Cricket: Cyril Walters: full of style and self-assurance: Scyld Berry on the England opening batsman, who died last week

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The Independent Online
CYRIL WALTERS, one of England's most stylish batsmen and a captain in one Test match, has died at the age of 87. Yet he was no mere stylist, for he averaged more than 50 in Test cricket, as only 10 other England players have done in a complete Test career, of those who have made a minimum of 10 appearances.

After Jack Hobbs, Walters was the one batsman to make a suitable Test partner for Herbert Sutcliffe. Walters and Sutcliffe, amateur and professional, made a dapper, immaculately groomed opening pair in the early-to-mid- Thirties. But while Sutcliffe was strictly functional in his batting, Walters used his feet and played with the panache of a Golden Age stylist like MacLaren, Spooner or Palairet. The panache remained - only recently Walters was stopped for speeding at 96mph - and he was still quick on his feet until a heart attack took him into a Neath hospital where he died last Wednesday.

One of only two Welshmen to captain England, he went to Neath Grammar as the other one - Tony Lewis - subsequently did. Blessed with an easy talent, Walters made his debut for Glamorgan when 17, in 1923. After five on-and-off seasons he was attracted to Worcestershire, where the post of club secretary allowed him to maintain the amateur status he expected as the son of a Neath GP.

His career average was a modest 30, but he had, like Sutcliffe, that self-assurance which is the essential characteristic of a Test batsman. Playing in all three Tests against West Indies in 1933, all three on the tour of India in 1933-34, and all five against Australia in 1934 - but no more - Walters passed 40 in two-thirds of his Test innings, a rate beyond Bradman, and averaged 52.

His Test record suggests a lack of the sternest application - he only once went on to a century, 102 against India - and he was no profound thinker on the game, for he played for entertainment. When Bob Wyatt had to pull out of the first Test of 1934, Walters led England for the only time, and they lost when they failed to bat out the last 10 minutes. Wyatt, who survives as England's oldest player, thought the game could have been saved if Walters had not bowled the leg-spinner Tommy Mitchell so much when Australia were looking to declare their second innings.

So careless was Walters of his cricket achievements that his only souvenir was a photograph of himself when yards down the pitch in 1934 to that most brisk and brusque of Australian spinners, Bill O'Reilly. Few tried that, and fewer still survived it, without being stumped.

(Photograph omitted)