John Arnold

ARNOLD, JOHN, died April 3,1984, aged 76. He is apt to be thought of as something of a failure, a man who was picked for England in his second full season of first-class cricket and was never again seriously considered for a representative match. It would be fairer to remember him as a good county cricketer, for twenty years one of the mainstays of the Hampshire batting, who had the ill luck to be chosen by the selectors, faced with a difficult situation, for a task for which neither then nor later was he really suited.

An Oxford man by birth, he had a most successful season for his native county in 1929, scoring 650 runs with an average of 52.75 and securing them the Minor County Championship with a splendid innings of 62 not out in the vital challenge match against Buckinghamshire. In that season, too, he had played for Hampshire, though not yet qualified, against the South Africans, and in 1930 he became a regular member of their side, making 1,186 runs with an average of 32.05. At this time, for some years England's opening pair, Hobbs and Sutcliffe, had picked themselves automatically, but Hobbs had retired from Test cricket after 1930 and at the end of June 1931, when the side was picked to play New Zealand at Lord's, Sutcliffe was suffering from a strain. Had the opponents been Australia, Holmes or Sandham, both veterans, would probably have been called up, or the captain, Jardine, would have been put to open.

But in those days Test matches against other countries were used partly to try out young players and so Arnold (who had, in fact, never played at Lord's) and Bakewell were chose. They were not a success, and, though Bakewell was retained for the next Test and later played several times more, Arnold, who after 0 in the first innings had scored 34 in the second, was dropped and never received another chance.

Nor does his record in county cricket suggest that he suffered any injustice, good player though he was. In 1932 he played the highest innings of his career, 227 against Glamorgan at Cardiff, and in 1934 had the splendid record of 2,136 runs with an average of 46.43, including an innings of 109 not out against the Australians, which almost certainly saved his side from defeat.

After several more good seasons he had a terrible setback in 1938, when his average dropped to 20.70, and at the end of the summer he was not re-engaged. Fortunately the decision was reconsidered and how short-sighted it had been was shown when he once more headed the averages in 1939. He returned in 1946 with his powers unabated and was still going strong when, late in July, 1950, he was stricken by an illness which terminated his active career. When this occurred, he had made 1,119 runs at an average of 41.44, which again brought him out top.

By nature an attacking bat, he was especially severe on off-spinners and in-swingers, but was also a fine off-driver and hooker. For a time in the middle of his career he adopted a more defensive approach, but later he returned to his natural aggression. He batted, according to the needs of his side, as an opener or lower down the order: probably the latter position suited him better. As befitted a soccer international, he was very fast between the wickets and was also a joy to watch in the outfield. From 1961 to 1974 he was a first-class umpire. In all first-class cricket he scored 21,831 runs with an average of 32.82 and made 37 hundreds.

© John Wisden & Co