One of the greatest cricketers in Derbyshire’s history, Derek Morgan, died at the weekend aged 88.
Heritage Officer, David Griffin, looks back at his long cricketing career.
A measure of Derek Morgan’s cricketing ability is that he lies third on the list of all-time highest run-scorers (17,842) for Derbyshire, which alone is a major achievement.
But his 1,126 wickets puts him fifth on the all-time bowler’s list, while his 563 outfield catches, place him top of that particular list, more than 150 ahead of his nearest rival. And no-one has – or surely ever will – better his 540 first class appearances for the county.
Add to that five years as captain in the 1960s and a two-year spell as President between 2011 and 2013, and it quickly becomes apparent that Derek’s career with Derbyshire was a unique one.
Derek Morgan was born in Middlesex, but a stroke of good fortune for Derbyshire meant that his National Service with the Royal Artillery brought him to the county, stationed at Etwall, and he was given an opportunity to play for local clubs like The Friars, Grasshoppers and Borough Police.
His debut for Derbyshire came in May 1950 against Northamptonshire at Derby and for the ensuing 20 seasons, he was almost ever-present in the side.
He was regarded as a very reliable and obdurate batsman, scoring nine hundreds and 80 fifties for Derbyshire, while it seems remarkable that he could take so many first-class wickets when he rarely opened the bowling, and usually only came on as first change after Les Jackson, Cliff Gladwin, Harold Rhodes, Brian Jackson and Alan Ward. Nonetheless, he still managed 35 5-wickets hauls, with a best of 7-33 against Glamorgan at Chesterfield in 1965, and 10 wickets in a match of five occasions.
As a fielder, and especially a close catcher, he was peerless, especially his work close in on the leg-side alongside Alan Revill and Donald Carr.
He captained Derbyshire in the county’s first ever one-day final, the 1969 Gillette Cup Final against Yorkshire at Lord’s in his final season as a first-class cricketer, and on five occasions was 12th man for England in Test matches.
He was probably unlucky not to play for England, but Trevor Bailey was the principle pace-bowling all-rounder in the Test team when Morgan was at his peak, and there was never room for both of them in the side.
He watched cricket keenly, and this writer spent a happy couple of hours with him a few years ago talking about his cricketing life, and he offered the perhaps surprising view that he would have loved to play Twenty20 cricket. Certainly, his all-round skills would have meant he had an important role to play in that form of the game.
Derek was a regular at the annual Past Players Day, and his election as Derbyshire President in 2011 was greeted as a universally popular choice and well-deserving for such an outstanding former player.
Derek also played hockey for Derbyshire, rugby for Derby, and football for Oxfordshire and Oxford United.
As Derbyshire approaches the 150th anniversary of the Club’s formation (in 2020) it is unthinkable that Derek Morgan would be anything other than a definite selection in Derbyshire’s mythical all-time XI. His statistics alone make him one of Derbyshire’s all-time greats – maybe the greatest – whilst his overall contribution to the club as player, captain, team mate and President are arguably unmatched.
Funeral service will take place at Derby Crematorium on Thursday 16 November, 11.20am. All are welcome to attend the service. Family flowers only, any donations can be made to MS Society. Click HERE to donate.