Obituary

Arthur Wellard

WELLARD, ARTHUR WILLIAM, died peacefully in his sleep on December 31, 1980, aged 77. In a career extending from 1927 to 1950 he scored 12,575 runs with an average of 19.73 and took 1,614 wickets at 24.35 - figures which suggest a valuable county all-rounder. In fact he was more than that. Though he was a good enough opening bowler to be selected in that rôle for a Test against Australia, and once took nine for 117 in an unofficial Test in India, it is as a batsman that he will be chiefly remembered. In the course of his career he hit some 500 6s, thus accounting for a quarter of the runs he made.

But he was no mere slogger: he had a sound defence and was, for one of his type, remarkably consistent. His record was not boosted by large innings. He made only two hundreds, his highest score being 112 against Lancashire at Old Trafford in 1936. A tall, strong man, he bowled fast-medium with a vicious break-back, and a large number of his victims were clean-bowled. For variety in a second spell, or when the pitch was taking spin, he could bowl just as efficiently slow off-breaks round the wicket. He was a fine field anywhere close in. Above all, whatever he was doing he was an indefatigable trier.

Born at Southfleet, near Gravesend, he originally played for Bexley and as early as 1921 took six for 21 against Kent Club and Ground. When the sides next met in 1926, he took five for 36. But despite this, and although he headed the Bexley batting and bowling averages for three years, Kent were not interested and tradition has it that, when he asked whether there was any chance of a trial for them, he was told he had much better be a policeman. It was Arthur Haywood, late of the Kent staff and then professional at Taunton School, who suggested that he should approach Somerset and he started to qualify for them in 1927. That year and the next he showed promising form against the touring side, and in his first full season, 1929, he took 131 wickets at 21.38.

For the next few years, owing largely to elbow trouble, his bowling was disappointing, but in 1933 he did the double, a feat he repeated in 1935 and 1937. A good example of what he could do was the Hampshire match at Portsmouth in 1933. Coming in when six wickets were down for 38, he made 77 out of 94, took seven for 43, made 60 in the second innings and then took three more wickets for 66. In 1936 he hit Armstrong of Derbyshire, a slow left-armer, for five 6s off consecutive balls: he had already taken nine wickets in the match and his 86 in 62 minutes brought his side a one-wicket victory. In 1938 he again hit five consecutive 6s, this time off Frank Woolley, being dropped just in front of the screen off the sixth ball. On this occasion his scores were 57 and 37 and he took thirteen for 115: so again he had much to do with his side's victory. These feats, at that time unparalleled, were both performed on the small ground at Wells.

In 1937 he played in the Test at Old Trafford against New Zealand without any particular success and in 1938 was in the side against Australia at Lord's. On this occasion he certainly bowled well and in the second innings made 38 vital runs, including a pulled drive for 6 off McCabe on to the grandstand balcony. When he joined Compton at 142 for seven, an Australian victory was possible: when he was out at 216 for eight, the match was safe. This was his last Test, but he was due to go to India in the winter of 1939-40 had war not intervened. He had already been a member of Lord Tennyson's unofficial side there in 1937-38 and had had a successful tour. After the War he continued for another four seasons to be a valuable member of the Somerset side, finally dropping out in 1950.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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