Graham Roope

Brilliant slip for Surrey and England

Graham Richard James Roope, cricketer, coach and broadcaster: born Fareham, Hampshire 2 July 1946; three times married (one son, two daughters); died St George's, Grenada 26 November 2006.

Today's retiring Test cricketer heads for a television channel, a media column and properties in Barbados. Gone are the days of the old pro who could be found in a bar corner, sipping his pint, telling tales. Graham Roope, who died suddenly in Grenada on Sunday, bridged the generations.

"Roopey" will be remembered fondly both as a player and a man. He was a maverick, a pillar of the Surrey side for 15 years who settled in West Yorkshire, the back of beyond to most of his Oval colleagues. After being the essential Home Counties man - 342 games for Surrey, playing for Berkshire before and after the Oval, keeping goal for Corinthian Casuals, Kingstonian, Wimbledon and Woking - he not only went north but was popularly accepted as a Yorky, playing in the Bradford and Airedale and Wharfedale leagues, coaching Ampleforth and Woodhouse Grove, summarising on BBC Radio Leeds. He even lived in Farsley, home of Raymond Illingworth.

Dave Callaghan of Radio Leeds said that Roope was "never happier than when talking about cricket" - and, "although he was accepted by all our listeners as a kind of honorary Yorkshireman, we knew his heart was always with Surrey". A senior former Yorkshire player agreed:

Aye, he was a good lad but I don't think he was above tipping the wink to the Oval if he spotted a good prospect up here.

The Surrey bowling coach Geoff Arnold recalled:

He could talk the hind leg off a donkey. As a slip I would put him among the best half-dozen I've ever seen. He held some stunners off me for both Surrey and England.

Tall, wiry, curly-haired and most affable, Roope was a right-handed middle-order batsman, a fierce driver, a useful right-arm medium-pace bowler (50 wickets in 1968) and a brilliant slip (602 catches in his career). He attended Bradfield, where his feats on the football and cricket field attracted attention and at 17 he made his début for Berkshire and a year later, in 1974, he first appeared for Surrey, playing his last first-class game in 1986 and retiring with an average of 36.90. He passed 1,000 runs for the season eight times.

He was chosen 21 times by England, his most notable match being the Oval Test in 1975 when England followed on to Australia 341 behind and Roope defied an attack containing Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson for four hours to score 77 and help England reach 538 and force a draw. He took 35 slip catches for England and despite his struggle to become a regular in the national side it is a fact that England lost only two matches when he appeared.

Roope is also remembered for what may be a unique occurrence in a game that embraces statistics and records: he is almost certainly the only cricketer to have twice been at the other end when his partner scored his 100th century, John Edrich and Geoffrey Boycott being the celebrants.

The Boycott moment came at a critical moment at Headingley in a Test match against Australia and became a story Roope regaled across Yorkshire at the many cricketing functions he attended:

When Boycs drove the ball to reach his 100 I had to jump out of the way. Just think what he would have said if the ball had hit me and he was out next ball.

Derek Hodgson