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Brian Close, youngest Test cricketer to play for England, dies aged 84

Brian Close, the former Yorkshire batsman and youngest cricketer to have played a Test for England, has died aged 84.

The left-hander made his debut at 18 years and 149 days against New Zealand at Old Trafford in 1949, and went on to play 22 Tests. Close was unbeaten in his seven games as captain, leading a side that included names such as Geoff Boycott and Colin Cowdrey.

The famously brave batsman also captained his native county to win four county championship titles. Yorkshire confirmed Close’s death the previous day in a statement on Monday morning. It read: “It is with the deepest regret that Yorkshire County Cricket Club announce the death of Brian Close, CBE, one of Yorkshire and England’s greatest ever captains and one of the game’s most courageous players.”

“In addition to his outstanding cricket career, Brian remained fully committed to Yorkshire until the end, being a life member of the club and president from 2008-10. He was also a popular former president of the Yorkshire CCC Players’ Association. He leaves a widow, Vivienne, and a son and a daughter.”

Close became renowned as a cricketer who never took a backward step – whether it was facing up to the might of West Indies’ pace attack after being recalled to the Test arena at the age of 45 in 1976, fielding at short-leg or as captain of the all-conquering Yorkshire team of the 1960s.

Also an off-spinner, Close made almost 35,000 first-class runs in a career which spanned – astoundingly by modern standards – 37 years, from his brilliant breakthrough debut season as a teenager to a final appearance listed as 1986.

He left the notoriously combustible atmosphere of the Yorkshire dressing room to play the later years of his career with Somerset in the 1970s, where he helped foster the emergence of world-class talents such as Ian Botham and Viv Richards.

Close, part of the outstanding White Rose team of the 60s which also featured England greats such as Geoff Boycott, Ray Illingworth and Fred Trueman, returned home to Baildon near Bradford more than 20 years later to lead Yorkshire’s academy team, and also serve as chairman of the cricket committee.

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His death, after a short illness, came just four days after Yorkshire sealed their second successive county championship title, and 32nd outright.


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