Obituary : Don Kenyon

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The Independent Online
Don Kenyon would have been pleased that his last appointment was with the cricket club he had served with devotion since 1946. He died yesterday after being taken ill at a Worcestershire members' meeting at the county ground at New Road.

A right-hand opening batsman and an occasional medium pace bowler, he played eight times for England and was ranked as one of the possible partners for Len Hutton if and when Cyril Washbrook was unavailable. If his recruitment for his country was fleeting, his feats for Worcestershire made him a giant figure in that handsome shire by the Severn.

Staffordshire-born, Kenyon was one of many players hastily recruited into first-class cricket immediately after the Second World War as counties strove to field first-class teams, composed often of ageing pre-war players, amateurs and untried youngsters. Kenyon revealed himself as an opener of promise with a fine array of strokes, application and a cricketing brain.

He was capped the following year and began a glittering career in the dark green cap, passing 37,000 runs, scoring 74 centuries, reaching 1,000 runs a summer 19 times and seven times scoring more than 2,000. For almost 10 years he and Worcestershire were synonymous. Opposing bowlers reckoned that dismissing Kenyon was the end of half the innings.

He may have been overshadowed by the more charismatic Tom Graveney, who arrived in 1961, yet he was elegant enough in his play to be included by Neville Cardus in a list of batsmen of "style and pleasure"; at that time, a list that included Graveney and Jack Robertson of Middlesex.

In 1959 Kenyon became Worcestershire's professional captain and from then onwards took on a stature far above that of star batsman. Gradually an impressive team was put together: Graveney, Jack Flavell, Ron Headley (son of George, father of Dean), Len Coldwell from Devon, Roy Booth from Yorkshire and a future England spinner, Norman Gifford, who turned up after answering an advertisement in the Cricketer.

In 1962 Kenyon led Worcestershire, a club that had never won the Championship, to second place and two years later to their first win. He repeated the feat again in 1965, popular victories at a time when the country had resigned itself to another decade of Yorkshire supremacy.

Kenyon had proved himself a fine captain, a good tactician with a sound knowledge of the opposition and an ability to maintain morale in the dressing room. By 1965 he had also acquired a Test-class all-rounder in Basil D'Oliveira. E.W. Swanton described Kenyon's team as "the best balanced of the 17 counties" and, while there was criticism of the pitches prepared at New Road, Worcestershire claimed 11 of their 16 victories in 1964 away from home.

Tim Curtis, a later county captain, said of him: "Don gave Worcestershire the winning habit." By the time Kenyon retired from the captaincy in 1967 he had lifted the club to the front rank and his achievements were recognised nationally by an appointment as an England selector from 1965 to 1972, where he helped change the course of history by naming D'Oliveira for a tour of South Africa, the event that focused attention on apartheid - and with his appointment as MBE.

Derek Hodgson

Donald Kenyon, cricketer: born Wordsley, Staffordshire 15 May 1924; married (two daughters); died 13 November 1996.