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I joined Middlesex from Norfolk. In those days each county was issued with a special registration form, which meant you could leave a minor county and play for a senior county straightaway. Under normal circumstances you had to have a residency of either two or three years. So, I was playing for Norfolk at 17, and at 18 I played in a charity match with Bill Edrich, who was captain of Middlesex and also from Norfolk. He asked me if I was prepared to try and give it a go. Eventually I did because I failed to get into Loughbrough Physical Training College, where I thought I would go. I failed to get in so I accepted the terms by Middlesex and signed a three-year contract.


I was very fortunate because at that young age I had the opportunity to play two or three games with Denis Compton, several games with Jack Robertson, several games with Bill Edrich, a couple of games with Jack Young, a slow left-armer who went to South Africa in 1948/49, and even Les Compton, who was still on the staff at Arsenal.


The 1956 season, I played at Middlesex as a 19-year-old, then in September I had to go in the RAF. The Army had a fantastic football side, and that was because they had somebody there who sought out the young footballers who were professionals. It was the same thing with the cricket – Squadron Leader Clint, he was responsible for RAF cricket. I played games for the Combined Services and RAF in 1957 and 1958.


When I came back from the RAF, I played in 1959 and ’60 and John Warr was captain of Middlesex. I wouldn’t say I exactly set the world alight – I didn’t – but I got my cap in 1960, having got a hundred against Sussex at Lord’s. In 1961 Ian Bedford took over as the captain. I was still in a quandary about whether I was going to sign another contract or not, and he literally said to me: ‘I think you can play, so you’re going to go in at No.3 this season and I want you to get me two-thousand runs,’ which is exactly what happened.


I played one or two good innings. I got 200 [not out] against Nottinghamshire, I got a hundred in each innings against Nottinghamshire, I got a hundred in each innings against Pakistan – they’re times I remember.


I captained Middlesex in 1969 and 1970 because Fred Titmus was not so well and he resigned as captain towards the end of 1968, and I was vice-captain. But I was only vice-captain as a result of John Murray not wanting to do the job because he wanted to concentrate on his wicketkeeping. So I was next in line, and I captained at the end of 1968 and was reappointed in 1969 and ’70. We had bad year in ‘70 and as a result I was replaced, and Mike Brearley was made captain. I found it [captaincy] difficult. I just found that the extra responsibility took away what I had as a batsman.


I can’t say I had too many disappointments. I suppose, if I was truthful, I was a bit pissed off the way they kicked me out as captain, but these things happen, don’t they? I came back quickly and I got back into the England team in 1972. I think it is fair to say that throughout my career we were not good enough to win the Championship… Well, that’s slightly untrue because I think in ’59, ’60 we were right up there, and we could have won it, but we had injuries in August. I think had we not had those injuries we could easily have won the Championship. But realistically, in those days – and the examples are Surrey, Yorkshire and Worcestershire – you needed four bowlers to get you 100 wickets. Once you’ve got that attack then you’re in with a chance of doing well in the Championship.


I suppose I’m slightly biased, but the person who gave me the greatest thrill, of course, was Denis Compton. I remember batting with him against Somerset and I found it mind-boggling the way he timed the ball and the way he played, and he was only on one leg in those days because he had a huge knee operation as a result of playing football for Arsenal. The other two were Jack Robertson and Bill Edrich – they were fine, fine players… fine players. From a bowling point of view, I think Fred Titmus was as good an off-spinner as I ever encountered – and that includes Jim Laker, and it certainly includes Ray Illingworth and David Allen. Fred Titmus was a magnificent bowler.

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