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Subject: Ex-Middlesex & England spinner Fred Titmus dies ages 78

Written By: Philip Eno on 03/23/11 at 12:51 pm

Ex-England spinner Fred Titmus has died aged 78 following a long illness, his former county Middlesex have announced.

Born in November 1932, Titmus was given his first-class debut in 1949 aged 16 years and 213 days - the youngest ever Middlesex player at that time.

He played in four Ashes series against Australia, the last of them in 1974-75 after six years out of Test cricket.

Titmus ended with a first-class record of 21588 runs at an average of 23.11, and 2830 wickets at 22.37 in 792 games.

He returned Test-best figures of 7-79 against Australia in Sydney in 1962-63 and his highest score of 84 not out came in 1974 against India in Mumbai.

London-born Titmus, who was also on the books of Watford Football Club, was involved in a horrific accident shortly before the 1967-68 tour of the West Indies, when he caught his foot in the propeller of a boat and lost four toes.

However, he returned to action for Middlesex in May 1968 and dispelled doubts about his fitness by finishing the season with 111 wickets, as well as leading the county's batting averages.

His final appearance for the county came in 1982, when he was attending a match against Sussex as a spectator. Middlesex captain Mike Brearley called up Titmus on a pitch conducive to spin, and the gamble paid off as he took 3-43 to set up a 58-run victory.

Former Test umpire Dickie Bird said: "I was at a lunch at Lord's last week for former Test players. I asked about Fred and they told me he wasn't very well. It's very sad news.

"I played against him in county cricket and umpired when he was playing for Middlesex and England. I found him very difficult to get away, his line and length was immaculate - and he still had it at 50.

"Fred was a fine cricketer, a fine off-spin bowler and a very useful batsman. In that era there were so many off-spinners around in the world and he was up there with the best of them."

Bird, now 77, added: "He was a tremendous character and he'd come out with some very funny stuff.

"He was a little deaf and once, after the wicketkeeper had put down a catch, he asked me as he walked past: 'Did he nick that one?' I said 'yes' and he said: 'I thought he did'."

A Middlesex statement added: "Fred will be deeply missed by all those who played with him and by all those who were fortunate enough to have seen him performing for Middlesex and England.

"All of our thoughts and best wishes are with his wife Stephanie and family."

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell, who played against Titmus in the 1974-75 Ashes series, revealed he was given the nickname "Leo" by the Australians after an incident during the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

"He padded up to, I think it was Jeff Thomson, and the ball cut back off the pitch and missed the pad and hit him on the inside of the knee bone," Chappell told BBC Radio 5 Live. "He dropped his bat and just took off and he sort of did a half circuit of the MCG, which is a pretty decent run.

"All the guys in our side started singing a Leo Sayer song, 'You know I can't dance, you know I can't dance'. He was a good opponent."

Titmus twice served on the MCC Committee, firstly from 1968-69, when he was still a player, and then from 1981-2000.

He was also awarded an Honorary Life Membership of the club in 1981.

"Fred Titmus was a cricketing legend and a tremendous man," said MCC head of cricket John Stephenson.

"I first came into contact with Fred when I was on the fringes of the England squad, when he was a national selector.

"He'd had a hugely distinguished playing career but had then moved on to become an excellent coach. He was always very supportive and on hand to suggest useful tips.

"Following his election as an Honorary Life Member in 1981, he was an influential member of the MCC Cricket Committee for 19 years, so his passing is a sad day for us all at MCC."

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