Home > Features >

David Allen – a quality off-spinner who played 39 Tests for England

David Allen enjoyed excellent success in 1960 and 1961 as well, the latter season seeing him scalp 124 wickets and also inch past 1,000 runs with his only century in First-Class cricket © Getty Images
David Allen enjoyed excellent success in 1960 and 1961, the latter season seeing him scalp 124 wickets and also inch past 1,000 runs with his only century in First-Class cricket © Getty Images

David Allen, who passed away on May 25, was a Gloucestershire off-spinner who played 39 Tests for England, and would have played far more had his career not overlapped with Fred Titmus and Ray Illingworth. Arunabha Sengupta pays tribute to the man who is remembered for facing the last two Wes Hall deliveries at Lord’s as Colin Cowdrey stood at the non-striker’s end with his left arm in plaster.

A tale of two Tests

Colin Cowdrey stood at the non-striker’s end, left arm strapped in plaster, resembling a veteran of the Korean War. The golden cross dangling from his neck, the terrifying form of Wes Hall walked back to his bowling mark to start his furious run. Five runs remained to be scored, one wicket in hand. When Cowdrey had made his heroic walk to the wicket, Gloucestershire off-spinner David Allen had met him on the way, and had summoned enough bravado to say: “If I can somehow get a boundary off the first ball, we will run for anything off the next.”

He did not quite manage a boundary. Twice Hall steamed in and sent down thunderbolts that seemed to ignite the air with pace like fire. Twice Allen got his bat and body behind the ball, his entire frame shuddering from the impact. Twice the thud of impact resounded around the ground. Twice the full house at Lord’s heaved a synchronous heart-felt sigh of relief. The great Test match of 1963 ended in a draw.

David Allen, who passed away on May 25, 2014, was a good enough tweakerto play 39 Tests for England – during a period when worthies like Fred Titmus, Ray Illingworth and John Mortimore vied for the slot of the off-spinner. However, we will forever remember him for those two epic deliveries that he managed to keep out at Lord’s that summer day.

He had a pivotal role to play in England’s other famous Test match of the early 1960s – and again the memory is not really of Allen’s bowling. Curiously, it was his being taken off the attack that proved crucial at Old Trafford in 1961. Allen had not been given a bowl in the first innings as Australia had been bundled for 190. But, hehad batted with a lot of gumption in scoring 42, adding 86 with Ken Barrington, helping England to lead by 177 after the first innings. In the second, he dismissed Bill Lawry, and then came back to skittle out Ken Mackay, Richie Benaud and Wally Grout within two runs of each other. With Australia nine down, the lead paltry, Alan Davidson resorted to the ploy of going after the spinner. And a couple of big hits later, Peter May took Allen off. The last wicket put on 98. When England batted again, Allen was out to one of the many rippers sent down by Benaud from round the wicket, caught magnificently by Bobby Simpson in the slip. England lost by 54 runs.

The turning tale

Allen was born in the Horfield area of Bristol in the autumn of 1935. The Nevil Road ground at Gloucestershire could be reached with a loopy delivery bowled a bit too full. He grew up watching Wally Hammond drive imperiously through the off side, and, perhaps more importantly, Tom Goddard float in his off-spinners. The great Gloucestershire spinning legend called it a day in 1952, and Allen made his tentative entry the next season.

He seemed to peak at exactly the right time. England lost 4-0 in Australia in 1958-59 andthe immortal Jim Laker hastened the end of his superb career with a spate of controversial writings. In his first season as a regular, in 1959, Allen picked up 84 wickets at 15.73. His rivalry with Gloucestershire’s John Mortimore had by then been accepted as a fantastic double act . As a result, he went to West Indies in 1959-60, picking up useful wickets and proving a stubborn batsman down the order.

