Robert Prynne Nelson
August 07, 1912, Fulham, London
October 29, 1940, Deal, Kent, (aged 28y 83d)
Left hand Bat
Slow Left arm Orthodox
St. George's School, Harpenden; Cambridge University
Robert Nelson became a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Marines and was killed in October. His death at the age of 28 brought grief to his many cricket associates. A free left-handed batsman with good style, he made many runs when at St. George's School, Harpenden, where he became a master. He got his Cambridge Blue in 1936, and scoring 91 at Lord's, gave a delightful display. Controlling his lively strokes by clever placing, he cut and drove to the off in beautiful style. He was unfortunate, when so near a century, to fall to a remarkable catch at short leg. Walford knocked up the ball over his shoulder and, turning round, held the catch an inch from the ground as he fell full length. His stand of 133 with N. W. D. Yardley contributed largely to the Cambridge total of 432 and the eventual victory by eight wickets. He got only a single while the 17 runs wanted were knocked off, but his highest score of the season was the best in the match. After a few appearances for Middlesex, Nelson joined Northamptonshire, and captained the eleven with such good effect in the last two seasons of first-class cricket that in 1939 a decisive win at Cambridge was followed by victory in a county match after a prolonged spell of misfortune extending over three years. The success over Leicestershire enabled Northamptonshire to rise from the bottom of the Championship, a position which they had occupied in five consecutive seasons.
Besides exercising the heartening influence of a buoyant personality, Nelson stood out as one of the chief batsmen for the County, scoring 1,031 runs, average 27.13, in 1938, and 1,078, average 32.66, next season. He showed skill in managing his attack and knew when to use his own slow left-hand bowling. His possibilities as an all-rounder were seen at The Saffrons in 1937, when for M.C.C. he scored 183 not out and dismissed six Eastbourne batsmen for 13 runs.
He appeared for the Empire XI several times, heading the averages with 49.83, and played also for Club Cricket Conference at Lord's last summer.
D. L. Donnelly, who organised the British Empire eleven, received this tribute to Nelson from W. C. Brown, the Northamptonshire captain from 1933 to 1935, and present honorary secretary of the county club:--
Robert Nelson's death is a tragedy. Having known him, you will appreciate what his loss means to this county. His own prowess allied to his patience with, and encouragement to, those under him worked wonders. At the end of 1937 the Northamptonshire side was a disorganised rabble. In two seasons he quietly and imperceptibly moulded them into a team which it was impossible to recognise as the same lot who had done duty before he took over the captaincy. His promise to carry on for at least one season after the war had been the mainspring of the Committee's exertions to keep the club together since county cricket lapsed. His loss has left a great gap.
Donnelly himself wrote: Robert Nelson was a source of inspiration to us this summer. In our efforts to raise funds for the Red Cross and in our desire to provide attractive, keen cricket on the field he was always eager to help. From his quiet, unassuming manner it was impossible to gather that he was a personality in the cricket world. We who played with him admired him immensely.
From the time of his first match for St. George's School, Harpenden, at the age of 12, R. P. Nelson kept a record of his performances without a break. He played for his school for seven years, from 1925 to 1931 inclusive, and his figures, comprising his complete cricket career, were:--
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Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
Batting & Fielding