Winston Place

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The Independent Online

Winston Place, cricketer: born Rawtenstall, Lancashire 7 December 1914; married (one daughter, and one daughter deceased); died Burnley, Lancashire 25 January 2002.

Washbrook and Place doesn't have quite the resonance of MacLaren and Spooner, but in the immediate years after the Second World War the Lancashire pairing was probably the best opening partnership in county cricket, challenged only by Jack Robertson and Sid Brown of Middlesex.

Winston Place was the quieter, more modest partner to the pan-ache of Cyril Washbrook but he was almost as effective at this level, usually holding the shield to Washbrook's sword. Of Lancashire's 18 highest opening partnership records, this pair holds three, including the second highest, 350 against Sussex at Old Trafford, in 1947.

Sussex's bowlers would have been heartily sick of them by that September for in the reverse fixture, at Eastbourne, Washbrook and Place rolled up another unbroken partnership, this time of 233 (Washbrook 176 and 121 not out).

Place, medium-height, fair-haired, was a quintessential Lancastrian, born in Rawtenstall, deep in the heart of the leagues, who would have heard cricket talked while in his pram and would have grown up believing the game as much a staple of life as cotton, brass bands, deep-fried haddock and bitter beer. Although he joined the Lancashire staff in 1937, when 23, he could make little impact on the strong team of those years and was 31 before he emerged, after the war, as the leading contender for the position of Washbrook's partner.

He won that role convincingly in the Roses match of 1946 at Old Trafford with a painstaking 107 while Yorkshire's slow left-arm bowler Arthur Booth bowled 35 overs for 54 runs. One report estimated the crowd at 40,000 and if the cricket was slow the Manchester throng would have hugely enjoyed Yorkshire's frustrations. Cricketers and players, in those days, were patient.

In the glorious and not-forgotten summer of 1947, Place had the satisfaction of reaching 2,408 runs, averaging 68, better figures than the famous Washbrook, and was rewarded with selection for the England tour of West Indies that winter, a tour that made MCC realise that they could no longer afford to send a second XI to the Caribbean. He played in three Test matches, scoring 107 at Kingston, but also suffered an injury and, once back in England, had to resume his place in a pecking order in which he accepted there were a good half-dozen ahead of him. He also toured India with the Commonwealth team in 1950-51.

He served Lancashire valiantly, passing 1,000 runs in every post-war season up to 1953. He finished with 14,730 runs for the county, 36 centuries, at an average of 34, 20th in the all-time list, and is one of only 12 Lancastrians to carry his bat against Warwickshire at Edgbaston in 1950. He was an excellent player of spin, a prerequisite on uncovered pitches, possessed a handsome cover drive and a fierce pull, and would occasionally disconcert fast bowlers who thought they had him pinned down by suddenly lifting them straight back over their heads.

His benefit of £6,297 in 1952 was exceeded, at that time, only by those of Washbrook and Dick Pollard, an indication of his esteem with members and supporters. On retirement in 1955 he became an umpire but never really left the game. He was quick to express his gratitude for the opportunity to make a living by playing cricket.

Derek Hodgson