Denis Compton will always be remembered for the golden summer of 1947, when he plundered 3,816 first-class runs (including 753 in five Tests against South Africa) alongside the similarly prolific Bill Edrich and helped dispel the lasting gloom of Britain’s war years.
Few cricketers, saving perhaps Grace and Botham, have captured the British imagination as Compton did. A debonnaire image, reinforced by adverts for Brylcreem hair products, combined with a batting style that was low on orthodoxy and high on improvisation to make Compton a genuine national celebrity. In his early years his skill at football almost rivalled his cricket (he was a regular at outside-left for Arsenal), but a knee injury curtailed his football career and impeded his cricket as well. At times, reports on Compton’s knee became a matter of national press interest. But, despite frequent pain and a couple of disappointing tours of Australia in the 1950s, the runs kept flowing with a panache matched by few in the history of cricket.
Normally renowned for his wide range of strokes, Compton played an untypically watchful innings to help England out of trouble against New Zealand. Losing wickets regularly on day one, the hosts slumped to 112 for 5, when Trevor Bailey joined Compton at the wicket. Together the pair put on 189, with Compton only beginning to play expansively towards the end of his innings once the situation had stabilised. When he and Bailey fell quickly towards the end of the day, captain George Mann declared the innings closed, in contravention of the regulations for the series. New Zealand batted out the remaining fifteen minutes of the day without loss.
Denis Charles Scott Compton (1918-1997)
78 Tests for England averaging 50.06 with the bat
Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1939