George Mann

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The Independent Online

Francis George Mann, cricketer and administrator: born Byfleet, Surrey 6 September 1917; MC 1942; DSO 1945; CBE 1983; married 1949 Margaret Marshall Clark (three sons, one daughter); died Stockcross, Berkshire 8 August 2001.

John Buchan might have borrowed George Mann's attributes and accomplishments when he created Richard Hannay. Here was an Old Etonian who played for two years in the Cambridge XI and for Middlesex before joining the Scots Guards, winning the Military Cross and a DSO, before returning to lead Middlesex to a joint championship after captaining England in South Africa.

Yet Buchan might have jibbed at having a hero whose father, Frank Mann, also captained England and Middlesex and is still remembered at Lord's for one of the most astonishing hits ever made. Only the Australian Albert Trott is said to have actually cleared the pavilion with a straight hit, but Mann senior lifted a ball into the top tier of seats. George Mann was a slighter figure than his father and, as a right-hand batsman, a player who relied more on timing than strength, who was proficient on the legside.

He was also a brilliant fielder and an astute and highly popular captain. After going down from Cambridge University in 1939, Mann played in most of Middlesex's matches before joining the Guards. He won his MC in 1942 and the DSO two years after being wounded; the citation spoke of Major Mann's "consistent courage and outstanding leadership" in the Allied advance from Rome to Florence.

He spent much of the summer of 1946 in rehabilitation, but Middlesex were pleased to welcome back a leading amateur in that golden summer of 1947 when Mann played in 21 of the 30 championship matches, leading the side whenever Walter Robins was unavailable and sharing in the Compton-Edrich glory (they each scored 3,000 runs that season as Middlesex stormed the Championship) with a partnership of 304 with Denis Compton against Surrey at Lord's.

In 1948, a time when all counties were still led by amateurs, Mann succeeded Robins as the county captain and did well enough to be appointed captain of the England team to tour South Africa the following winter, thus again following his father, who had led England through the Union in 1922-23.

This was the last England tour before the nationalists changed South Africa and imposed apartheid and is still remembered as a very happy occasion, England winning the series 2-0 with the help of an outstanding innings from the captain. England won the first Test in Durban and then held on to their lead until the fifth and final Test in Port Elizabeth. There, after South Africa had raised 379, England were 149-4 when Mann arrived to score an unbeaten 136 that enabled England to scramble to a three-wicket win.

Mann's success led to his appointment as captain of England in the first two matches against New Zealand in 1949, his last year as a full-time player, as pressure to join the family brewery business intensified. He did leave the dressing room to cheers as Middlesex shared the championship with Yorkshire.

He served Middlesex as honorary secretary from 1951 to 1965, as chairman, 1980-83, and president, 1983-90. He also became president of MCC in 1984-85, chairman of the Cricket Council in 1983 and effectively head of English cricket from 1978 to 1983 as chairman of the Test and County Cricket Board.

It was in this office that he once signalled the steel beneath the charm when he disciplined a team of rebel cricketers who defied the ban on touring South Africa, with a three-year ban on selection for England. He was appointed CBE in 1983 and for 10 years up to 1987 he was also deputy chairman of the Extel group. In his last years he succeeded Lord Home of the Hirsel as governor of the amateur touring club I Zingari and was a keen ornithologist. He was very much the traditional English gentleman, a model of courtesy and modesty.

Derek Hodgson

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