OBITUARY: Suffolk cricket legend Cyril Perkins
Having been released by Northants in 1937, Cyril Perkins is unlikely to have ever envisaged what was to follow.
An approach from Minor Counties team Suffolk arguably changed his life and the bowler, who endured a tough time playing for his home county – during a spell in which he failed to be on the winning team in 56 games – became a legend.
Thirty years later, Cyril – who died at the age of 102 yesterday – was hanging his boots up for the last time, having taken an incredible 779 wickets for the county – a record he still holds to this day and which is unlikely to ever be beaten with the retired Colin Rutterford next on 431.
The Second World War saw Cyril’s Suffolk career halted and he served with the Royal Artillery corps, spending time at the end of the war in Cairo.
On his return, he played one final First-Class game for the Minor Counties team – the game ending in defeat – before resuming his career, juggling his playing duties with his job at Ipswich School where he worked as a coach and groundsman between 1946 and 1977.
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“He had this incredible control: he could just drop the ball on a handkerchief,” said Daily Telegraph reporter Simon Parry-Crook.
Indeed it was that skill that once saw him take 10 wickets in an innings, when playing against Hertfordshire in 1960.
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“I remember that it had rained overnight and there was a wet patch,” Cyril said of the feat.
“I was able to concentrate on pitching the ball on that, and I received a lot of help from the fielders, who took some great catches.”
Suffolk County Cricket Association chairman Norman Atkins paid tribute to Cyril, saying: “He was someone who everyone looked up to and respected, and was a real gentleman, on and off the field.
“If anybody wanted a definition of ‘The Spirit of Cricket’ it is Cyril Perkins.”
A former pupil of Mr Perkins, who also played for the Ipswich Greyhounds and was a regular at Suffolk Cricket week, was the current chairman of Ipswich School governors, Karl Daniels, 77.
“Cyril coached me from the age of 10 until I left school,” said Mr Daniels, who holds the school’s bowling record of nine for 36 in a game at Greshams.
“He was a man who was universally respected and loved by everyone who came into contact with him.
“He was Suffolk’s best-ever bowler and as well as being an excellent cricket coach, he was coveted by everyone, teaching his pupils to love the game and how it should be played.
“There will have been boys who may not have gone on to be outstanding cricketers but who learnt a lot about the game by coming into contact with Cyril.”
Mr Daniels kept in touch with Cyril and organised a special 90th birthday celebration for him at the school and also watched the legend open the extended and refurbished school pavilion in 2000.
“He was always immaculately turned out and graceful and always had a lovely smile,” he remembers.
“He was released by Northants but you could argue that he went on to have a better career in Minor Counties.
“He played in a star-studded Suffolk team and I was privileged to watch him play alongside the likes of Brian Bell, Herbert Hargreaves, Wally Duckham, Martin Corke and David Henley-Welch.”