Allen enjoyed excellent success in 1960 and 1961 as well, the latter season seeing him scalp 124 wickets and also inch past 1,000 runs with his only century in First-Class cricket. With these feats seemed to slide seamlessly into the slot meant for the off-spinner in the England side. However, there was too much talent around. Titmus, Illingworth and Allen would compete relentlessly for the next few years, with county colleague Mortimorealso making it to the top level on occasions.

Yet, Allen managed to play 39 Tests – and tour every Test playing nation of the day. He was uniformly impressive with the ball in India, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa, taking five wicket hauls in each of those lands. The Titmus-Allen spin combination that won the 1964-65 in Durban was a high-point of his career.He enjoyed memorable moments in Australia as well, scoring 50 from No 10 and capturing four for 47 in the innings win in Sydney at 1965-66.

While Titmus and Illingworth were more universally recognised as all-rounders, Allen’s Test average of 25.50 was superior to both. He hit five half centuries in his 918 runs, with 88 at Christchurch in 1966 being his best, while an unbeaten 79 and five wickets at Birmingham against Pakistan in 1962 perhaps the most satisfying all-round effort.

Allen ended his Test career with 122 wickets at an average of 30.97. In First-Class cricket, his tally was 1209 at 23.64 – 882 of them for Gloucestershire during a long, two-decade association. There were 9291 runs as well, scored at 18.80.

During his young winters Allen used to switch to football, playing in the Downs League. Late in his life he was a member of the Gloucestershire committee and was elected president in 2011, thus keeping in touch with the game to the very end.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 30, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 2, 2014 (13:30 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 3, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Khulna

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 5, 2014 (14:05 IST)   at Adelaide

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 6, 2014 (13:30 IST)   at Ahmedabad

More

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 15, 2014  at Ahmedabad

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 7, 2014  at Bengaluru

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 30, 2014  at Hyderabad

Match cancelled

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014  at Hamilton

No result

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 3 wkts

Photos

Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test

Videos

Tendulkar provides teaser on upcoming book

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Younis Khan’s double ton puts Pakistan on top against Australia at stumps on Day 2 of 2nd Test

Duleep Trophy 2014-15 final: Central Zone 214/4 at stumps; lead by 111 runs

Yuvraj Singh — have we seen the last of the man who won India three World Cups?

Younis Khan continues piling up records for Pakistan

KL Rahul could be opening option for India’s tour to Australia

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 Central Zone Duleep Trophy Duleep Trophy 2014-15 India Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Zone South Zone vs Central Zone Sri Lanka Sri Lanka tour of India 2014

ICC World Cup 2015: New Zealand prime minister urges Indian fans to attend the tournament

Mohammad Yousuf: Muttiah Muralitharan would not have been allowed to bowl under current ICC rules

Mohammad Azharuddin’s son included in UP One-Day squad for Vijay Hazare Trophy

Sri Lanka women’s senior player accuses selector of asking for sexual favours

Karnataka enter SK Acharya Memorial Trophy final

Rohit Sharma looks to strengthen career after an inconsistent year

Younis Khan equals Javed Miandad’s record of most 150+ scores by Pakistan batsman

India vs Sri Lanka 2014: Manish Pandey showing signs of fulfilling potential

Yuvraj Singh — have we seen the last of the man who won India three World Cups?

Younis Khan continues piling up records for Pakistan

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

678 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Younis Khan century during Pakistan vs Australia 1st Test at Dubai

Black money list fiasco: Have Narendra Modi-Arun Jaitley fooled ‘aam aadmi’?

Beauty Tip #43 — Get fuller-looking lips with home-made sugar scrub

Nokia’s Chennai plant not a part of the Microsoft deal, to shut shop tomorrow

Bigg Boss 8 Day 40 highlights: Upen Patel faces captaincy woes; Gautam Gulati punished again!

When Salman Khan asked a fan to shut up…

India to launch electronic toll collection at 350 highway plazas: Minister

Ayurvedic treatment: 7 types of Ayurvedic massage you should know about

Microsoft Office for Mac to release in 2015, new Outlook for Mac now available to Office 365 subscribers

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here