Denis Charles Scott Compton CBE (23 May 1918– 23 April 1997) was an English cricketer who played in 78 Test matches, and a footballer. He spent the whole of his cricket career with Middlesex and the whole of his football career at Arsenal F.C.
In 2009 Compton was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame
Denis Compton was the second son of Harry and Jessie Compton; his older brother was Les Compton. He was educated at an Elementary School and he joined the MCC groundstaff at Lord's in 1934. By the late 1930s he was a leading England batsman and remained at the top of his profession for some twenty years. His dashing approach to batting and the sheer enjoyment he exuded endeared him to a generation of cricket lovers. As an all-rounder Compton was a right-hand bat and a slow left-arm Chinaman bowler.
In 1947 he thrilled a war-weary English public by breaking record after record in scoring 3816 runs; he scored 18 centuries. 753 of those runs came against the touring South Africans. This season was the summit of a glittering career that began on the ground staff at Lord's; selection for Middlesex followed in 1936 and England the following year.
He scored his first Test century aged just 19 in 1938 against Don Bradman's touring Australians. Later in the same series he scored a match-saving 76 not out at Lord's; this innings was scored on a rain-affected pitch and greatly impressed Don Bradman. In 1939 he scored 2468 runs for the season, including 120 against the West Indies at Lord's.
As with many other sportsman of his generation he lost some of his best years to the Second World War, during which he served in the army in India. It was in India, however, that he began his close friendship with his Australian counterpart as Test cricketer, footballer and national hero, Keith Miller. They played against each other in the match at Calcutta between the Australian Services team and East Zone. The match was interrupted by rioting when Compton was on 94 and one of the rioters who had invaded the pitch ran up to Compton and said "Mr Compton, you very good player, but the match must stop now", which Miller gleefully repeated whenever Compton came to the crease subsequently. In recognition of their friendship and rivalry, the ECB and Cricket Australia decided in 2005 that the player adjudged the Player of the Series in the Ashes would be awarded the Compton-Miller medal.
In 1946, England toured Australia and although beaten by the powerful Australian team, Compton distinguished himself by scoring a century in each innings of the Adelaide Test. Back in England in 1947 he had a glorious season.
Two of his finest innings were played against the formidable Australian side of 1948. In the First Test at Trent Bridge he scored 184 in the second innings after Australia had established a first innings lead of 344, and it looked as though he might save the match for England until he lost his balance to a short-pitched ball from Miller and hit his wicket. In the Third Test at Old Trafford, he made 145 not out in the first innings, when no other batsman made more than 37. Early in his innings he tried to hook a Ray Lindwall bouncer, but edged the ball onto his head. He had to retire hurt, and needed two stitches, but returned to the crease at 119-5 and enabled England to reach 363. This was the only match that England did not lose, and if so much time had not been lost to the weather they might have won it. In the series he made 562 runs at 62.44, against fierce fast bowling from Lindwall, Miller and Bill Johnston.
On the MCC tour of South Africa 1948-49 he scored 300 against North-Eastern Transvaal in just a minute over three hours - still the fastest triple-century ever in first-class cricket. His first hundred took 66 minutes (he said, "I was getting a sight of the bowling"), his second 78 minutes (he was not out overnight and had to play himself in again next morning), and his third hundred took just 37 minutes. Reminiscing about the match later, Compton compared the South Africans' bowling with a decent county side, but criticised their catching (he had been dropped before he reached 20).
He toured Australia in 1950-51 as vice-captain, the first professional to be awarded the position, but had a dismal tour due to a recurring knee problem caused by an old football injury. On the 1954-55 tour his departure was delayed for a remedial operation on his knee and he joined the team in Australia by plane. In the First Test at Brisbane he badly cut his hand when he hit a billboard while fielding and batted at the bottom of the order. He missed the Second Test. He came third in the England Test averages (38.20), but topped the tour averages (57.07) and made three centuries. In his last Test against Australia in 1956 he made a dazzling 94 despite having just had his right kneecap removed.
Compton finished his cricket career after playing 78 Test matches with 17 centuries at an average of 50.06. In all first-class cricket he scored 123 centuries.
Compton jointly captained Middlesex County Cricket Club between 1951 and 1952, with W.J.Edrich. They were honoured with the creation of the Edrich and Compton stands at the Nursery End in Lord's Cricket Ground.
He was also honoured with the naming of the Shenley Cricket Centre, where the main pitch is named the Denis Compton Oval. Interestingly this is where his grandson, Nick Compton, set the Middlesex record for the 6th wicket partnership in List A cricket (142* BL Hutton & NRD Compton v Lancashire at Shenley 2002).
Compton's absent-mindedness was legendary. Colin Cowdrey writes that Compton turned up for the Old Trafford Test of 1955 against South Africa without his kitbag. Undaunted, he sauntered into the museum and borrowing an antique bat off the display, went on to score 155 and 79 not out. This absent-mindedness was particularly obvious in his tendency to run out his partners at the crease; Trevor Bailey declared that 'a call for a run from Compton should be treated as no more than a basis for negotiation.' Typically, at his brother Leslie's benefit match in 1955, he managed to run him out before he had faced a single ball.
Peter Parfitt, the Middlesex and England batsman, was a speaker at a major celebration in London for Compton's 70th birthday. He claims that the chief guest was called to the telephone by a lady who had heard about the dinner: eventually, he agreed to take the call. "Denis," she said, "it's me, your mother. You're not 70, you're only 69."
After retiring from sport, Denis Compton became a journalist and later a commentator for BBC Television. He was made a CBE in 1958. He became the first former professional cricketer to be elected President of Middlesex County Cricket Club in 1991. He served two terms, until a week before his death from septicemia in Windsor, Berkshire aged 78.
With his contemporary the footballer Stanley Matthews Compton was the first British sportsman to make a substantial living by exploiting his sporting reputation to provide advertisements and endorsements. For many years he was the public face of the Brylcream range of men's hair care products
His elder brother Leslie also played cricket for Middlesex and football for Arsenal and England. Denis was married three times with three sons (Brian and the Natal cricketers Patrick and Richard) and two daughters. His grandson Nick is currently playing for Middlesex.
Compton also played football, beginning his career at non-league Nunhead during the 1934–35 season before joining Arsenal. A winger, he made his debut in 1936, and won the League in 1948 and the FA Cup in 1950. However, the latter part of his sporting career was dogged by knee trouble: the knee had been damaged in a collision with the Charlton goalkeeper; he was limited to 60 official (i.e. non-wartime) appearances and 16 goals. He represented England in wartime 12 times, but never in a full official match.
Test Runs 50’s 100’s Hs. Avg Wkts 5W BB Avg Catches 78 5807 28 17 278 50.06 25 1 5/70 56.40 49