FORMER Suffolk opening batsman Paul Rice has passed away at the age of 64.

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Rice, who played his club cricket for Lowestoft Town for many years, made his debut in Suffolk’s Minor Counties Championship-winning season of 1979.

The highlight of his career came in a first round Gillette Cup tie at Buckinghamshire in June of the same season when he won the man-of-the-match award.

Suffolk bowled Bucks out for just 133 at High Wycombe, and Rice top-scored with 45 as Suffolk won by two wickets.

Bob Cunnell, Suffolk’s captain at the time, said: “He was a solid and reliable left-handed opening batsman, who was a quiet person and kept himself to himself.

“But he was a good foil for his opening partner Tony Warrington, who was more flamboyant with his strokeplay.

“That innings in the Gillette Cup was his greatest claim to fame. Bucks had a strong bowling attack and thought they would bowl first, but we won the toss and put them in.

“We bowled them out for a low score and Paul won the man-of-the-match award for his innings.”

In the next round Suffolk came within a whisker of a shock victory over first-class county Sussex at Hove.

Rice was bowled by future Pakistan skipper Imran Khan for seven as Sussex went on to win by just two wickets.

He made a total of 27 appearances in the Minor Counties Championship for Suffolk between 1979 and 1982. Rice scored a total of 1,001 runs at an average of 20.02, with a highest score of 78.

He subsequently captained the Lowestoft side which won the Norfolk Alliance and Carter Cup in the early 1980s.

Rice went on to make five appearances for Norfolk in the Minor Counties Championship in 1985.

He then gave up cricket in favour of cycling, but was tempted back into the sport by Martin Pearse to play for Norfolk Over-50s and Over-60s, with the pair enjoying a successful partnership at the top of the order.

They went on to play together for England Over-60s, with Rice representing his country on three occasions, averaging 46.50 with the bat.

Rice, who was born in Exeter, is survived by wife Janet and two sons, Chris and John.

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