Former Kent batsman Graham Cowdrey dies aged 56

Former Kent batsman Graham Cowdrey has died at the age of 56 after a short illness.

The son of one of England’s most famous batsmen and captains Colin Cowdrey, Graham Cowdrey spent 14 years at Kent, making 450 appearances, many of them alongside his brother and former captain Chris.

During his time at Kent, Cowdrey, a right-handed middle-order batsman, scored over 14,000 runs, including 21 centuries, with his top score 147 against Gloucestershire in the 1992 County Championship.

Paying tribute, his former county said they were “devastated” by the death of their “much-loved former player”, describing him as “a top county professional from a remarkable Kent family, with an infectious love for the game”.

Cowdrey helped Kent finish runners-up in the 1992 County Championship, while in 1995, with his game suiting the emergence of the one-day format, he averaged 53.90, scoring two centuries, as Kent lifted the AXA Equity & Law League trophy and were finalists in the Benson and Hedges Cup.

Kent added in a statement: “More than his facts and figures, Graham will be remembered for the way he played the game: his vibrant personality at the wicket or in the field, with his sense of fun as clear as his competitive passion.”

He retired from cricket in 1998 but continued to work in the sport, including as a cricket liason officer for the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Former team-mate Matthew Fleming said: “I am numb with shock and sadness that the brilliant, generous, funny and complex friend who lit up so many cricket grounds, on and off the pitch, has slipped away.

“‘Van’ as he was universally known because of his love of all things Van Morrison, was an instinctive cricketer, a game changer, who won matches with his prowess as a batsman and a fielder.

“However, it was his deep love of cricket and Kent, his commitment as a team-mate, his integrity and his wicked sense of humour, his loyalty as a friend and the ‘twinkle in his eye’ that shaped almost everything he did that we will also remember with the greatest possible affection.”

Comedian Rory Bremner also paid tribute to Cowdrey, saying on Twitter: “So sad to lose my best friend (and best man) Graham Cowdrey yesterday. He made me laugh more than anyone else. So funny, kind and generous. Great batsman too. Joins dad in the Pavilion all too soon. Play a Van song for him today.”