David Stanley Steele
Now, Brown Edge has had its share of sports people on the village including several professional footballers but none can boast the success David Steele. His achievements include “The 1975 BBC Sports Personality Of The Year” award and “Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1976”! David was born at Bradley and moved to Brown Edge with his family as a small boy and lived down High Lane just past The Sytch. His family on his mothers side was the Crump family who were local cricketers and Brian Crump his cousin, also represented England.
You might think that David was destined to be a cricketer but in fact football was his preferred sport as a teenager (Ken Bedson remembers him heading the ball confidently and hard despite the fact that he played in his glasses) whereas John, his younger brother, (who is still a first class umpire after a superb career with Leicester and Glamorgan) was seen as the cricketer. As a young boy I can remember David’s dad bowling to them both at the side of their house encouraging them to develop the correct batting technique. David eventually found himself at Northamptonshire Cricket Club in 1963 playing first class cricket. In the next 20 years he amassed over 22,000 runs including 30 centuries and took 623 wickets and 546 catches.
In 1975 Thompson and Lillee were the fastest bowlers in the world (both could bowl at over 100 mph) and were knocking our batsmen about. The bouncer was very much the flavour of the day for these talented bowlers. Boycott was taking time off test duty, some people said it was because he was scared! Who should the selectors call up for test duty against Australia but our very own D.S.Steele.
July 31 1975 2nd test at Lords
Barry Wood and John Ederich opened for England then as usual – bash – Wood out bowled Lillie for 6 – a silence of despair descended upon Lords. Up steps the Brown Edge boy David Stanley Steel well almost – we all waited and waited. He got lost getting on to the pitch and found himself in the toilets and was nearly the first batsmen to ever be timed out. He ambled sheepishly onto the pitch – grey hair and glasses – looking about 60 instead of his 33 years.
In an attempt to distract him he was greeted by Jeff Thompson who shouted out “Who is this then, Father expletive Christmas” somebody else said “Bloody hell they are bringing out the dead now”! Rodney Marsh the Aussie Wicketkeeper supposedly said “hell it looks like your grandfather Thommo”
Steele retorts to this Sledging by slowly taking his time bending over to take his mark and looking at Rodney Marsh said “Take a good look at this arse of mine, you’ll see plenty of it this summer”
First ball down met a beautiful straight bat to loud cheers from the crowd. You might have thought we had won the ashes. Lillie wasted no time – now the bouncer. 105 mph straight at his head. Steele never wore a helmet Four runs. Explosion of noise. And hands on hips from Lillee another bouncer – another four.
Anyway a maiden 50
Next test a pair of hundreds and headlines “bank clerk that went to war”.
I cant remember if it was that test or a subsequent one but I listened to the commentary on a coach being cleaned out on the front of our garage with David’s dad and his dog and all my uncles. All as he said was “thatl do lad!”
The reference about David’s grey hair was bounced back the next day when the news headlines read “Man of Steel Tames The Aussie’s”
After the Ashes test came the West Indies tour, where the bowlers were almost as quick and knew how to intimidate the batsmen. David just treated them in the same way. Bouncers were hooked to the boundary and length balls met with the straight bat.
David’s Test Batting Average is 42 which ranks among the top ten in the post war era, in a time when most recognised batsmen failed. He was England’s top scorer on six occasions.
He was known as “Crime” to his fellow cricketers, because crime never pays! Obviously a reference to his astute financial talents.
One of his more astute business deals was to get sponsored by a butcher. A chop for every run! I think he ended up with over 100 chops in his benefit year!
To represent your country is a fantastic achievement, but to represent it in such a positive way is an inspiration to us all.