Wisden Obituary

Alan Moss

MOSS, ALAN EDWARD, died on March 12, aged 88. Alan Moss notched up over half a century of service to Middlesex, filling so many roles it became easier to list the positions he had not held. "Others may have scored more runs or taken more wickets for Middlesex, but few, if any, have given more time and thought to the club," said Angus Fraser, their managing director of cricket.

But it was as a tall, wholehearted seamer, charging in from the Pavilion End, that a generation of supporters remember him. Moss's misfortune was to play in a golden age of English fast bowlers: but for Fred Trueman, Brian Statham, Frank Tyson and Peter Loader, he would almost certainly have appeared in more than nine Tests.

A policeman's son from Tottenham, Moss came late to cricket. At 16, he joined the north London nomadic club West Willesden Ramblers, who glimpsed enough potential to put him forward for the London Colts scheme run by Evening News journalist E.M.Wellings (Brian Taylor, a future Essex wicketkeeper, also emerged from that year's intake).

At Alf Gover's indoor school, Moss was taught the value of accuracy to complement his natural pace. He was an apprentice carpenter in Wembley, but a successful outing at Lord's brought a career change. "I was approached by two or three counties, and I had to decide whether I was going to play cricket or carry on with carpentry," he said. "Thank God I made the right decision."

He made his debut against Lancashire at Lord's in June 1950 - Cyril Washbrook was a notable first victim - but played just four times that season, and had begun national service by the start of the next. When Middlesex enquired about his availability, he told them he had saved up 40 days' leave. In 19 first-class matches, he took 55 wickets at 26, but Lord's had its frustrations. "It was difficult because you were on your own," he told the writer John Stern in 2013. "The nets were in the evenings, and you would bowl to the members and to amateur players like Freddie Brown and Norman Yardley, who worked in the City. There was the Honourable Luke White, who had played in one of the Victory Tests - I broke his jaw in the nets. That got me in trouble."

After turning professional at the end of his military service, he took 95 wickets at 23 in his first full season, in 1952. Well built and not easily discouraged, he gave Middlesex a cutting edge. "He was not as fast as Fred, Brian or Frank," said his team-mate Peter Parfitt. "But he was about the same pace as Peter Loader, and certainly quicker than Ken Preston of Essex or Fred Ridgway of Kent."

The Lord's slope discombobulated some fast bowlers, but Moss, a keen learner, used his classical action and high arm to harness it to his advantage. "He swung the ball in, so bowling from the Pavilion End he used the slope and the ridge,"said Parfitt.

In another 90-wicket summer in 1953, his reputation spread beyond the capital. With Trueman, Statham and Trevor Bailey, he was chosen to tour the Caribbean, Len Hutton's first overseas assignment as captain. In a warm-up game against Combined Parishes at Spanish Town, Jamaica, Moss calmed the local frenzy about George Headley's possible Test recall by dismissing him twice in three balls.

He was part of a four-pronged pace attack in the First Test at Sabina Park, where Everton Weekes was his maiden Test wicket, but he took only one more in a heavy England defeat, and sat out the rest of the series. He still finished second in the tour averages, with 18 wickets at 27, his enthusiasm and work ethic impressing Hutton.

A prolific start to the 1956 season earned him a call-up for the First Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, but he suffered a pelvic injury in the field, and was out for two months. Some thought he never quite regained his pace but, after returning in 1957, he took more than 100 wickets in four of the next five seasons (and 96 in the other). "Mossy would have 30 wickets by the end of May, and Fred Titmus would not be in double figures," said Parfitt. "But by the time we got to August, Fred would charge ahead."

Moss played in three Tests against India in 1959, and two more on a second trip to the Caribbean that winter. Peter May's tour report praised his qualities as a team man, but noted: "Lost a great deal of pace." Yet 1960 proved his most productive summer - 136 wickets at 13 - and he made a final pair of Test appearances, against South Africa, taking four for 35 in the first innings at Lord's.

Twice that season he established career-best figures: at Neath in June, he took eight for 37 against Glamorgan, bettered six weeks later by eight for 31 against Northamptonshire at Kettering.

In 1962, Moss took over as captain when Ian Bedford was injured. Although his own form suffered, he led the side well and was thought likely to be appointed permanently. But the Middlesex committee opted for an amateur, the former Oxford University captain Colin Drybrough. The class divide remained strong. "We played at The Oval when J. J. Warr was captain and I was in the pros' dressing-room," said Moss. "I was the senior pro, and JJ said to me: 'There's no room in there, come on in with us.' So I took my bags in and put them down. Then Peter May walked in, took him aside and said: 'I'm sorry, JJ, Mossy can't stay in here.'"

He retired from county cricket in 1963 with 1,088 wickets for Middlesex, eighth on their all-time list, at a shade under 20. He went into the printing industry, eventually becoming managing director of the British Printing and Communications Corporation. The company was taken over by Robert Maxwell; when Moss joined a long list of sacked executives, he drove to Maxwell's home in Oxford to confront him. The meeting was fruitless, but he went on to establish his own printing company.

At Middlesex, he was treasurer between 1984 and 1995, chairman from 1996 to 1999, and president from 2003 to 2005. He sat on the committee in two spells between1976 and 2010, and was chairman of the Middlesex Cricket Board from 1996 to 2010. As treasurer, he was involved in a furious dressing-room row over pay with Phil Edmonds. "It was like watching two huge stags rutting," said Fraser.

He took a keen interest in all the club's fast bowlers, sharing his experience with Fraser and, later, Steven Finn. "He was always willing to help, to come and watch you bowl in practice and to give advice," Fraser recalled. He also had views on dealing with the physical stress of the job. "If your back's sore, go and kick a door - that will take the pain away."

© John Wisden & Co.