Obituary:Tony Lock

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The Independent Online
Tony Lock was one of the most aggressive cricketers ever seen. He is remembered for his wiry build and balding head but when he first appeared at the Oval in 1946 his red hair matched his temperament. His slow-to-medium left-arm bowling joined Jim Laker's off-breaks to form one of the great spin partnerships in the game's history and, if his final years were clouded by two unpleasant court cases (both on indecent assault charges: the second failed last month, the first in 1993), Lock's ferociously competitive play will not be forgotten on English fields nor in Australia.

In the words of his former team-mate Mickey Stewart, recently the England manager: "He gave his heart, body and soul to his team. If I had to pick the one player of all the stars in Surrey's side of seven successive championships, the one who gave us the most, it would have to be Locky."

Born in Limpsfield in 1929, Lock entered county cricket as an orthodox slow left-armer who could really spin the ball, especially on the uncovered pitches of his era. He won his cap in 1951 and practised, during the winter, in an indoor school at Croydon where, because of the low roof, he lost his loop but increased his speed. Batsmen in 1952 faced a bowler who was capable, with his quicker ball, of almost knocking a wicket- keeper, standing up, off his feet.

He soon graduated into the England team but that faster delivery also attracted the attention of the umpires and later that summer he was no- balled for throwing. He was also called by West Indian umpires in 1953- 4, leaving the selectors in a quandary over further Tests and tours although he continued to wreak devastation among the counties.

A combination of doubt about his action and a finger injury caused by wear brought a replacement for England's 1953-4 tour of Australia, Lock, characteristically, spending the winter remodelling his action. He returned better than ever, taking all 10 Kent wickets at Blackheath in 1956, snatching the missing one in Laker's record 19 against Australia at Old Trafford and then, in 1957, he returned 11-48 against West Indies at the Oval.

It must be emphasised that Lock was much more than just a bowler. He was a short leg, round the corner, with an astonishing eye and brilliant anticipation and prehensile hands. "The spectacular ones, the sudden full- length dives, were the easy ones," Mickey Stewart remembered. "His best were when he took the rockets, close in, without anyone noticing."

Lock was also a batsman of some quality, a solid defence when necessary and a tailender who could swing the bat. Above all he was an influence, a power, on and off the field.

In the early Sixties he joined Western Australia and brought the State of Excitement from the outback into Sheffield Shield dominance, starting a fire for the game in that vast area that is still burning brightly.

He still had time to join and coach Leicestershire, to return briefly for England in 1963 and in 1968.

Around that time I interviewed him for Granada television, under the aegis of Michael Parkinson, and slipped in a question about throwing.

For a moment his face set before answering, so far as I can remember, on the lines of: "Had I known I was throwing I wouldn't have bowled that way." When the cameras stopped and we turned to walk out of the studio he gripped my shoulder and growled: "You bastard. They promised they wouldn't mention that."

I protested my innocence. I had not been so briefed. He continued to look angry for a second, then grinned. "Well bowled," he said.

Neither Surrey nor England were ever beaten until Lock had been contained and my memories of the 1950s include several of the ubiquitous Lock, for Surrey, foiling Yorkshire with either bat or ball. Against Gloucestershire at Bristol, he was hit on the head when George Emmett pulled.

Lock had to be helped off and was sitting in the pavilion, being revived, when he noticed that Eric Bedser, who bowled off spin, had turned his first delivery a long way. Lock, still groggy, leapt up, insisted on returning to the field, demanded the ball and took 6-24 in 15 balls. Tony Lock was unique.

Derek Hodgson

Graham Anthony Richard Lock, cricketer: born Limpsfield, Surrey 5 July 1929; married; died Perth, Western Australia 30 March 1995.