William Edward Merritt
August 18, 1908, Sumner, Christchurch, Canterbury
June 09, 1977, Christchurch, Canterbury, (aged 68y 295d)
Right hand Bat
One of the four remaining members of the first New Zealand team to tour England, in 1927, W. E. Merritt, died in Christchurch on June 9. He was 68. The three survivors- like Merritt, Canterbury men - are M. L. Page, C. J. Oliver (now living in Australia) and W. H. Cunningham.
Billy Merritt, only 18, had played one Plunket Shield match for Canterbury when he was selected to play for New Zealand against a Melbourne CC side on tour in New Zealand in the summer of 1926-27. He took 7 for 88 in the first innings with his leg-break and googly bowling and went to England, there to enjoy great success. In 25 first-class matches he took 107 wickets. On New Zealand's second tour, he took 99 wickets, and would almost certainly have had a hundred again, had it not been reported that he had already reached that mark. On the last day of the tour, with New Zealand in the field, he was not given any bowling.
Merritt stayed in England to play league cricket in Lancashire, and Rugby League for Wigan and Halifax. He had been a wing three-quarter in the Canterbury team. He was a very successful allrounder for Rishton, and came back to New Zealand for one more season, in 1935-36. In it, he had 31 wickets in the three Plunket Shield matches, then a record. His tally of 385 wickets in New Zealand cricket was a record for some time. He played 41 matches for Northamptonshire between 1938 and 1946, capturing 151 wickets at 26, and averaged 19.75 with the bat, highest score 87.
Merritt was a steadily successful cricketer. Perhaps his most startling performance was at Lord's in 1931. New Zealand, over two rain-ruined days, scored 302 for 9, and declared. MCC were bowled out for 132. But there seemed little hope of a result when the home team followed on. Tom Lowry had Merritt opening the bowling. He took 7 for 28 and MCC were out for 48.
A popular personality in New Zealand cricket, Merritt came back to his home town 11 years ago, after some successful years in business in Dudley, Worcestershire.
William Edward Merritt, died at Christchurch, New Zealand, on June 9, aged 68. A leg-break and googly bowler, he was under nineteen when picked for the first New Zealand team to England in 1927 and had played only four first-class matches. The experiment was a triumphant success. In a weak bowling side, he was by far the most successful bowler, taking in first-class matches 107 wickets at 23.64 and in all matches 169 at 19.54, figures which would obviously have been better had he had more help. He never fulfilled this early promise. Against A. H. H. Gilligan's side in New Zealand in 1929-30 his eight wickets in the Tests cost over 50 runs each and in England in 1931 his 99 wickets averaged 26.48 and he was again a complete failure in the Tests. However, it was on this tour that he accomplished the best performance of his career, taking seven for 28 in the second innings against a strong M.C.C. side at Lord's and securing an innings victory.
After that season he went into League cricket, and from 1938 to 1946 played for Northamptonshire. Here he suffered from dropped catches and his bowling was expensive, but he supplemented it by many useful hard-hitting innings, the highest of them 87 in fifty-seven minutes against Sussex at Kettering in 1939. As a bowler, when hit he tended to try to spin the ball more and his length naturally suffered. At times too he was inclined to bowl the googly too much in preference to the more dangerous leg-break. In 1946 owing to a League engagement, he played in mid-week matches only and after that season left first-class cricket, but continued to play in the League as well as being in business in Dudley. He returned to New Zealand in 1966.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
Batting & Fielding