In the centenary year of the birth of Archie Jackson, the short-lived Australian batting prodigy, Richard Thomas remembered 10 cricketers who were tragically taken from us tragically early.

Published in 2009

Published in 2009

Wilf Slack (1954-1989)

England, three Tests, two ODIs

There was no more popular county player than Wilf Slack, who charmed Middlesex fans with his quiet manner, genial smile and consistent run scoring. Hailing from St. Vincent, he joined Mike Brearley’s side in 1977 and, once established, his dependability was vital when his more illustrious colleagues were on international duty. His own Test outings were generally unsuccessful although his only fifty – Antigua in 1986 – was a typically gritty effort. In 1988, despite passing 1,000 runs for the eighth time, teammates and supporters were concerned when he suffered a series of unexplained fainting episodes. He died at the wicket in the Gambia just months later, aged 34, apparently of a heart attack. He was buried in his England blazer.

Manjural Islam (1984-2007)

Bangladesh, six Tests, 25 ODIs

A good all-round display in a warm-up match against the English tourists in 2003/04 helped secure an ODI berth for Bangladeshi left-arm spinner Manjural Islam, who raised further eyebrows when, on debut at Chittagong, he had Michael Vaughan stumped with his third ball. Thus began a promising spell that saw Manjural play six Tests.

His form subsequently fell away and he was left out of the squad for the 2007 World Cup. The day before his fellow countrymen famously beat India in Trinidad, he was killed with a Dhaka Division teammate after their motorcycle hit a bus, becoming, at 22, the youngest Test cricketer to die.

Maurice Turnbull (1906-1944)

England, nine Tests

Unique in playing cricket for England and rugby for Wales, Maurice Turnbull was also a hockey international and South Wales squash champion. His record for England was modest, but in Wales his exploits are legendary. Captain and club secretary of Glamorgan at just 24, his dashing batting and brave leadership ensure his place in Wales’ sporting history. Also an England selector, he served as a major in the Welsh Guards. At 38 he was shot by a sniper after the Normandy landings in 1944.

Ken Wadsworth (1946-1976)

New Zealand, 33 Tests, 13 ODIs

Blond-haired and grittily competitive, Ken Wadsworth was New Zealand’s regular wicketkeeper between 1969 and 1976. Rated highly as a stumper and reaching his best when illness struck, he was a good enough batsman to score 1,010 Test runs and was the first wicketkeeper to score an ODI century. He became familiar to English fans during Bevan Congdon’s 1973 tour. He was 29 when, months after playing his last game for Canterbury, he died from skin cancer.

Monty Bowden (1865-1892)

England, two Tests

Monty Bowden was a promising wicketkeeper for Surrey and was chosen for England’s first tour of South Africa in 1889. Playing in two Tests with moderate success, he deputised as captain at Cape Town when C Aubrey Smith was taken ill and became England’s youngest skipper at 23 and statistically their most successful – one win out of one. Staying on at the tour’s end, he started in business with Smith and was an alcohol trader in Rhodesia when he died aged 26. Trampled by his own oxen after falling from a cart, he is surely the only former England captain to be buried in a coffin made from whisky cases.

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Major Booth (1886-1916)

England, two Tests

He wasn’t a Major at all – that was his Christian name. Second Lieutenant Major Booth of the West Yorkshire Regiment was a right-arm fast-medium bowler and lower order batsman for Yorkshire and played in two Tests for England versus South Africa in 1913/14. Popular, charismatic and a product of Pudsey cricket (Hutton and Hoggard followed), in a career he took 603 first-class wickets at under 20 and made 4,753 runs at over 23. He was mortally wounded on the Somme and died at 29 in the arms of future Yorkshire and England player, Abe Waddington.

Hedley Verity (1905-1943)

England, 40 Tests

Hedley Verity took 1,956 career wickets with his crafty slow left-armers and was a master of flight and pace. In 1932, he claimed the best ever first-class figures – 10-10 versus Notts at Leeds including a hat-trick and a spell of 113 consecutive dot balls. Strategically keeping one end tight for Larwood to unleash Bodyline at the other, when he next encountered Australia he took Bradman’s wicket twice on a wet pitch at Lord’s, and remains unique in taking 14 Test wickets in a single day. He was shot in the chest during the “Operation Husky” allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, and died shortly afterwards aged 38, perhaps never even having reached his prime.

Ben Hollioake (1977-2002)

England, Two Tests, 20 ODIs

When England fans saw the nonchalance with which Ben Hollioake smashed 63 from 48 balls in an ODI versus Australia at Lord’s in 1997, many whispered “the next Botham” and meant it. The youngest England Test player since Brian Close was approaching cricket maturity when he was killed in his Porsche in 2002. He would be 31 now, breaking partnerships with his seamers and nestled in England’s middle order, and how he would have loved Twenty20. Older brother Adam set up the CHASE Ben Hollioake Fund raising money for children’s hospices in memory of one of the most charismatic cricketers England has produced.

Collie Smith (1933-1959)

West Indies, 26 Tests

Hailing from the Trenchtown area of Kingston, Jamaica, O’Neill Gordon Smith, known as Collie, entered first-class cricket with a century against Australia and another in his Test debut. A powerful batsman, he was also an off-spinning admirer of Jim Laker but that didn’t stop him hitting his hero into the crowd during his successful tour of England in 1957, when he made two big hundreds. A legend for Burnley, where he once hit an unbeaten triple century, he was injured when a car driven by Garry Sobers crashed into a truck in Staffordshire in 1959, and died a few days later. Smith, described by a heartbroken Sobers as a man with “an unquenchable ecstasy of spirit”, was just 26.

Archie Jackson (1909-1933)

Australia, eight Tests

Born 100 years ago in Scotland but emigrating to Australia with his family as a child, Archie Jackson became a national hero and Test cricket’s youngest centurion at 19 when, on debut in 1928, he scored 164 against England in the first innings at Adelaide. A contemporary of Bradman, cricket writer Denzil Batchelor wrote: “The measure of his greatness is that at this stage, no one had an eye for Bradman while Jackson was at the wicket”.

If Bradman was the utilitarian compiler of runs, then Jackson was the stylist. Qualified judges like Frank Woolley, Maurice Tate and Percy Fender deemed his technique better than that of his famous teammate, and he made a brave 73 while being hit several times during a hostile spell from Harold Larwood. He may have had the technique and the aesthetics, but the constitution was weak.

Dogged by ill health, he succumbed to TB on the very day that England won the Bodyline series. He was only 24, but had made many friends throughout the cricketing world, among them Harold Larwood, who received a congratulatory telegram from Jackson – who was a defender of leg theory tactics as entirely legitimate – sent just hours before he died. Six Australian Test colleagues, including Bradman, McCabe and Ponsford, were pallbearers at his funeral; a nation’s shining sporting light was extinguished. His gravestone simply proclaims: “He played the game”. As Batchelor concluded: “Ah well, you would not have expected Keats to have been allowed to grow old.”