Wilf Wooller © Getty Images
Wilf Wooller © Getty Images

There was a bizarre announcement during the second day of a GlamorganSomerset match at St Helen’s, Swansea on June 12, 1972. Abhishek Mukherjee elaborates on the incident.

Somerset came into the match after a sound 9-wicket thrashing against Essex at Colchester. Brian Close was in no mood for an encore. And Close in a dogged mood is typically unflinching, as the St Helen’s crowd witnessed after he opted to bat. The June weather did not allow a full day’s cricket, but even then, 113 for 2 was probably not what the crowd had in mind.

But Somerset refused to accelerate even on the second morning. Three-day matches demand aggressive declarations, but Close batted on well into the fifth session of the match. This did not go down with Wilf Wooller, then Secretary of Glamorgan County Cricket Club.

Now Wooller used to be a maverick in his salad days. When he couldn’t make it to Cambridge, he made up for it by playing rugby for Wales. Then, when he did go to Cambridge, he once stole the receiver of a telephone box — for fun, it must be made clear — and had to cough up £5, making headlines in the process.

He was taken Prisoner of War by the Japanese, and returned “emotionally and physically fragile”. With rugby not an option anymore, he opted for cricket, and had a reasonable career, scoring over 13,000 runs and taking 958 wickets, mostly for Glamorgan. He also played squash racquets for Wales, football for Cardiff City, and bowls for Cardiff Athletic Club. He was an England selector for seven years during his stint as a First-Class player but never played Test cricket.

A man like that was obviously not going to tolerate defensive cricket. He preferred incur losses. Thus, sometime after lunch (when the score read 245 for 4) he announced on the ground PA system that “if any spectator felt he was not getting value for money an application for a refund would be sympathetically considered” (The Times).

“The spectators are the people who matter in this,” Wooller later clarified. “They pay the players’ wages, and Somerset’s tactics in batting on after lunch seemed to be quite unreasonable. It is a pleasant afternoon but I doubt if we have collected £20.”

There was no impact on Close. He got to a hundred and batted on till Malcolm Nash got him for 108. Even then he did not declare till 314 for 7, taking up 121 overs.

The crowd had settled for a draw, especially after Alan Jones and Roy Fredericks added 66 for the first wicket. Then Glamorgan collapsed for 145 against the medium-paced bowling of Tom Cartwright (5 for 50). By stumps they were batting again.

When asked to comment, Close dismissed Wooller’s announcement as “bloody ridiculous”, adding that he was “not going to get as cheap as Wooller was.” He assured that Somerset would respond to Wooller on the field, and kept his word. Glamorgan, reduced to 99 for 8 on the final morning, were bowled out for 144 and lost by an innings.

Brief scores:

Somerset 314 for 7 decl. (Brian Close 108; Malcolm Nash 3 for 54) beat Glamorgan 145 (Brian Langford 3 for 60, Tom Cartwright 5 for 50) and 144 (Tom Cartwright 3 for 43, Kerry O’Keeffe 3 for 31) by an innings and 25 runs.