Brian Langford: Somerset cricketer for over 20 years

In a Sunday League game against Essex he bowled eight overs without conceding a run

In another era, even perhaps with a county other than the unfashionable Somerset, Brian Langford would almost certainly have played cricket for England. He was an outstanding off-spin bowler, accurate at all times, with teasing flight and, on responsive pitches, probing turn. His county career spanned 22 summers, during which he took 1,410 first-class wickets, but in an age of great English finger-spinners his path into the Test team was blocked first by Jim Laker, then by Fred Titmus, David Allen and Ray Illingworth.

Growing up in Bridgwater, he would regularly catch the bus to Taunton to watch Somerset, queuing up outside the pavilion with his autograph book and playing lunchtime cricket on the outfield with a glass bottle and tennis ball. He left grammar school at 15 when his father died, going to work at the local Cellophane factory, but the following year his promise as an opening batsman who bowled medium-pace at the Bridgwater club, saw him taken on to the groundstaff at Taunton. There he was turned into an off-spinner, spending the winter on such duties as weeding the ground by hand.

In early June 1953, still in awe of the first-teamers whose autographs he had collected, he was told to report to Bath, where the county would be playing Lancashire. He thought he was going as 12th man – "I wouldn't have slept if I had known I was going to be playing" – but he found himself taking part in one of county cricket's most remarkable matches. The newly laid turves of the Bath pitch had not knitted together, and the three-day match, the takings from which had been allocated to the benefit fund of the long-serving Bertie Buse, was all over that evening. On the treacherous surface Somerset, dismissed for 158, won by an innings and 24 runs.

Langford himself bowled just three overs, taking the wicket of Brian Statham, but he stayed in the side for the remaining two games of the Bath Festival. While the groundsman rolled bull's blood from the nearby abattoir into the pitch, Langford was given a few shillings by Air Vice-Marshal Taylor, the Somerset secretary, to buy some better boots. "I had an old pair that were rather heavy. Some of the senior pros thought I might have a better chance with a decent pair."

They were right. In the next two matches he bowled 131 overs and took 25 wickets for 290 runs, figures which took him to the top of the national averages, above Alec Bedser, when they next appeared. He was a fresh-faced, fair-haired 17-year-old, and in later years he would say that he owed much of his success that week to the guidance of two older professionals: the great Harold Gimblett, who set the field for each incoming batsman, and Maurice Tremlett, who told him what pace to bowl.

Throughout his career he did well at Bath – and also at Weston-super-Mare, where on a rain-ruined pitch against Lancashire in 1958 he achieved his best figures: 9 for 26 in the first innings, 15 for 54 in the match. By contrast Malcolm Hilton, a Test cricketer, took 5 for 85 for Lancashire, and his enraged skipper, the hard-to-please Cyril Washbrook, chucked him out of the team. In those days of uncovered pitches, if the surface was helpful, the spinner was expected to take his wickets at a low cost, and Langford always had the calm temperament to do so. Sixteen times he took 10 wickets in a match, more than either Illingworth or Allen.

In 1969, when the county was at its lowest ebb, Langford was appointed captain. "We don't expect you to win a game," he was told. "Just go and try your best." They finished in last place in the Championship and next-to-last in the newly created Sunday League. It was in one of these Sunday matches, against Essex at Yeovil, that Langford set an unbeatable record, bowling his eight allotted overs without conceding a run. Forty-over cricket was in its infancy, and Essex's Brian Ward decided Langford was the "danger man" and should be played out.

He captained two more summers, when fortunes improved with the arrival of Warwickshire's master seamer Tom Cartwright and Yorkshire's larger-than-life Brian Close, who succeeded Langford as captain. At the end of 1972 he retired, but in an injury crisis he was summoned back, and with no practice he dropped his off-breaks on a length straightaway. By this time a new generation, spearheaded by Ian Botham and Viv Richards, was emerging. In all he appeared in 504 first-class games for Somerset, more than any other player in the county's history. "I played with both Gimblett and Richards," he would point out. "I'm the only one who can say that."

After retirement he stayed close to Somerset cricket, his one year as chairman of cricket ending with the tempestuous departure of Richards and Botham, a schism which proved beyond his conciliatory nature to prevent. People were always telling him he should have played for England, but it didn't make him bitter. "There's only one England side," he would say. "The greatest accolade is to be recognised by the players you played with and against." He was a true professional. Up and down the land he was respected by everybody in the game.

Brian Anthony Langford, cricketer: born Birmingham 17 December 1935; played for Somerset 1953-74; twice married (children); died 12 February 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum