Obituary, 2005

Jack Flavell

FLAVELL, JOHN ALFRED, died suddenly on February 25, 2004, aged 74. Jack Flavell was a masterful fast bowler in an era when England had an excess of them. He won only four Test caps - all against Australia - but formed, with Len Coldwell, one of the most successful of all county opening attacks. Together, they were largely responsible for bowling Worcestershire to the Championship in 1964 and 1965.

Flavell was a Staffordshire man who hardly played cricket until he was a teenager; he seemed more likely to make a career in football. But while he was playing full-back for Walsall, after his National Service, his fast bowling in the Birmingham League began to attract more attention. Worcestershire signed him in 1949. At the time he was fast and often furious: red hair, red face and, at regular intervals, red mist - which extended to throwing the cards out of the coach window when he got cross during games of whist. He was known in the dressingroom as "Bottle" (as in bluebottle) because he could never sit quietly. And for his first six years in county cricket he was a bowler of intermittent brilliance and frequent back injuries.

By 1957, however, he had succeeded Reg Perks as the county's main strike bowler, and cut down his run. With a strong arm action, natural out-swing and increasing accuracy, he became one of the most consistent and lethal bowlers in the country, expecting to bowl around 1,000 overs a season and take 100 wickets. "He attacked the stumps, and he was quicker than he looked," said wicket-keeper Roy Booth, who had a share in many of Flavell's 1,529 wickets. By 1961 the inswing bowler Coldwell had emerged as his regular partner and Worcestershire had become contenders for the Championship. Flavell was picked for the last two Tests, being preferred to Fred Trueman at The Oval, and performed respectably without justifying his elevation. Over the next two seasons, he had Achilles tendon trouble while Coldwell got into the Test team instead. But by 1964 they were fully back in harness, and Flavell led the way to Worcestershire's first title, taking 101 Championship wickets even though he missed nine games, partly through injury and partly due to selection for two more Tests. His England career ended abruptly, however, after a disaster at Headingley when Ted Dexter took the new ball with England in control, and Trueman and Flavell were carted all round Leeds by Peter Burge, who led Australia to victory and the Ashes. Flavell returned to Worcester and in 1965, aged 36, had his most triumphant season, playing in every Championship match for the first time and collecting 142 wickets.

He retired two years later, ran a restaurant, and then the Panorama Hotel in Barmouth, on the west Welsh coast, where he became a pillar of the local garden and golf clubs. He also maintained his friendship with his old partner, Coldwell. At Worcester, he had been the senior man ("I'm bowling this end. Which end do you want, Len?") but they remained staunch buddies - the families would take holidays together - until Coldwell's death in 1996. Flavell was much saddened by this, and left bereft by the death of his only child, Cindy, who had a heart attack in her early thirties.

© John Wisden & Co