Obituary: Eileen Ash, world’s oldest Test cricketer

Eileen Ash (nee Eileen Wheelan), who has died at the age of 110, found fame as the oldest international cricketer alive.

Had it not been for the Second World War, which interrupted her career, Ash would have probably played more Test cricket.

In total, she played Test cricket for England seven times, making her debut in June 1937. She also played for Middlesex later on in her career.
Aged 105, she put England women’s cricket captain Heather Knight through her paces in a yoga class, which was published on YouTube in 2018.

Speaking about the experience, Knight said: “My pride, and a number of my muscle groups, are still in tatters after being put to shame by a 105-year-old.”

During the interview segment, Ash also spoke about her frustration at discriminatory media coverage towards women in the 1930s.
“It’s a wonder we didn’t give up cricket in those days with all the horrible people saying all those awful things about us but we stuck it out,” she shared.

Like some of her other colleagues, the cricketer worked full time while she pursued her sporting career.

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Ash was born in Islington, north London in 1911. Her father, who was an assistant accountant in the civil service, played cricket in the local club, and she started the sport at the age of five when she got her first cricket set.

She did not attend private school, where most cricket was played while she was growing up, and it is reported that she was almost expelled for playing it at her convent school. She did, however, captain the hockey team at Ursuline Convent School for Girls in Ilford, Essex.

Aged 18, Ash joined the Civil Service One benefit of this choice was that it allowed her to continue her cricket career. During the Second World War, she worked for MI6.

In her later life, Ash enjoyed golf, which she played until she was 98.
She is reported to have practised yoga weekly well after she turned 100.
She passed her driving test at the age of 105 and celebrated turning 106 by taking a ride in a Tiger Moth biplane.

At the age of 107, she unveiled a portrait of herself at Lord’s.
In 2017, she rang the bell at Lord’s before the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup Final and, in 2019, she was awarded a lifelong honorary MCC membership. This was significant because the club had previously not allowed women to play.

She is survived by her son Christopher, grandchildren and
great-grandchildren. Her husband Wilfrid Ash predeceased her in 2004.
When asked for her secret to a long life, she told the website Female Cricket: “Being happy and smiling a lot, red wine, and keeping fit with yoga.”

Eileen Ash, cricketer, born 13 October 1911, died 4 December 2021