Gerry Alexander: The last white captain of the West Indies cricket team, famed for his part in the first tied Test match

Franz Alexander, always known as Gerry, was described in Jamaican media tributes as "the last white captain of the West Indies cricket team." Perhaps they should have said "the last white captain to date," for, despite the overwhelming black majority in the Caribbean, it would go against Alexander's staunch stance against racial prejudice to assume that a white man will never captain the West Indies again.

Jamaica-born and bred, thougheducated at Cambridge, Alexander was captain of the Windies at theend of the 1950s and start of the1960s, playing alongside such greats as Gary Sobers and against the likes of Richie Benaud, Colin Cowdrey and Freddie Trueman. But it was also a time when the Caribbean wasburning with the sense of inevitable black emancipation from the British and other colonial powers. Jamaica would gain its independence from Britain in 1962, by which time Alexander had gladly handed over the Windies captaincy to Frank Worrell – the first black captain to take the team on tour – while continuing to serve him loyally as vice-captain.

Gerry Alexander was one of that small but influential and better-off minority in Jamaica, which would later include the Air Jamaica boss Butch Stewart and the Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, described by black Jamaicans, the descendants of African slaves, as "the high browns." By birth, they were as Jamaican as the next man – they spoke the same patois – but young Jamaicans such as Bob Marley were beginning to heed the black nationalist and pan-African ideas of their hero, the Jamaican publisher Marcus Garvey. To be white no longer meant automatically to rule.

Back to the cricket, though, and Alexander was described yesterday by Richie Benaud as "one of the finest wicketkeeper-batsmen I have ever seen. During the famous, first-ever tied Test match [in Brisbane in 1960], he was the man we feared with the bat in the bottom half of the order." Another Alexander peer, the Australian all-rounder Alan Davidson, described the Jamaican as "a pioneer of the wicketkeeper-as-batsman trend."

Alexander, a Cambridge Blue in both cricket and football, played 25 Tests as wicketkeeper for the West Indies from 1957-61, scoring 961 runs,making 85 catches and stumping out five batsmen. His highest Test score was 108 in the third Test in Sydney during the Windies' 1960-61 tour of Australia, widely regarded as one of the best Test series of all time, and as reviving Test cricket after a period in the doldrums. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which covered the entire series for the first time, later described the tour as "the Calypso Summer" and "the renaissance of Australian cricket." Alexander and his team were mobbed and cheered by Australian cricket fans after the tour was over.

Although he scored his first and only century in the third Test of that series, it was the first Test – at the Gabba in Brisbane – that Alexander, the Australian captain Benaud and audiences around the world remember most. It turned out to be the first tie in Test cricket (there has been one since, between India and Australia in Madras in 1986). Whereas a Test-match draw is fairly common, when play concludes without either team victorious, a tie is considerably less likely, with the two sides' innings, runs and wickets exactly equal at the close of play.

Alexander had scored 60 runs in the first innings and would go on to knock up a total of 484 runs during the series, a record tally for a wicketkeeper at the time. But it was on the final day of the first Test, on 14 December 1960, that history was made at The Gabba. With one eight-ball over remaining (standard in Australia at the time), the home side were on 227 for 7, needing six runs to win with three wickets in hand. With Wes Hall about to bowl, the Aussies looked favourites, but any result was possible – a home win, a visitors' win, a draw or a tie.

On the second ball of the over, Alexander caught a hook shot by Benaud. On the sixth ball, with Australia needing three runs from three balls to win, a brilliant throw from close to the boundary by the Windies' fielder Conrad Hunte allowed Alexander to stump the Aussie batsman Wally Grout. On the seventh ball, withAustralia needing one run to win, the West Indies' Joe Solomon scoopedup a square-leg drive and, with barely one wicket to aim at from 12 yards, hit the target to run out Ian Meckiff. Game over.

The Aussie all-rounder Davidson recalled bowling to Alexander earlier in that Test: "He played it just to the offside of the wicket and took off for a single. I picked it up and, from five or 10 yards, I'd knock the stumps down 100 times out of 100. But just as my arm was coming through to throw it, guess who ran into my arm. Gerry Alexander. It went for four overthrows. I appealed: 'He knocked my arm, ump!' but of course Gerry said, 'you were in my running line, too, don't forget.'"

Alexander had previously hit the headlines as the West Indies captain on the 1958-59 tour of India when he sent home the fast bowler Roy Gilchrist, a fellow Jamaican, for indiscipline. That brought criticisms of racism but Gilchrist had shown wild tendencies on and off the field; he had terrorised Indian batsmen with his beamers, or full tosses to the torso or head, and he allegedly pulled a knife on his captain.

Franz Copeland Murray Alexander was born in the Jamaican capital, Kingston, in 1928 to a family of European origin long established in the British colony. He became a Wolmerian – a student at the historic Wolmer's Boys' School in the city – where he played both cricket and football, as he did after gaining a place at Cambridge University to study medicine.

He played in varsity matches against Oxford at both sports in the early 1950s, and also played for Pegasus, a mixture of players from Oxford and Cambridge who established themselves as one of the leading amateur sides in the country. On 11 April 1953, playing at full-back before a full house at Wembley Stadium he helped Pegasus beat Harwich & Parkeston in the FA Amateur Cup final. With Jamaica still British at the time, he won at least one cap for the English national amateur side.

After retiring from cricket Alexander became a vet, rising to the post of Chief Veterinary Officer for the Jamaican government. In 1982 he was awarded one of Jamaica's highest honours, the Order of Distinction, for his "outstanding contribution to sports" both in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean. He died in Kingston on 16 April. His wife Barbara died in March this year.

Franz "Gerry" Alexander, cricketer and veterinarian: born Kingston, Jamaica 2 November 1928; married Barbara (died 2011; two children); died Orange Grove, Jamaica 16 April 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 2nd & 3rd Line

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Officer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It's an exciting time for this ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Mid Software Developer

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Planning Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are currently looking to rec...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones