Gordon Barker

Stalwart of Essex cricket


Gordon Barker, cricketer: born Leeds, Yorkshire 6 July 1931; married (one son, one daughter); died Chelmsford, Essex 10 February 2006.

If a word had been coined exclusively to describe the cricketer Gordon Barker, then it would be "stalwart". For 444 first-class matches Barker, born in Leeds but frustrated in his wish to play for Yorkshire, would be most likely to emerge to open the innings for Essex. He rarely disturbed scorers, statisticians or biographers, but year in, year out, rain or shine, Barker made runs and took catches, mostly from close in, and in 15 of those summers he passed 1,000 runs.

He was spotted by Essex while playing on National Service and when he joined the county club in 1954, it was reported that he had scored two centuries in one week, one for the Army and one on début for Essex against the Canadians at Clacton. He was capped the following year before Wisden predicted, "There is a solidity about him and he may be the sheet anchor for some time to come." By 1957, he had formed a regular partnership with the more aggressive Dickie Dodds; they complemented one another both temperamentally and technically.

Barker was a dapper little right-hander, who occasionally bowled, and a first-rate slip. He also played on the wing for Southend United, scoring nine goals in more than 50 Football League appearances. One of his outstanding matches for Essex came in 1959 at Westcliff when Essex needed 211 to beat Kent on a wearing pitch. Barker, "driving splendidly and without fault for three hours 20 minutes, hitting 17 fours", reported Wisden, hit 105 out of a total of 193, but Kent won by 17.

Barker's modesty was illustrated by an incident in Jim Laker's first match for Essex in 1962. The arrival of the great off-spinner, even in his autumn, was hailed as "like signing George Best" and there was much anticipation when Laker bowled his first ball in new colours, at Valentine's Park, Ilford. It dropped on its accustomed spot, turned and caught an inside edge and flew to Barker, at short leg, who dropped it. Trevor Bailey recalled:

I must say, in Gordon's defence, that he had not fielded in that position before to a bowler of that calibre. His only complaint, apart from fury at missing the chance, was that it earned him bigger headlines than when he scored a century.

In his career, he scored 22,228 runs at an average of 29.21, hit 30 centuries and took 236 catches.

Barker served cricket in retirement, becoming a sports teacher, coach and eventually groundsman at Felsted School, where his pupils included the future Essex and England cricketers Derek Pringle and Nick Knight.

Derek Hodgson

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: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

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