Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Colin Milburn – An Indomitable Spirit (NZ172569)

The mighty Colin Milburn is perhaps the biggest name to come out of Burnopfield – in more ways than one. At 18 stone, his size was both the making of him and, perhaps, his downfall. One thing’s for sure: he was a supremely talented cricketer, appearing in a ludicrously paltry nine test matches for England.

‘Ollie’ was born in October 1941, and followed his sportingly talented father into cricket at an early age. He played in local leagues, before progressing into the Durham team (who were then a minor county) at 17 – and scored what was described as a ‘dynamic century’ against the touring Indians at Sunderland in 1959. By the summer of 1960 he was playing for Northamptonshire at first-class level, with his forceful batting, useful bowling and famous convivial personality. He was mooted several times for an England call up during the early ‘60s, but had to wait until 1966 for his international debut against the West Indies. A promising series (including scores of 94 and 126 not out) ended in disappointment when he was dropped for the final test, supposedly due to his lack of mobility in the field. It was not the last time he would be messed about by the selectors.

After being voted one of Wisden’s ‘Cricketers of the Year’ in 1967, he spent a varied few years playing across the globe – including Sheffield Shield cricket in Australia, where he excelled, once scoring an incredible 181 in a two-hour session. Unable to ignore his obvious talents, he was given the chance of the occasional additional test match during the late 60’s – against India, Pakistan and Australia. He scored a memorable 83 against the latter at Lords in 1968, and a spectacular 139 at Karachi against Pakistan in the Spring of 1969. This innings would be his last for England.

The 1969 season opened with another Milburn century for Northants, but on the way home he was involved in a car accident which robbed him of the sight in his left eye and damaged his right. He battled on in the months and years ahead – including a comeback of sorts during 1973-74 – but never recaptured his former glories. He moved back down into league cricket and commentated on the game, before a fatal heart attack took him from us at the age of 48 in 1990. He was buried in Burnopfield.

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