Charlie Oakes 1912–2007

Charlie Oakes 1912–2007
Sussex to the last – Horsham born, he hit a six into his own garden, by David Bennett

Photograph: JA Hampton/ Getty Images

Charlie Oakes made his Sussex debut in 1935. Like his younger brother Jack, who played for the county between 1937 and 1951, Oakes was Sussex through and through. He was born in a cottage at the edge of the Horsham ground where his father, Alfred, was groundsman for 47 years.

When Oakes retired in 1954 after 285 first-class matches for Sussex, he had 10,728 runs for the county and took 449 wickets with his leg-breaks. A highlight for him was a century against Surrey back at Horsham when one of his six sixes landed in his back garden. With the ball, his finest moment was taking 5 for 10 in 8.1 overs against a strong Yorkshire side at Eastbourne in 1946.

In a conversation a few months before his 80th birthday, Oakes still savoured the moment when Don Bradman patted him on the back and praised his innings of 22 (the top score) in a very low Sussex total against the Australians at Hove in 1948. Oakes was then enjoying the best period of his career – six years of which had been lost to the Second World War. A family bereavement forced Oakes to miss an important end-of-season match at Hastings when he was being talked of in some quarters as a possible for the MCC tour of South Africa in 1948-49.

After his retirement he coached at Ayr School in Scotland where one of his protégés was the future England captain Mike Denness. For 25 years after that Oakes was coach at another school, Stowe. He took up golf aged 50 and was soon playing off a 10 handicap. On one occasion his regular Sunday-morning round was interrupted when Stowe’s headmaster dispatched one of his staff to find Oakes for a reunion with his former county captain, David Sheppard, who had just been preaching in the school chapel.

Later in life Oakes turned to bowls and reached county level for Buckinghamshire, once playing against Sussex in Brighton. Although blind in his latter years, he still avidly followed Sussex’s performances by listening to the radio.

David Bennett Charles Oakes was born August 10, 1912 and died December 19, 2007, aged 95.

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