CLOSE, BRIAN – (batting left and bowling right-handed, he completed the double in 1949, the youngest player to do so. As a batsman he could defend with great obduracy, but could attack thrillingly, although not always wisely.)
Of legendary toughness, Brian Close still holds the record for the Youngest player to represent England, when, after a superb all-round first season with Yorkshire, he was picked to play against New Zealand in 1949 at the age of 18. He never fully realized the promise of that first season, in and out of the England side over the next 27 years.
He bowled medium-pace and off-spin, with more consistency than his batting. He lost favor with the England selectors after trying to his Benaud out of the attack in the 1961 Old Trafford Test, but returned to take England to the brink of victory in the 1963 Lord’s Test against the West Indies. In this innings, his highest in Tests, he used unconventional tactics, coming up the wicket to the West Indies pace bowlers. He captained Yorkshire and England with success, but lost the England position after using delaying tactics in a county game. Later internal politics saw him move from Yorkshire to Somerset for the final years of his career.
He was famous for his fearless fielding at short leg, where he would rarely duck or move to avoid a hard hit ball. He was also known for his courage against bowling, memorably so in 1976, when he was recalled at the age of 45 to face the fearsome West Indies pace trio of Holding, Roberts and Daniels. Subjected to a barrage of short-pitched bowling on the Saturday of the Old Trafford Test in less than favorable light, Close never flinched, and as always, refused to rub the bruises when hit.
Seemingly impervious to pain himself, he used to say to anyone who flinched, or rubbed a bruise: “How can the ball hurt you? It’s only on you for a second.” On the one known occasion when he was hit by such force that he was knocked off his feet by a short-arm pull by Hampshire’s Danny Livingstone at Portsmouth – Close, sprang up and dismissed the slips and wicket-keeper (who was running towards him in concern) with an angry wave.
Close’s record did scant justice to his talent, which was huge. In later years he played in the Lancashire League then returned to Yorkshire, and much controversy as chair of the cricket committee. He was an England selector in the late 70’s.