A remarkable debut – Wilf Hughes v 1935 South Africans.

Wilf Hughes.
Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

This game witnessed one of the most outstanding recoveries ever made by a Glamorgan side, and in the performance of debutant Wilf Hughes, it also saw a quite remarkable start to his career in first-class cricket. The 24 year old schoolmaster had previously played as a schoolboy fast bowler in Monmouthshire`s Minor County side during the late 1920`s before training to be a teacher and working in Northamptonshire,

The young Welshman started to play club cricket for Kettering, and by the mid 1930`s, he had built up a decent reputation as an all-rounder. As luck would have it, Glamorgan played their Championship fixture in the town in 1935, and after hearing about Hughes` exploits with both bat and ball, Maurice Turnbull invited Hughes down to the Arms Park for a trial with the county during the school holidays.

Realising that he had nothing to lose Hughes made his way to Cardiff, and  so impressed the watching officials with his pace bowling and crisp strokeplay, that he was drafted into the county`s side to play the touring South Africans at the Arms Park. It must have seemed like a dream come true for Hughes as he opened the bowling with Jack Mercer, and he delivered an accurate new ball spell. The wicket though was a good one on which to bat first, and the tourists eventually reached the 400-mark, with Hughes having just one wicket to show for his sweat and toil.

But he more than made a name for himself with some clean hitting, and all when Glamorgan followed on after having been hustled out by the Springboks on the second day. Hughes` amazing innings came on the third and final day of the game, which had begun with Glamorgan on 10-4 in their second innings, still the small matter of 249 runs behind. Dyson, Brierley and the two Davies – Dai and Emrys – were already out and when Turnbull was dismissed early on the final morning, it seemed that the end was nigh!

But Cyril Smart was in defiant mood and together with Jack Mercer they took the score to 114-7 before Mercer was out, quickly followed by Ted Glover to leave Glamorgan on the brink of defeat. Hughes then strode in and in a quite remarkable hour and a half, he and Smart counter-attacked with such gusto that they added a record 131 for the 10th wicket. Hughes completely belied his inexperience, hitting a remarkable 70* with four huge sixes and six crisply-timed fours, whilst Smart at the other end,  raced to a century with a series of sweetly timed fours and one mighty six straight through the plate glass window of a hotel in the road opposite the Cardiff ground.

Much to the delight of the crowd, they were still unbeaten as the umpires removed the bails for lunch, and the pair of batsmen received a standing ovation as they left the ground. The South Africans no doubt felt that the break would interrupt the concentration of the Glamorgan batsmen, and as they dined, they looked forward to getting back out and polishing off the brave resistance. Almost as if Welsh prayers had been answered, rain started to fall during the interval, and as the afternoon progressed, the rain steadily got heavier. By the tea interval, several pools lay on the outfield and the umpires had the formality of calling play off and declaring the match a draw, leaving the South Africans frustrated at the outcome and the Glamorgan supporters gleefully toasting a new hero!

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