Published: 09:44, 11 November 2020
| Updated: 13:34, 11 November 2020
Former Kent cricketer Graham Cowdrey has passed away at the age of 56 after a short illness.
A right-handed batsman, Graham scored over 14,000 runs in Kent colours and was a regular of the county side during the 1980s and 1990s - spending 14 years with Kent.
Graham's close friend and 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.”
Graham was awarded Kent County Cap number 169 in the summer of 1988, after establishing himself in Kent's middle-order. Of his 21 centuries in a Kent shirt, Graham's top score of 147 came against Gloucestershire in the 1992 County Championship, at the apex of a two-year run of form, that saw him average over 37 with the bat, with Graham helping Kent to finish as runners-up in the Championship that season.
In 1995 he averaged 53.90, scoring two centuries and scoring the highest number of runs for the county, as Kent lifted the Sunday League trophy and were finalists in the Benson & Hedges Cup.
Graham also held the Kent record for any first-class batting partnership for 22 years, after his fourth wicket stand of 368 with Aravinda de Silva against Derbyshire in 1995, until it was broken by Sean Dickson and Joe Denly in 2017. It remains the highest fourth-wicket partnership in the club's history.
After being awarded a benefit year in 1997, Cowdrey retired from the game in 1998. His love for cricket extended beyond his playing career and following his retirement, he continued to work within the sport, most recently as a Cricket Liaison Officer for the ECB.
He was the son of former Kent and England captain Colin Cowdrey and brother of Chris, who also played for Kent and England.
Writing on Twitter, Chris said: "A sad day losing my brother Graham. There will be one short at every Van Morrison concert from now on! At least he died peacefully.
Nephew Fabian, who played at Kent for five years before leaving in 2017, said: "I don’t have the words to express our sadness. A huge loss to the family that can never be replaced. RIP Uncle Graham."
Current Kent head coach Matt Walker, a former team-mate, wrote: "Such sad news and my thoughts are with all the Cowdrey family today. He was such fun to be with, cared for others around him and was a great teammate! I will miss him hugely."
Former Kent captain David Fulton added: "This is such terribly sad news. Terrific teammate, hilarious company, wonderful team man. Gone far too soon. Thoughts with all the family."
Comedian Rory Bremner described Graham as his best friend and paid an emotional tribute online.
"So sad to lose my best friend (and best man) Graham Cowdrey yesterday," he wrote. "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. "
The county said: "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."
"The club would like to express its deepest sympathies to Graham's family and friends at this difficult time, especially his children, Michael, Grace and Alexander."