Dennis Brian Close
Dennis Brian Close
February 24, 1931, Rawdon, Leeds, Yorkshire
Left-hand bat, Right-arm medium, Right-arm offbreak
31 August 1949. YCCC Cap No. 91.
Doing the double and being selected by England as an 18-year-old after stunning first season in English cricket
BATTING AND FIELDING AVERAGES
Brian Close emerged from the Bradford League and, as an 18-year-old, achieved the 'double' in his first season and was selected by England. He later became one of Yorkshire's greatest captains, he played football for Arsenal and we've not got started yet!
Brian played for Rawdon's 1st Team at 11-years-old and developed his sporting prowess at Aireborough Grammar, the same school that Hedley Verity had attended. He also played for Guiseley and Yeadon and when he attended pre-season nets at Headingley in 1949 Bill Bowes described him as the natural successor to Frank Smailes. He delayed University until after National Service and had signed with Leeds United as a striker.
By midway through the 1949 season Brian had scored 579 runs and taken 67 wickets. He top scored for the Players against the Gentlemen with 65 and was subsequently selected for the 3rd Test against New Zealand at Old Trafford. He began the Scarborough Festival with 1,000 runs and needing 63 more runs to achieve the double - scores of 44 and 46 not out against MCC did the trick. Both Close and Lowson were capped in their first season.
Although he acheived the double in his second season a football injury when playing for Bristol City put him out of all sport for 18 months. He started the 1955 season as a batsman, but an injury to Bob Appleyard led him to test his knee bowling and he finished the season with 66 wickets.
Close's courage has become legendary. Oppositions feared his right-arm seam or off-break bowling. Whether he was dogged or cavalier with the bat it was always difficult to set fields for him. He seemed impervious to pain when fielding in suicidal positions. He used to say to anyone who flinched, or rubbed a bruise: "How can the ball hurt you? It's only on you for a second." On the one known occasion when he was hit by such force that he was knocked off his feet - by a short-arm pull by Hampshire's Danny Livingstone at Portsmouth - Close, sprang up and dismissed the slips and wicketkeeper (who were running towards him in concern) with an angry wave. Witnesses affirm that they have seen catches taken as 2nd slip off Close's forehead at short-leg. He once stood at silly point blasting the bowler for delaying his return to his mark as team-mates watched blood pour from a gash on his shin.
In 1963 he stood defiantly against Hall and Griffith at Lord's and took fast deliveries on his body. A photograph taken the following day showed his body covered in a mass of purple bruises.
In 1966 Close replaced Colin Cowdrey as captain against Australia for the last Test at The Oval. He insisted on the inclusion of Ray Illingworth and England won the match by an innings and 34 runs. He led England against India and Pakistan and after 7 Tests as skipper had won 6 and drawn 1.
When Warwickshire complained of Close's alledged delaying tactics in a Championship fixture at Edgbaston and he was wrongly criticised for attacking a Warwickshire member, something even the Warwickshire member later denied, he was stripped of the England captaincy for the tour of West Indies.
Another of England's most respected captains, Mike Brearley, wrote of Close: "He of all captains I have known led from the front, his courage was notorious. Fielding incredibly close at short square leg, the great dome of his head thrust beligerently forward, he was regularly struck by the ball. The story goes that it once rebounded from his forehead to second slip. 'Catch it' Close shouted ... he assured [the Yorkshire players] he was all right. 'But what if it had hit you an inch lower?' one asked. 'He'd have been caught in t'gully."
He returned to captain Yorkshire, but left to join Somerset after finishing 4th in the 1970 Championship after being invited to 'resign or be sacked' by the Yorkshire Committee. He retired from cricket in 1977 and was awarded the CBE for his services to the game.
Brian was Yorkshire captain between 1963 and 1970, during which period Yorkshire won 4 Championship titles.
He joined the Yorkshire General Committee as a member for Bradford. He was one of the prime movers in the establishment of the Yorkshire Cricket Academy. He was elected President of the Club in 2008 and 2009 and was genuinely emotional when accepting the position at the Club's AGM.
As he always tried to play the type of innings he considered the position of the match required, Close's record did scant justice to his talent, which was huge. He was a notably unselfish cricketer, a factor in the respect he won as Yorkshire, Somerset and England captain and the success his teams enjoyed. ??
JMB October 2010