5th February 2020
Charles Terence Spencer (1931-2020)
Leicestershire CCC is extremely saddened to learn of the passing of one of its greatest bowlers, Terry Spencer.
Terry is the third leading wicket-taker in the club’s history, snaring 1,320 at a tremendous average of 26.90 apiece, including 45 five-wicket hauls. Only Ewart Astill and George Geary have taken more wickets for Leicestershire CCC.
His greatest bowling achievement came in 1954, taking nine for 63 in the club’s famous tied County Championship match against Yorkshire CCC at Huddersfield. Bowling unchanged for 23 overs, his nine wickets included seven cleaned bowled.
Terry also very nearly won the game with the bat too. Requiring only 137 for victory, Leicestershire still needed 14 when Terry arrived at the crease at No.9. He levelled the scores with a six off the penultimate ball bowled by Johnny Wardle.
With just one to win, the batsmen met in the middle of the wicket for a chat. Terry advised number 11 Brian Boshier, a heavily built 6’ 5’ bowler suffering from sciatica to ‘get out of your trap quick’.
The last batsman obeyed instructions, in fact if anything started early and could have been ‘Mankaded’ but Terry could not hit the ball wide enough of the bowler, and was run out by a direct hit, inches short of his ground. The scores ended level for the first and only time in a County Championship game involving Leicestershire CCC.
Terry did not play cricket for a year after leaving school. Though he was encouraged to play whilst at Ellesmere Road School, he was only mildly interested and never thought he would make the grade. His Uncle Nev Smith - brother of the former Leicestershire CCC fast bowler, Haydon - kept nagging him to play, and he started playing for his team, the nomadic Leicester Veronique.
He was soon attending winter nets at the Aylestone Road ground, where he had first as a six-year-old, watched his uncle play county cricket. Here, the great George Geary passed on ‘lots of little tricks’ and he was soon on the county staff. It was then that he started to enjoy bowling faster, and the cricket game started ‘to get him’.
His first county match was against Cambridge University, a team captained by David Sheppard, and including six current or future internationals. His first wicket was Sheppard himself, though he had scored 148 at the time!
Remarkably in his first season of first-class cricket he bowled almost 850 overs and took 80 wickets, a year when he turned 21 only in the last month of the season. Old timers at Grace Road always said that Charles Palmer over-bowled him, and certainly this sort of workload for such a young player would be frowned on today.
Instead their followed two years of National Service much spent at Glen Parva. He always said that ‘all that eating and training brought me on marvellously’ (don’t forget, the country was only just emerging from food rationing). He was in the Army when summoned in 1953 to play for the Rest in the Test Trial at Edgbaston.
Terry took most wickets in the match (4: Bailey, Compton, May and Simpson) and Wisden said ‘Spencer, whose choice was unexpected, bowled extremely well at just over medium pace’. Therein perhaps lies the key, for Hutton was desperate to have fast bowlers who could compete with Australia’s Lindwall and Miller. Fred Trueman, wicketless at Edgbaston, was to be in the England test team by the end of the summer.
His best season was 1961 when he took 123 wickets, sufficient to be asked if he was available to tour India and Pakistan that winter, but not enough to gain selection.
Terry was also a fine close fielder, as testified by 377 catches in his career of 496 matches. As a late order batsman, he scored nearly 6,000 runs. A century eluded him, his top score being 90 where he and county skipper Maurice Hallam shared what was at the time a county record eighth wicket partnership of 164.
Terry announced his retirement from county cricket for the first time in 1969. This did not last long, for he was back playing one-day matches in 1970 and then all formats until 1974. Between 1975 and 1978 he looked after the Second XI.
In 1975 he was the ‘over age’ captain of the under 25 team which won the county competition, the Leicestershire CCC team including future alumni such as Nigel Briers, David Gower and Nick Cook. The captain though, stole the bowling honours, with four wickets.
Between 1979 and 1983 he was on the first-class umpires list, and then stood in Minor County and Second XI matches until 1997.
Terry said in his Benefit Brochure: ‘If I haven’t collected any honours well…there’s worse things than that. This is more than a job. I’d play cricket now if I had to pay to do so, and there’s not many people could say that about their work.’
A service of remembrance is to be held at 3pm at Countesthorpe Crematorium on Tuesday, February 18th, followed by a life celebration at Glenhills Sports and Social Club, No 2 Court Road, Glen Parva, LE2 9JB.
Our thoughts are with Terry’s wife Margaret and all of his family and friends at this extremely sad time.
Terry Spencer Benefit Brochure (1964)
Runs in the Memory (Stephen Chalke)
Wisden Cricketers Almanack (various years)
Photo credit: Neville Chadwick Photography