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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 September, 2003, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Hyams 83 not out and going strong
By Scott Heinrich

Jack Hyams
Hyams scored his first century in 1934, the year Sir Don Bradman hit 304 against England at Headingley

It is a long time since batsman Jack Hyams averaged his age, but at 83 it is unfair to expect too much.

Hyams is a legend of the English game, a grass-roots stalwart who has played with and against the world's best. And he has no intention of quitting.

Last Sunday at Hove, Hyams played for the Barmy Army - "they made me honorary president because of my age" - in an exhibition match against a side that included England batsman Mark Butcher.

Batting at six, Hyams was unbeaten at the end of the innings having seen off an attack of Sussex colts a quarter of his age.

"We were 120-2 and then we lost six for nothing, but I carried my bat," Hyams, who sounds not a day over 50, told the BBC Sport Website.

"I stayed in there and hit a few fours but I've no idea how many I made."

Jack Hyams
Runs: 130,000 (at least)
Highest score: 199 (in '44)
Centuries: 175 (approx)
Hat-tricks: One (first three balls v South England XI in '72)
Does: Walk his three dachsunds (every day)
Does not: Wear helmets (ever)
Likes: One-day cricket
Does not like: The slide save

It would be easy to be complacent about an extra "30-odd" runs when you have scored an estimated 130,000 in a career spanning seven decades.

Hyams never played first-class cricket - he knocked back Surrey on the advice of his father - but has played for more than 50 clubs and is presently at Billericay, where this season he averages 46.

Hyams' opponents over the years reads like a who's who of the game: Jack Hobbs, Jim Laker, Clive Lloyd, Fred Trueman, Neil Hawke, Tony Lock, Wes Hall, Alec Bedser, Denis Compton, Pat Pocock, Fred Titmus, Basil D'Oliveira.

He rates Caribbean legend Hall as the fastest he has faced, not that he was moved to wear a helmet.

"Fast bowlers have never worried me, I've always liked them," he claims.

"I played at The Oval when I was 68 against a Clive Lloyd XI and they were a little bit annoyed when I walked out without a helmet.

Reg Harris, 92 on 31 September, keeps wicket for Bugbrooke cricket club.
"He stands up to most bowlers and gets some remarkable stumpings," says club president Peter White.

"I tried one on once and didn't like it one bit."

Hyams has seen cricket change drastically from the days of Sir Don Bradman to the current era of 50-over and even 20-over matches.

He remembers the old days with great fondness but is also an avid follower of contemporary cricket.

"I have great memories of watching players like Bradman and the 1948 Australians, who in my view were the best side ever," Hyams says.

"But Test cricket seems to be dying and often on days three and four the grounds are half empty.

Jack Hyams
I'll keep playing as long as they keep asking me to

"I like one-day cricket a lot and this Twenty20 thing that has started seems to pull in the crowds.

"I think in time it will all be all one-day cricket. An American friend once asked me how I can watch cricket for five days for a draw.

"He's right. It's like paying to watch a film and leaving half way through. How many people can take four days off from work to go and see a county game?"

After his Hove exertions, Hyams was preparing to take the Barmy Army XI on an island-hopping tour to play cricket in Ibiza and Majorca.

It's all in a summer's work for the retired pet shop owner from Cockfosters, who with his boundless reserves of energy is the envy of octogenarians the world over.

"I think my secret is in the genes, but to be honest somebody up there must like me.

"I've got a good wife who looks after my diet and I don't drink much and I don't smoke, well I gave up when I was 70 but I smoked 60 a day up until then.

"I suppose I'm just lucky."

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