Skip to main content


Ted Dexter, out for a glorious 86

Ted Dexter padded up for Sussex in 1964. Robert Stiggins/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Ted Dexter was the “James Bond of cricketers”, says Michael Atherton in The Times: tall, handsome, married to a model, deeply engaged in events beyond the game and always wanting to “lead life at a decent lick”. The former England captain loved to gamble on horses and dogs, and once flew his family to Australia by himself in a tiny plane so he could cover the Ashes. He was the best of the “cricketer-golfers”: in a match against the great South African golfer Gary Player, Dexter was “not the shorter of the two off the tee”. Aged 85, he beat his age round Sunningdale.

He once stood for parliament against James Callaghan. He lost, perhaps unsurprisingly, after advising an audience to send their children to Eton, as he knew several Old Etonians who had gone on to be “racing correspondents and bookmakers”. He told another meeting that Labour voters could be detected by “grubby lace curtains and unwashed milk bottles on the doorstep”.

Like many talented and versatile people, he easily became bored, says Scyld Berry in the Telegraph. On a slow Test day he could be seen practising his golf swing while he was supposed to be concentrating in the field. Off the pitch it was planes, fast cars, motorbikes, cricket journalism, even a co-written novel set at Lord’s, Testkill, which kept “Lord Ted” amused for a while.

That suitably dashing moniker stuck to him from his Radley schooldays, says Matthew Engel in The Guardian. He was “an adventurer in the Battle of Britain mould”: brave, extravagantly gifted, a risk-taker. He brought “the air of a boulevardier” to the cricket field and to pre-swinging London. He once turned up in white tie and tails with his wife at the pioneering discothèque run by Hélène Cordet. They looked so magnificent, she refused to charge them.

🏏 🚢 🏃‍♂️ 💦 In 1962 Dexter led England on the last tour of Australia to be reached by sea. Olympic athletics silver medallist Gordon Pirie was also aboard, and Dexter asked him to put the touring party through their paces. The one refusenik was the famously ornery Fred Trueman, who told Pirie: “I’ll have you know my legs have just carried me through more than 1,000 overs this season. What makes you think they need strengthening?” The bowler glanced overboard, then asked Pirie: “Incidentally, can you swim?”