Obituary

Phil Mead

MEAD, CHARLES PHILIP, who died in hospital at Bournemouth on March 26 following an operation for internal haemorrhage, aged 71, was for thirty years a mainstay of the Hampshire batting. A left-hander of the highest class, he scored in that time 55,060 runs -- a number exceeded only by Sir Jack Hobbs, F. E. Woolley and E. Hendren -- at an average of 47.87. He hit a century against every other county, totalling 153 in all, with 280 not out against Nottinghamshire at Southampton in 1921 the biggest.

Though he often appeared to the uninitiated to be a slow run-getter, he could, by clever placing of the ball, take singles which many another batsman could not have obtained. His defence was remarkably sound, he was excellent in hitting to leg and in driving on either side of the wicket, and his quick-footedness made him specially capable of dealing with slow spin bowling. He also bowled slow spinners which brought him 277 wickets, average 34.46, and by nimble slip-fielding surprising in a man of his large build he held 647 catches.

One of his mannerisms when preparing to receive the bowling was to place his bat in the block-hole, shuffle his feet towards the bat and then touch the peak of his cap. Born at Battersea, he first joined the Surrey staff, but deeming his opportunities of advancement slight, decided to throw in his lot with Hampshire. While completing two years of qualification by residence, he appeared for his new county against the 1905 Australians and afforded evidence of his capabilities by making 41 not out against A. Cotter at his fastest. He played his first County Championship match the following year and his value to the county is shown by the fact that in no fewer than 27 seasons he scored over 1,000 runs. He exceeded 3,000 twice and 2,000 nine times.

On three occasions Mead hit a century in each innings of a match: 109 and 100 not out v. Leicestershire at Leicester, 1911; 102 and 113 not out v. Leicestershire at Southampton, 1913, and 113 and 224 v. Sussex at Horsham, 1921, when he headed the English averages with an aggregate of 3,179 runs at 69.10 per innings. That last season, a disastrous one for England, Mead played in the last two Tests against Australia, putting together innings of 47 and 182 not out and helping in two drawn games after three defeats.

These performances suggested that he might with advantage have been called upon earlier to break the stranglehold on batsmen gained by that deadly pair of fast bowlers, E. A. McDonald and J. M. Gregory. That innings of 182 stood as the highest against Australia in England for seventeen years. He took part in 17 Test matches in all, involving visits to Australia in 1911 and 1928 and South Africa in 1913 and 1922. While he achieved nothing out of the ordinary in Australia, he proved a distinct success in South Africa and in the third Test at Durban in 1922-23 he showed his most dogged tactics when staying eight hours twenty minutes for 181.

Other of Mead's achievements were the scoring of three hundreds in following innings in 1921, 1922, 1923 and 1933, and record stands for Hampshire of 344 for the third wicket with G. Brown against Yorkshire at Portsmouth, 1927, 259 for the fourth wicket with the Hon. L. H. Tennyson v. Leicestershire at Portsmouth, 1921, and 270 for the seventh wicket with J. P. Parker v. Kent at Canterbury, 1926.

After leaving Hampshire, he turned out for Suffolk in the Minor Counties' Championship competition in 1938 and 1939, meeting with considerable success. For the last ten years of his life he was totally blind, but his interest in cricket endured and he often attended Hampshire matches.

© John Wisden & Co