Choose Language arrow_drop_down
Alt text here



This month we are looking back on the careers of several black cricketers who made an enormous impact in their time with Middlesex. In the second of our series, we take a look at Wilf Slack, or “Slacky” as he was affectionately known to all at Middlesex, whose career of over a decade at the Club was tragically cut short when he passed away in 1989, aged just 34.


Wilfred Norris Slack was born on 12th December 1954 in Troumaca, St Vincent.

He moved to the UK with his family at the age of eleven when they migrated from the Windward Islands.

Slack arrived with his family in High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, where the left-handed batter soon began playing cricket for his school side and then went on to play club cricket at local Buckinghamshire club Frieth, where he made a name for himself as a rising star in the recreational game.

He moved from Frieth to High Wycombe Cricket Club and very soon made his mark there, scoring prolifically for his new club side, where he was noticed by minor counties side Buckinghamshire, who he made his debut for in July 1976 against Bedfordshire - scoring an impressive 64 in the Buckinghamshire second innings. That summer he top-scored for Buckinghamshire – hitting 748 runs at an average of 31.16.

By this time, he was now on the radar of legendary Middlesex Coach Don Bennett, and that same season began playing for Middlesex Under 25’s and then went on to represent the Club’s Second Eleven the following summer.

It was a measure of Slack’s appetite and love for the game that whilst now playing for Middlesex Seconds, he still continued to play for High Wycombe CC when available on weekends, paying match fees for his club side like the rest of his club teammates.

An unremarkable season in 1977 for Middlesex Seconds showed some promise, although not the full extent of what was to come from Slack, whose top score over the season, in which he opened alongside Roland Butcher and Nigel Ross for large parts of the year, was 97 in the season’s penultimate game. His first-class debut also came that summer, the first of three appearances that year for the first eleven, with 30 his highest score against Sussex at Hove.

Over the next four seasons Slack was in and out of the Middlesex side and struggled in his early Middlesex days to make a significant impact, although in fairness this was said to be down to the fact that he was often moved to the middle order, rather than batting in his preferred spot as an opener. He made 29 appearances for the Club between 1977 and 1980, with a highest score of 66, and a highest season return of 276 runs at an average of 21.23.

It was in 1981 that his breakthrough season came, when Slack finally made a name for himself in the Middlesex First Eleven.

Having already clocked up two half-centuries in early season first-class matches, Slack hit his maiden hundred for Middlesex, an incredible unbeaten knock of 181 against Kent, when opening alongside Graham Barlow, the pair put on a staggering opening record stand of 367 – a record that was to stand for the next seventeen years before an opening stand of 372 between Mike Gatting and Justin Langer surpassed it in 1998.

Slack’s maiden hundred lit the blue touchpaper on his Middlesex career as an opener, and in the very next match he followed his unbeaten 181 with a phenomenal unbeaten knock of 248 against Worcestershire, which was to be his highest ever career individual score.

That summer, in the absence of Middlesex’s regular Captain, Mike Brearley, who was reinstated as England Captain to salvage the Ashes series that summer, Slack went on to amass a thousand runs for the first time in a season, playing in eighteen first-class matches and hitting 1,372 runs at an average of 47.31.

Slack had done more than enough to cement his place as an opener for Middlesex, and from there he never looked back, passing 1,000 runs in first-class cricket in each of the next seven seasons he played with the Club.

His best season on record came in 1985, when he hit a staggering 1,900 runs at an average of 54.28.

In 210 first-class matches for Middlesex he reached three figures on 25 separate occasions, and passed fifty in a further 66 innings.

Whilst batting to Slack was a natural talent, he was not always the most fluent, more composed, dogged, resilient and courageous in his approach to his art at the crease. Solid if not flamboyant – seemingly unflappable whatever was thrown down at him.

Slack’s record in first-class cricket for Middlesex, when he played 210 matches and amassed 12,565 runs at an average of 40.53 sees him positioned at number 19 in the Club’s list of all time run scorers, and his 248 not out remains the 13th highest ever first-class individual innings in Middlesex’s history.

Slack’s record in List-A cricket for the Club, whilst not matching the highs of his first-class career, also reads impressively, hitting 4,233 runs for Middlesex at an average of 29.80, including two centuries and 30 half centuries in the 171 one-day appearances he made for the Club.

If Slack made batting look simple at times, it was by no means his only asset to the side, as he was also a renowned fielder, with an incredible pair of hands and lightning reflexes, as his record of catches more than backs up. In the 210 first-class games he played, he took an incredible 147 catches, mostly at bat pad, and in the 171 List-A games he played he added a further 32 catches.

Slack’s prolific run scoring for Middlesex inevitably saw him attract the attention of the England selectors, and an unbeaten 210 for Middlesex against the touring Australians in 1985 was more than enough to see him called up to the Test side. This took him back to the Caribbean to face the West Indies in early 1986 when he appeared in two Tests at Port of Spain and Antigua, and one further Test that summer at home against India at Headingley.

In an era when patience was short on the international stage, Slack’s inability to hit the ground running and make an immediate impact saw him make just those three Test appearances and two further One Day International appearances, and one can only wonder quite what impact he could have had on the England side had he played in the modern era and been given more time to establish himself.

Slack shook off the disappointment of a short international career and resumed business as normal back at Middlesex, hitting 1,636 first-class runs in the 1987 season.

In 1998 he continued, hitting 1,228 runs at 45.48, the highlight of which was an unbeaten hundred in each innings against Glamorgan at Lord’s – 163 not out in the first innings and 105 not out in the second. Few would know that the final game of that season, against Kent at Lord’s, when Slack fittingly hit 80 in the second innings, would be his last ever innings for Middlesex.

Throughout 1988, Slack had begun to suffer blackouts on the field and in the nets, but despite numerous tests being done at the time, medical experts were unable to identify the cause and none suspected that what he was suffering from was life-threatening.

It was when on tour with the Cavaliers in the Gambia in the winter of 1988/89 that Slack collapsed again on the field when playing in Banjul. He was rushed to hospital, although never recovered, and tragically died at the age of just 34 of a heart attack.

Slack was buried in his prized England blazer, with his bat at his side, and as the funeral cortege drove past Lord's, the Grace Gates bore a sign reading "Farewell Wilf".

In memory of Slack, in 1995, Middlesex renamed the former Barnet Council ground in East End Road in Finchley, close to the Club’s Indoor Cricket Centre, the "Wilf Slack Ground, Finchley, and in 2022 the Wilf Slack Cricket Centre was opened in Greenford Middlesex, as a state of the art indoor cricket facility to provide more opportunities for members of the local community, local recreational clubs, local schools, Middlesex Cricket’s Women and Girls squads, Disability squads, and Middlesex’s Participation Team with opportunities to play the game . His sister, Phyllis, cut the ribbon at the opening event in Greenford.

In all, Wilf Slack made 381 appearances for the Club and scored a phenomenal tally of 16,798 runs.

Share this post