Foxes Flashback - Ken Higgs
Ken Higgs (14th January 1937)
Ken Higgs came to Leicestershire from ‘retirement’ which he was spending running a B&B in Blackpool. Given the choice, I guess most of us would have made the same decision. He was therefore 35 when he made his debut for Leicestershire in 1972.
His earlier retirement in 1969 might have been considered a bit premature, as the last of his 15 test matches was only in 1968. He had just spent two very successful seasons with the Lancashire League club Rishton, so rightly felt he could return to county cricket.
Though his primary role was as a very accurate fast-medium bowler, who took over 1,500 first-class wickets, he will also be remembered as a stubborn left-handed batsman who shared in two record partnerships.
England were clawing their way back into the match when in the Oval test of 1966, he scored 63 and shared a 10th wicket partnership of 128 with fellow fast bowler John Snow. It was then the second highest last wicket partnership for England, though Joe Root and Jimmy Anderson have now pushed it into third place. What was remarkable about Ken and John’s partnership, is that both were tailenders. Whilst the West Indies were three up in the series, Ken and John’s partnership ensured a sizeable first innings lead, and an innings victory.
In 1977, he shared in another record-breaking last wicket partnership. This time for Leicestershire with Ray Illingworth of 228. When Ken strode to the wicket the score was 45 for 9. They were together for 4 and a quarter hours, from before lunch until after tea. Sadly, few were there to watch this as the ‘Abbey Park Show’ was the main attraction that Bank Holiday Monday. They were only 7 short of the English County Championship last wicket record, and Ken was on 98 when he ran himself out, it seemed as much down to tiredness as anything else.
For Leicestershire he took a total of 679 wickets in first-class and one day matches. A one-day highlight was his hat-trick in the Benson and Hedges Final against Surrey in 1974, but he consistently took around 50 first-class wickets a season and his accuracy was invaluable in the one-day game. For England, his 24 wickets in the 1966 test series against the West Indies held the England attack together in the face of that powerful batting side.
He captained the Club for one season in 1979, but at 42 was reaching the end of his first-class playing career. He moved to the twin roles (common in that era) of 2nd team captain and coach; he was still operating in this position in 1986, when, because of injuries he was called up by the 1st team. He proceeded to bowl immaculately and take 5 wickets for 22 runs against Yorkshire and a 7 wicket win for the county resulted.
During the winter he ran the coaching at Grace Road which in those days took place in the dining room. He quietly encouraged his charges with cries of ‘Rock On, Tommy’ and was concerned lest his pinpoint accurate and by this stage, quite gentle bowling would damage his paying customers.