Percy Neville Frank Mansell
March 16, 1920, St George's, Telford, Shropshire, England
May 09, 1995, Somerset West, Cape Province, (aged 75y 54d)
Right hand bat
Percy Mansell was one of a selection of cricketers from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) who played Test cricket for South Africa, Percy Mansell, who died in Somerset West on May 9, aged 75, toured England in 1951 and 1955 and Australasia in 1952-53. His value was fourfold: he bowled legbreaks and googlies with skill and stamina; batted well in the middle order; had safe hands at slip or short leg; and when conditions suited, he also bowled seamers.
Born in Shropshire on March 16, 1920, Percy Neville Frank Mansell made his first-class debut as a 16-year-old schoolboy in 1936-37. Two years later he made 62 against Hammond's visiting MCC team at Bulawayo. The war took vital years, but upon resumption of cricket he soon made his mark, scoring a maiden hundred (against Transvaal) in 1946-47. His bowling took longer to mature, but in 1949-50 he took 6 for 89 against the touring Australians, and a year later, with a South African tour of England in the offing, he performed well with bat and ball, principally in the match against NE Transvaal, when he had match figures of 10 for 167.
Never of robust build, quiet and with scholarly spectacles, Mansell just missed the distinction of a century in his maiden Test when chosen for the Headingley match in July 1951, the fourth of the series. In a Test remembered for Peter May's debut hundred after Eric Rowan had ground out 236 towards South Africa's highest score against England- 538 - Percy Mansell worked his way to 90, but with No. 11 Cuan McCarthy now in, he had to take risks, and a lofted hit off Malcolm Hilton was held by the tall Roy Tattersall at mid-on. Not until 1992, over 40 years later, did a South Africa batsman ( Andrew Hudson, at Bridgetown) finally score a century on Test debut.
It was Mansell's highest score of the tour and of his eventual 13 Tests. His best tour return with the ball was 5 for 37 (9 for 110 in the match) against Glamorgan at Swansea, but his gladdest moment would have come (in the MCC match) from bowling Freddie Brown with his first ball at Lord's.
Back home, Mansell became only the second allrounder after Vogler to do the 500 runs/50 wickets double, which included a 100 runs/10 wickets match double against NE Transvaal at Pretoria. His 13 for 205 against Border at East London was then the best analysis for Rhodesia.
In the 1952-53 Tests in Australia, he took only nine wickets, but eight were top batsmen ( Colin McDonald and Lindsay Hassett each three times), and his 52 in the fifth Test greatly helped the cause as South Africa fought their way to victory in a high-scoring Test, levelling an enthralling series.
A good'54-55 season, with two Currie Cup centuries, earned him another trip to England, but he did very little in his four Tests in that gripping series, apart from holding nine catches, several of high calibre. Although he hit 154 against Durham, he again failed to make a first-class century, missing by one run against Essex at Colchester when Trevor Bailey bowled him.
For Rhodesia, Mansell continued to return major contributions: a career-highest 154 against Griqualand West, and 148 in the return match; 11 for 84 against Border; then career-best match and innings figures of 6 for 7 and 7 for 43 (and innings of 66 and 19) as Rhodesia beat Surrey by two runs at Salisbury (now Harare) in his final full season, 1959-60. But there was no Test place for him against the 1956-57 England or 1957-58 Australian sides.
Retiring after one match in 1961-62, Mansell made altogether 4598 runs (29.66) and took 299 wickets (26.08) in his 113 matches, and held 156 catches.
Taken to Rhodesia when only a few months old, he was a tennis champion as a teenager. A lifelong bachelor, he moved to Cape Province in 1985, and played much golf. A ball hit his forearm and broke it in 1994, and his health deteriorated. Appointed MBE in 1962 for services to cricket, Mansell is survived by a brother, Mervyn, who lives in Ealing, West London.
David Frith, Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
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