August 6, 2002

Marlborough identity Arthur Cresswell dies

Former Wellington and Central Districts player Arthur Cresswell died in Blenheim on Saturday, four days short of his 85th birthday.

Few people showed the devotion, or ingenuity, Cresswell displayed in trying to advance his cricket career.

Cresswell had the disadvantage, in cricket terms, of living in Blenheim on the north eastern point of New Zealand's South Island.

While a regular inter-island ferry service now links his part of the country with Wellington on the North Island, the service wasn't quite as good in the immediate post-World War Two years.

And there was no Central Districts team in those days. Players with first-class aspirations had to be seen in one of the four main centres, and Wellington was supposed to cater for Marlborough players of ability.

Cresswell wasn't satisfied with relying on performing in a one-off Town v Country game to impress the selectors.

He decided to play club cricket in Wellington. He commuted every weekend from Blenheim to Wellington - by Tiger Moth aeroplane!

It was an example of dedication beyond belief, especially to anyone who knows the rigours of attempting to land in any sort of plane in Wellington's notorious winds.

In 1948/49, his big goal was to gain selection in the team to tour Britain, and in the three Plunket Shield matches he played, his maiden first-class games, he topped both the wicket aggregate and averages with his 19 wickets at 14.26. He added three more wickets in the final trial match. Yet it was his brother Fen Cresswell who was plucked from nowhere to make the tour.

Fen had played with Arthur in two of three trial matches, the South Island Major Associations v South Island XI, North Minor Associations v South Minor Associations and New Zealand v The Rest. In those games Fen took 18 wickets at a cost of 15.11.

The New Zealand Cricket Almanack made Arthur Cresswell its bowler of the year in 1949, the same year in which he received New Zealand's premier bowling trophy, the Winsor Cup.

"Standing six feet in height, of splendid physique and extremely fit, Arthur Cresswell looks every inch the part of a fast bowler. Fast-medium right hand, Cresswell is able to obtain swerve to his deliveries and makes the ball fly off the pitch. Dangerous with the new ball, he is a natural bowler, allying good length with direction, and making the batsmen play every ball by bowling at the wickets all the time," the Almanack recorded.

He was first selected for Marlborough as an 18-year-old in 1935 from his Wairau Club, the club he had a long association with in Blenheim.

During war service he was a leading member of the New Zealand Army XI, a notable side captained by Jack Lamason and including players like Bert Sutcliffe, Don Taylor, Verdun Scott, Martin Donnelly and Eric Tindill.

Lamason was the first to suggest to Cresswell that he should play in a major centre after the war. However, he returned to Blenheim and played for Marlborough. But in a Newman Shield match against Nelson in 1948, he had match figures of six for 37 and five for 77, and a trio of cricket notables, Jack Newman, Herb McGirr and Edgar Neale impressed on him that he should look to play in a major centre.

As a result, members of the Wairau Club raised the finance to allow him to fly across Cook Strait each week to play for the Wellington club.

His chances of playing for Wellington province were greatly assisted by his performance in the Wellington v Hutt Valley trial match in which he took five for 32, including a hat-trick, of which the last victim was the up and coming John Reid.

After his first season with Wellington, he became a foundation player in the first Central Districts side of 1950/51 playing five games for the side and taking 10 more first-class wickets.

He continued to be involved in cricket in his region and was a patron of the Marlborough Cricket Association.