Formidable Yorkshire bowler
Wednesday 25 January 2006
Alexander Coxon, cricketer: born Huddersfield, Yorkshire 18 January 1916; married (two daughters); died Roker, Tyne and Wear 19 January 2006.
Every county cricket club had to rebuild its staff after the Second World War, to replace cricketers who had retired, or who had lost six summers from their career. Yorkshire were luckier than most in that they could trawl the leagues, one of which, the Bradford League, had prospered in wartime, as their clubs hired famous players as occasional professionals, drawing big crowds and maintaining a high standard. Alec Coxon was one such recruit, who was very proud of the fact that, in making his first-class début at 29, he never appeared in the second team.
Wiry, angular and jug-eared, Coxon bowled fast medium right-arm, with sustained hostility and expert use of the seam, emerging from Dalton in the Huddersfield League to serve Brighouse and Saltaire in the Bradford League where his annual haul of wickets first attracted Yorkshire's attention. He opened the county bowling with Bill Bowes, Bob Appleyard and the young Fred Trueman and a 6-17 against Surrey at Sheffield in 1948 caused him to be called up by England, in their perennial search for a partner for Alec Bedser, to play against Australia at Lord's.
Coxon claimed that he had Don Bradman lbw first ball for nought with a fast inswinger that hit the back pad, but the umpire disagreed. His match figures of 63 overs for a return of 3-172 compared not unfavourably with the great Bedser's 77 for 5-212 but Coxon never played for England again, although he was once put on stand-by in 1950. There were rumours of a dressing-room flare-up with Denis Compton but neither player ever confirmed any such incident and Coxon resolutely refused to be interviewed. More than one journalist was peremptorily dismissed with a click of the telephone.
He could be, even friends admitted, "an awkward bugger". Appleyard, who roomed with him, praised him as a colleague with a lion heart but admitted: "Alec took no prisoners." His leaving of Yorkshire, when still a formidable bowler at 34, was sudden and unexpected. John Arlott was told "his face didn't fit". Brian Close, the team's junior member, recalled a "harsh and grating manner". Ted Lester saw him turn away autograph hunters: "He always refused."
So, despite taking more than 100 wickets for Yorkshire in 1948 and 1950 - he was also a useful late-middle-order batsman - he departed for a profitable career in the Durham Senior League and he is still remembered fondly in Sunderland as their most successful professional. He also appeared with distinction for Durham in the Minor Counties and was Yorkshire's oldest-surviving capped player. In his first-class career, he took 473 wickets at an average of 20.91.
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