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By Nick Garnham & Matt Bunn
Friday, February 17, 2012
EAST Suffolk is now home to two celebrated former cricketers.
The oldest living former first-class cricketer and the oldest surviving ex-English Test cricketer are now residing just 15 miles apart.
Ex-Northamptonshire and Suffolk cricketer Cyril Perkins, who celebrated his 100th birthday last June, still lives in Ipswich.
And now 91-year-old Reg Simpson, who captained Nottinghamshire and played for England, has moved to Felixstowe!
Simpson moved to the seaside resort last month to be closer to his step-daughter, following the death of his wife last year.
It is a remarkable quirk of fate that this area of the country should be home to two record-holding former cricketers.
Perkins, who still lives in the same house that has been his home since 1954, played for Northamptonshire when the county was at its lowest ebb from 1934 until 1937, before playing one other first-class match for the county, which also ended in defeat.
That final loss meant that he played a total of 57 first-class matches without ever being on the winning side – an unenviable record that he still holds to this day.
After his release by Northants in 1937 he was approached by Minor County Suffolk, who also found him a job locally, and two years later the slow left-armer qualified to play for Suffolk.
His Suffolk career lasted until 1967, and by the time he hung up his bowling boots Cyril had taken an incredible 779 wickets for the county – a record he still holds to this day and which is unlikely to ever be beaten, bearing in mind the next highest wicket-taker is Colin Rutterford with 431.
Perkins, who became coach and groundsman at Ipswich School, has now been joined in Suffolk by former Ashes winner Simpson, who has recalled highlights of his career following his move to Felixstowe.
Simpson scored more than 30,000 runs in his first-class career spanning nearly 20 years and in that time he travelled around the world.
He said that he loved everything about his playing days which included scoring 156 against Australia in the final Ashes Test in 1951.
Simpson was picked for the 1948-49 tour of South Africa during which he played his first Test without success. He returned to the England team as a middle-order batsman against New Zealand in 1949 and scored a century.
With Len Hutton and Cyril Washbrook settled in the side as England’s first-choice openers, Simpson could not secure a regular spot in the side.
He returned to the team for the 1954-55 Ashes Series under Hutton’s captaincy, but only played one Test.
Simpson, who described Australia’s Ray Lindwall as his toughest opponent, said: “I just remember the cricket – I loved it. My best moment was when I got 156 against Australia on my (31st) birthday in 1951 – it was a great birthday present.”
Even though England lost the 1950-51 series, Simpson’s knock helped the team achieve their first Test victory over Australia in 13 years.
He first burst on to the scene in 1946 after he returned from India where he was stationed during the Second World War.
He flew Dakota planes during the war and even used his knowledge to fly, and frighten, his team-mates during a tour in Australia.
“We were on a plane in Australia and Eric Hollies (team-mate) saw the pilot come out. He asked who was flying the plane and he said ‘don’t worry, Reg is.’ He was a nervous flyer.”
Despite England’s current crop achieving lots of success in recent years, and rising to be ranked the No.1 Test team in the world, they were second best in the recent Test series against Pakistan which resulted in a 3-0 defeat.
Simpson had some words of advice for the team: “I’m disappointed because they push against some bowling instead of playing back all the time. I got 30,000 runs but never went on the front foot against fast bowling.”