Death and cricket are no strangers, mostly because the game takes so long to play and consumes so much of its participant’s day-to-day lives – and for so many years – there’s a pretty good chance the game will feature when the finger goes up for the last time.
Some of the stories are surely apocryphal but there have been real life – or real death – instances of both batsmen and bowlers expiring on the job but only one has done so at Lord’s, the home of cricket.
Andrew Ducat was a most distinguished sportsman, a double international having played both soccer and cricket for England. Still active at the age of 56, he was representing the Surrey Home Guard against the Sussex Home Guard in July 1942, during the Second World War when his innings came to a dramatic end on 29. The match was abandoned but Ducat’s score was entered in the score book as “not out” rather than “retired”.
Two other deaths are known to have occurred off the field at Lord’s, although there have probably been more in the 200 years of the famous ground’s history. During the 1976 Gillette Cup final a member was found to have expired at 6pm with a pint of beer still firmly clenched by rigor mortis between his knees. By way of investigating the cause of death the barmen were asked when last he had been served. The answer was around midday.
Perhaps alarmed by the disquiet caused to the other members by this sudden passing, a novel approach was adopted the next time a member failed to see out a day’s play. It was during a test match in the early 1980s and the members stand was unusually full on one of the busiest days of the year. One old gentleman appeared to have fallen victim to the combination of gin and tonic and the warm afternoon sun and nodded off soon after tea. But he wasn’t asleep.
Keen not to upset the other members, the majority of whom were far nearer the end than the beginning of their own innings, the chief steward ordered a member of the ground staff to sit next to the corpse for the rest of the day’s play and talk to it whilst making sure it didn’t topple over. Some time after the close of play, the body was removed with the rest of the audience none the wiser.
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