Tom Graveney: Obituary as former England batsman dies at 88

Tom Graveney
Graveney made his Test debut against South Africa at Manchester in 1951

Tom Graveney, who has died at the age of 88, turned down possible careers in the armed forces, accountancy and golf to become one of the most celebrated of English batsmen.

A tall, elegant right-hander whose cover drive was a joy to behold, Graveney scored 47,793 first-class runs for Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Queensland and England between 1948 and 1972 and retired with a monumental 122 centuries to his name.

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His Test career was a stop-start affair featuring dizzying highs - such as his 258 against West Indies in 1957 - and long spells in which he was overlooked for selection, despite consistently plundering runs at county level for Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

He returned from a three-year hiatus in 1966 at the age of 39 and played the best Test cricket of his career, scoring four of his 11 hundreds and finishing, in the week of his 42nd birthday, with a batting average of 44.38 from 79 Tests.

Thomas William Graveney was born in Riding Mill, Northumberland, on 16 June 1927 as one of five children and lost his father at the age of six.

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Tom Graveney factfile

Tom Graveney
  • Born: 16 June 1927
  • Tests: 79
  • Runs: 4,882
  • Highest score: 258
  • Average: 44.38
  • Hundreds: 11
  • Fifties: 20
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Alongside his elder brother Kenneth - who died nine days before Tom - the younger Graveney shone as a cricketer at grammar school, but was primed to pursue accountancy before opting to volunteer for the army.

While serving in Greece and Egypt, he played lots of cricket on concrete pitches and developed an ability to hook and pull off the front foot which served him to great effect whenever the pacemen of the West Indies were in town.

It was while on leave from the services in 1947 that Graveney was offered a trial with Kenneth's county side Gloucestershire and impressed them so much that he was offered a contract for the following season. With a heavy heart he abandoned the forces, shelved his accountancy plans and began to ply his trade as a cricketer.

Graveney scored more than 1,500 runs in his second and third seasons with the county and was handed a Test debut against South Africa at Old Trafford in 1951.

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He scored 175 against India in his second Test but only mustered one further hundred in the following six years as his inconsistent form saw him frequently left out of the side.

Graveney played some of his finest cricket after joining Worcestershire in 1961, becoming the first player since World War II to reach a century of centuries in 1964 when he scurried a single off Northamptonshire's David Larter following an uncharacteristically mistimed pull shot.

His prolific form for the county prompted an England recall in the summer of 1966, which he fully justified with 459 runs at 76.50 in four Tests against the touring West Indians.

Graveney's international career ended on a sour note when he was suspended for three Tests as punishment for playing a benefit game on the rest day of the first Test against the Windies in 1969, and was never picked again.

He retired from county cricket in 1970 but spent two further seasons playing and coaching Queensland in Australian first-class cricket.

Graveney became a pub landlord in retirement, worked as a cricket pundit for BBC television and continued to play golf off a handicap of one.

He was president of the MCC from 2004-2005 and four years later was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame. At the time of his death he was one of only 25 men in the history of cricket to reach a hundred hundreds.

Graveney's nephew David followed his father and uncle in captaining Gloucestershire, and was England's chairman of selectors during their 2005 Ashes success.

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