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Graham Cowdrey, former Kent batsman, dies aged 56

Graham Cowdrey, the former Kent batsman who was part of one of the sport’s best known family dynasties, has died at the age of 56.

Cowdrey enjoyed a long career as an aggressive middle-order batsman for Kent, before going on to work for the ECB as a Cricket Liaison Officer; a role well-suited to his good-natured and gentle bonhomie. Both his father, Lord Cowdrey, and his brother, Chris Cowdrey, captained England, while his grandfather and nephew also played first-class cricket.

He was a key part of the Kent side which won AXA Equity & Law League trophy in 1995 – he was the club’s top run-scorer in the competition that year, hitting two centuries and averaging 53.90 – and made it to the final of the Benson & Hedges Cup. He also helped Kent finish second in the 1992 County Championship; a season in which he scored 1,291 runs in the competition at an average of 53.85. His stand of 368 made with Aravinda de Silva against Derbyshire in 1995 remains the club’s highest fourth-wicket stand and was, until broken by Sean Dickson and Joe Denly in 2017, Kent’s highest partnership for any wicket.

While he was unable to follow his father and brother into the England side, he represented Young England as a teenager, made his first-class debut aged 20 and was awarded a county cap in 1988. After being awarded a Benefit Year in 1997, he retired from the game in 1998 having played 440 first team games and amassed exactly 14,000 runs for the club. He just missed out on the advent of the T20 format which would, you suspect, have well suited him.

“I am numb with shock and sadness that the brilliant, generous, funny and complex friend who lit up so many cricket grounds, on and off the pitch, has slipped away,” said Cowdrey’s former team-mate and captain, Matthew Fleming. “‘Van’ as he was universally known because of his love of all things Van Morrison, was an instinctive cricketer, a game changer, who won matches with his prowess as a batsman and a fielder.

“However, it was his deep love of cricket and Kent, his commitment as a team-mate, his integrity and his wicked sense of humour, his loyalty as a friend and the ‘twinkle in his eye’ that shaped almost everything he did that we will also remember with the greatest possible affection.”

Kent cricket have released a statement expressing “its deepest sympathies to Graham’s family and friends at this difficult time, especially his children, Michael, Grace and Alexander.” It went on to say the club was “devastated to learn of the passing of our much loved former player… after a short illness.”

The statement continued: “More than his facts and figures, Graham will be remembered for the way he played the game: his vibrant personality at the wicket or in the field, with his sense of fun as clear as his competitive passion.

“Graham recently appeared on the Club’s ‘Spitfire Sessions’ alongside his brothers Chris and Jeremy earlier this year, where he discussed his “happy memories of all those days down at Canterbury, Maidstone and everywhere we used to play”.

“During the live forum, his brother and former Captain Chris, highlighted Graham’s outstanding talent in one-day competitions. Stating that if he were to select his all-time Kent T20 XI, ‘there’s one person that I would pick first, and that would have been Graham Cowdrey. He was the most devastating striker of the ball and could turn a match in four overs.'”

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