speech for which he received a standing ovation.

Further Reading/References

  • "The Last Roman" unauthorised biography by Mark Peel (1999) ISBN 0 233 994610
  • "MCC. The Autobiography of a cricketer" (1976)
  • "Cricket Today" by Colin Cowdrey (1961)
  • "Time for Reflection" (1962) Early autobiography
  • "The Incomparable Game" by Colin Cowdrey (1970)
  • "The Cowdreys" unauthorised biography by Ivo Tennant (1990) ISBN 0-671-65323-7
  • "Wisden" 2001 Obituary and tributes ISBN 0 947766 63 4
  • "Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge, C.B.E. (2003) – Famous Cricketers Series No.72" by Howard Milton. The Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians. ISBN 1-902171-70-5
  • "Colin Cowdrey in Test cricket" by Bernard Black ISBN 0-9549517-0-0
  1. ^ "Colin Cowdrey inducted into Cricket Hall of Fame". 
  2. ^ p. 72, A.G. Moyes and Tom Goodman, With the M.C.C. in Australia 1962-63, A Critical Story of the Tour, The Sportsmans Book Club, 1965
  3. ^ p222-223, Peter Arnold, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of World Cricket, W.H. Smith, 1986
  4. ^ p36-38, E. W. Swanton (ed), The Barclays World of Cricket, Collins, 1986
  5. ^ .Cricinfo - Michael Colin Cowdrey 1932-2000
  6. ^ Cricinfo
  7. ^ Cricinfo - Once more into the breach
  8. ^ "Obituary: Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge". The Daily Telegraph (London). 5 December 2000. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  9. ^ Cricinfo
  10. ^

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Peter May
Peter May
Ted Dexter
M. J. K. Smith
Brian Close
Tom Graveney
English national cricket captain
Succeeded by
Peter May
Peter May
Ted Dexter
Brian Close
Tom Graveney
Ray Illingworth
Preceded by
Doug Wright
Kent County Cricket Club captain
Succeeded by
Mike Denness
Preceded by
Post created
President of the ICC
Succeeded by
Sir Clyde Walcott

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