Colin Cowdrey

Michael Colin Cowdrey, Baron Cowdrey of Tonbridge, Kt., CBE (December 24, 1932 - December 4, 2000) was an English cricketer and later cricket administrator,

Colin Cowdrey was born in Ootacamund, India. His father named him Michael Colin Cowdrey, to give him the same initials as cricket's most famous club the Marylebone Cricket Club. He was educated at Homefield Preparatory School, Sutton, Tonbridge School and Brasenose College, Oxford, which he left without taking a degree. He became the youngest player ever to appear in a match at Lord's when, at the age of 13, in July 1946 he played for Tonbridge against Clifton. He scored 75 and 44 and took eight wickets in the match. Four years later he made his first class debut for Kent County Cricket Club, where he would remain a player until his retirement in 1976. He played for Oxford University in 1952-1954 (Captain). He was appointed captain of Kent in 1956 and in 1970 he led Kent to their first County Championship since 1913.

Cowdrey made his England debut on the 1954/55 tour of Australia and New Zealand and made his maiden Test hundred at Melbourne in the Boxing Day Test match 1954. He was appointed England Captain in 1959 for a Test match against the country of his birth - he captained England 27 times between 1959 and 1968-69 (Won 8, Drawn 15, Lost 4).

In 1963, facing the West Indies in a Lord's Test match, he came in to bat with a broken wrist in plaster (fortunately he did not have to face a ball; if it had been necessary, he said he would have done so holding the bat with one hand). Had he not batted, England would have lost, but his appearance caused the match to be drawn.

At the beginning of the 1973 English season Cowdrey headed the list of the then all time highest aggregate Test match run scorers with 7700 Runs. He ended his career after playing his final Test against Australia in 1974-5. He was called up for this series in the middle of the winter when England batsman had been ruled out due to injury after the 1st Test . Although some in the Australian press ridiculed his recall at 41 (he had been preferred over younger batsmen thanks to good form in the previous season and experience of Australian conditions, although he had not played in Tests for 3 1/2 years), he was given a warm reception when walking out to bat in the 2nd Test of that series at Perth and reported to have shown guts and good technique against the fast bowling of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, despite having not played cricket since the English summer and having only 3 days to prepare himself for the test after a long, delay stricken journey to Australia . In making this tour he became only the second English player to tour Australia six times . He had some success in the 2nd Test (his first match), making 22 and 41, but he struggled thereafter, ending the series with only 165 runs at 18.33.

In total he played 114 Tests and scored 7624 Test runs at an average of 44.06, including 22 centuries (n.b. the 241 runs he had scored against the Rest of the World in 1970 no longer count as Test match runs).

Following his retirement in 1976, Colin Cowdrey worked closely behind the scenes at Kent, became President of the MCC in 1986 and was Chairman of the International Cricket Council from 1989-1993. He was President of Kent County Cricket Club in 2000.

Other Sports

Cowdrey won a rackets blue in his first term at Oxford. He was also a competent golfer and in 1970 he did a hole in one at the 195 yard first hole playing for the Cavaliers againast Caymanus Golf Club in Kingston Jamaica.


Colin Cowdrey was awarded a CBE in 1972, a knighthood in 1992 and became a life peer as Baron Cowdrey of Tonbridge, of Tonbridge in the County of Kent in 1997, on the recommendation of outgoing Prime Minister John Major to whom he had become a personal friend and confidant. Cowdrey was one of only two cricketers to be given a life peerage for their services to the game (the other being Learie Constantine).

In 1997 a cricket club in Cowdrey's hometown Tonbridge was renamed in his honour; Cowdrey Cricket Club (formerly Tonbridge Printers CC) plays in the Readers Kent Feeder League West, and can be found here -

Family life

Cowdrey was twice married:

  • Penny Chiesman (1956-1985), with whom he had four children:
    • The Hon. Christopher Stuart Cowdrey, the cricketer and broadcaster (born 1957), married Christel Margareta Holste-Sande 1988; two sons Fabian Kruuse & Julius Lindahl
    • The Hon. Jeremy Colin Cowdrey, a former investment banker and now film producer currently developing a film based on the novel Summer in February by Jonathan Smith (born 1960), married Philippa Telford 1989, two sons Robert & Charlie and two daughters Kate & Lara.
    • The Hon. Carolyn Susan Cowdrey (born 1961), married Alastair Keith; one son James and one daughter Lucy
    • The Hon. Graham Robert Cowdrey, the cricketer (born 1964), married Maxine Juster 1993; two sons Michael & Alexander and one daughter Grace
  • The 14th Baroness Herries of Terregles (née Lady Anne Fitzalan-Howard) (1985-2000) the eldest daughter of the 16th Duke of Norfolk.

Test career

Career Highlights

  • 1950: Made first appearance for Kent CCC, the start of a 26-year playing association with the county.
  • 1954: Chosen for Australian tour and made England debut in the first Test. Maiden Test century in the third.
  • 1957: Partnership of 411 with Peter May to save Test against the West Indies. Appointed captain of Kent.
  • 1959: Captained England for the first time.
  • 1962: Highest first-class score, 307 for MCC against South Australia.
  • 1963: Batted with a broken wrist to help England avoid defeat by the West Indies at Lord's.
  • 1965: His best season for Kent with 2,039 runs at average of 63.42.
  • 1968: Captained England to a 1-0 Test series victory in the West Indies.
  • 1970: Led Kent to their first County Championship since 1913.
  • 1971: Played last home match against Pakistan, and retired from Kent captaincy.
  • 1972: Awarded the CBE.
  • 1975: Final Test, his 114th, at the age of 42 as an emergency replacement on tour of Australia.
  • 1976: Retired from first-class cricket with 42,719 runs at an average of 42.89, including 107 centuries, highest score 307.
  • 1986: President of the MCC in its bicentennial year, later chairman of ICC.
  • 1992: Knighted for services to cricket.
  • 1997: Appointed to the House of Lords as Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge


Lord Cowdrey died of a heart attack on December 4th 2000, aged 67, having suffered a stroke earlier that year. His memorial service at Westminster Abbey on March 30, 2001 was attended by many luminaries of cricket world and the tribute was given by John Major. Major said:

"He left us too soon, but it was a gem of an innings. He lived life with a clear eye, a straight bat and a cover drive from heaven. He was a true Corinthian."

Colin, The Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge, CBE, is buried in the churchyard of the tiny Pre-Conquest church of St Nicholas in Poling, West Sussex, the church that he attended regularly. The epitaph on his simple headstone emulates the words of John Major...

''"...some journey, some life, some coverdrive, some friend."

Further Reading/References

  • "The Last Roman" unauthorised biography by Mark Peel (1999) ISBN 0 233 994610
  • "MCC. The Autobiography of a cricketer" (1976)
  • "Cricket Today" by Colin Cowdrey (1961)
  • "Time for Reflection" (1962) Early autobiography
  • "The Incomparable Game" by Colin Cowdrey (1970)
  • "The Cowdreys" unauthorised biography by Ivo Tennant (1990) ISBN 0 671 65323 7
  • "Wisden" 2001 Obituary and tributes ISBN 0 947766 63 4
  • "Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge, C.B.E. (2003) – Famous Cricketers Series No.72" by Howard Milton. The Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians. ISBN 1 902171 70 5
  • "Colin Cowdrey in Test cricket" by Bernard Black ISBN 0 9549517 0 0

External links

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