A classically stylish batsman and a tough, inspiring leader, Peter May became associated with all that was successful and dominant in English cricket.
He was the cornerstone of England’s and Surrey’s batting during the 1950s; from 1952 to 1958 Surrey won the County Championship every year and England did not lose a single Test series. He succeeded Len Hutton as England captain, leading the team in 41 Tests, winning 20.
As a batsman he was widely considered the finest of a golden generation to grace the English game; a frequent opponent, Australia’s Richie Benaud, considered him the only English batsman since the Second World War to have achieved genuine greatness. He retired as a player, many thought prematurely - but injury and the cares of captaincy had taken their toll, in 1963. Later service as a Test selector (1965-68) and Chairman of Selectors (1982-88) brought much less success than he had in his playing days.
In his first Test at Lord’s as England captain, Peter May produced a fine hundred that helped turn a poor start by England into a convincing and exciting victory. Bowled out for 133, England watched South Africa build a first-innings lead of 173, thanks to a hundred from Roy McLean. May joined Tom Graveney at the crease after the early loss of Don Kenyon.
Their partnership of 132 helped England even the match up, before another stand of 96 in just 85 minutes between May and Denis Compton took them into the lead. May struck sixteen fours and one six before he overbalanced and trod on his wicket. England’s total of 353 still left South Africa a gettable target, but fine bowling by Brian Statham ensured they fell short, England winning by 71 runs.
Peter Barker Howard May (1929-1994)
66 Tests for England averaging 46.77 with the bat
Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1952