Arthur William Wellard
April 08, 1902, Southfleet, Kent
December 31, 1980, Eastbourne, Sussex, (aged 78y 267d)
Right hand Bat
Right arm Fast medium
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.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
In an age when cricket seems to be receding from school activities, it may be encouraging to reflect that Arthur Wellard, one of the most exciting 'natural' players, was similarly deprived and yet, in his late teens, found himself a place in a local club side in Kent and was playing county cricket at 25 - if not for the county of his birth.
Arthur William Wellard, who died in his sleep early on New Year's Eve at the age of 78, will always be identified with Somerset, whom he represented from 1927 to 1950. A tall, loose-limbed fast-medium bowler with a Tom Richardson breakback and occasional swing, he would also bowl medium-pace off-breaks. Yet it was his muscular batting which put him in the record books. At first something of a rustic hitter, he worked on his batting until he could - reluctantly - defend as well as hit with astonishing power. His driving was scientific, not 'blind', and epitomised the theory that if a ball was smitten hard and high enough, no fieldsman on earth could stop it. His sixes flowed like ack-ack fire - 500 of them - more than anyone else since, in 1910, clearance of the boundary has spelt six runs. No-one has been able to assess exactly how many balls Wellard lost.
He alone features twice in Wisden's list headed Most Runs Scored off One Over. In 1936, on the small Wells ground, he thumped five sixes off an over from Derbyshire slow left-arm bowler 'Tosser' Armstrong. Two years later, on the same ground, while England completed their demolition of Australia by an innings and
579 runs at The Oval, Wellard hit five sixes and a single off an over by Kent's Frank Woolley, the single coming from a missed catch to Bryan Valentine on the boundary. Wellard sealed this match with 13 wickets for 115.
In his first full season with Somerset he took 125 Championship wickets, 69 of them bowled, his pairing in the attack with the wily slow left-armer 'Farmer' White proving a most attractive sight for county spectators. He performed his only first-class hat-trick that year too, at Leicester, where his 'pair' would have triggered the same broad smile of resignation that was to touch his team-mates hundreds of times in the years ahead as catches went down off his own bowling. Ron Roberts wrote of him that fielders and Test selectors alike continually let him down.
Indeed, he played only twice for England - in 1937 at Manchester, when he took four good New Zealand wickets for 81 in the first innings, and a year later at Lord's, when he took the wickets of Hassett, Badcock and Fingleton, and helped the young Compton in an important eighth-wicket stand of 74 on the last day, making 38 with some awkward defence and typical attack, including a six off McCabe into the grandstand.
He was one of the unfortunates chosen in 1939 for the aborted tour of India, though he had seen that country with Tennyson's side in 1937-38, when his six-hitting prowess made him one of the chief drawcards.
During a wartime match at Hayes he reached fifty in eight minutes. Then came the serious business of service in North Africa and Italy, and it remained to be seen how much big cricket was left in Arthur Wellard when hostilities ceased. He was 43, but still fit.
Somerset gave him - or better expressed, he gave them - four more full seasons, helping them to fourth place in 1946 with 106 wickets. In the following three seasons he took 91, 50 and 84, but at progressively and understandably higher cost. In 1950 he took a testimonial, and his remaining cricket was played in the Birmingham League and at club level. Settling in Sutton, Surrey, he coached for a number of years at the Gover School.
A courageous fieldsman close to the bat, he took 375 catches; his run aggregate was 12,515, average 19.73, with two centuries; and he took 1614 wickets at 24.35, his best analysis being 8 for 52 against Worcestershire at Bath in 1947, when his match figures were 15 for 101. Three times he did the double, six times he played for the Players against the Gentlemen (with several successes), and in 1936 he was one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year. In his younger days this smiling giant played senior league football as a full-back and goalkeeper.
David Foot classified him as well as anybody when he wrote that Arthur Wellard was the England player and the blacksmith village cricketer at the same time.
David Frith, Wisden Cricket Monthly
Batting & Fielding