Norman Riches

Norman Riches – as seen in 1902. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Norman Riches was Glamorgan`s finest batsman during their Minor County days as well as during their first decade of Championship cricket. In 1921 Norman also led the Welsh county in their inaugural season of Championship cricket, and proudly captained them to their first win against Sussex at the Arms Park.

In 1911 Norman also became the first-ever batsman in the history of the Minor County competition to score over 1,000 runs in the season, confirming the view that he was the best batsman outside the first-class game, and when available. Indeed, he was regularly chosen for the Minor Counties in their representative games against touring teams and other first-class sides.

Following his stellar summer in 1911, the MCC authorities considered him for the 1912/13 tour to the West Indies, with noises being made to other Glamorgan officials about Norman’s availability. At the time, he was working alongside his father at their thriving dental practice in Dumfries Place in Cardiff. “I`m not sure that he would get time off for the winter,” was the response by Tom Whittington, the county’s Hon. Secretary and Norman’s opening partner. It was a throwaway comment, but the MCC officials took it as a matter of fact and Norman was not invited. He was rightly annoyed when subsequently hearing about the initial enquiry, especially as his father would have been only too happy to release his talented son over the winter, and Norman’s relationship with his batsman was never the same afterwards.

He was born into one of the most well-known cricketing families in the Cardiff area with his father Hugh been a stalwart member of the South Wales CC, besides having represented the town club in their exhibition game against the United South of England Eleven. His uncles Charles and Tom were also leading figures with both Cardiff CC and the Taff Vale Railway, with the latter being the engineer and locomotive superintendent with the railway company. His cousin Gowan Clark was also a leading batsman with Cardiff and Glamorgan.

Norman Riches, as seen in 1921. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

From an early age, Norman was coached in the nets at the Arms Park by his cricketing family, and he duly made his debut for the Cardiff 2nd XI aged 14, before making his 1st XI debut in July 1899. By this time, he had also attended Chard Grammar School where he had been coached by several of the Somerset professionals. As a patriotic and proud Cardiffian, there was no question of the schoolboy representing the West Country side and Norman duly made his debut for Glamorgan in their final match of the 1900 season at home to Monmouthshire. He was dismissed for nought but a few weeks later he showed his rich potential playing for the Gentlemen of South Wales against the Players of Glamorgan at the Arms Park where the schoolboy made 13 against the professional attack.

His first innings for Glamorgan in 1901 – against Wiltshire at Swindon – also saw him fail to score, but the youngster made a composed 34 in the end of season contest against Devon at Exeter. A maiden fifty then followed in August 1902 against Monmouthshire at Swansea, and being based at Cardiff University he was a regular in the Glamorgan line-up during 1903 and the following June, he struck 183 against Monmouthshire at Swansea before continuing his medical studies in London. There were rumours that Norman might be chosen by Dr WG Grace to play for London County, but nothing came of these suggestions, with his next couple of hundreds at county level coming against Northumberland with Norman making 109 at Swansea in 1905 and an unbeaten 178 at the Arms Park the following summer.

All of these centuries were testament to his rock-solid technique, honed from his early years playing in the back garden of his parent’s house in the prosperous suburb of Tredegarville or as a schoolboy  at Monkton House whose recreational activities took place at Sophia Gardens. He also possessed a wide range of strokes, especially off his legs, and he relished toying with opposition fielders, with his party piece consisting of a series of singles pushed around so that the fielding captain was forced into readjusting the field, before gleefully smashing a boundary through the gap which he had craftily created.

In his youth, Norman had bowled medium pace on an occasional basis, claiming the first of three wickets for Glamorgan against Berkshire in 1902. He also represented University College, Cardiff at football, whilst from 1904 he also kept wicket for Glamorgan and Norman’s tally of 27 stumpings in Minor County cricket, plus six first-class games, confirmed his prowess behind the stumps.

However, it was in front of the stumps and with bat in hand, that Norman made his name and during July 1907 the opening batsman struck a purple patch of form as he made 171 against Devon at Exeter, followed next match by a maiden double-hundred with 217* against Dorset at Blandford  Forum. However, it was 1911 which was Norman’s finest in the Minor County competition, ironically having missed the second part of the previous year having contracted enteric fever. His scores opening the batting during his record-breaking summer of 1911 included 90 against Wiltshire at Trowbridge, 159 against Monmouthshire at Swansea, 65 and 150 in the contests with Carmarthenshire at St. Helen’s and Llanelli, an unbeaten 167 against Monmouthshire at Newport, plus a majestic 194 during the closing match of the summer with Buckinghamshire at Neath.

Norman’s forward defensive stroke as captured by a newspaper cartoon from 1928. Picture Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

The following year he made his debut for the Minor County’s representative team, whilst in 1913 and again in 1914 he led the Glamorgan side as they strove to regain the sort of success on the field which had seen the start of a campaign for their elevation into first-class cricket. The outbreak of the Great War, and a spell of military service in the medical corps put paid to these lofty thought, but with more than a half an eye on the future, Norman was tasked by the committee to oversee the Club’s administration until life returned to normal. He duly oversaw the arrangement of several fund-raising games, before appearing in eight of the Welsh county’s matches arranged for 1920.

Having played such a high-profile role within the Club over a dozen years or more, Norman was delighted to be sounded out by the Glamorgan hierarchy about his availability to lead the side again during 1921 should their application to the MCC for first-class status prove successful. Norman had two reasons to smile soon afterwards – first, his father agreed to hire a locum in their practice and secondly, the MCC endorsed Glamorgan’s application.

It proved to be a fairytale start for Glamorgan in the first-class world as, under the captaincy of Norman, they beat a full-strength Sussex side by 24 runs in their inaugural County Championship match at the Arms Park in May 1921. Many of the crowd at the Cardiff ground surged onto the field at the fall of the final Sussex wicket in order to personally congratulate Norman and his team. All of the players then gathered on the first-floor balcony of the Cardiff pavilion with both captains making impromptu speeches. Arthur Gilligan, the Sussex leader was most gracious in his praise of Norman’s captaincy before congratulating the Welsh side, saying “they gave us a magnificent game, and we do not mind being beaten in the slightest. We have been down until today, but today we might have won. We did not – Glamorgan did, and I congratulate them very much.”

Later that summer, Norman struck the first of his six Championship hundreds, making an unbeaten 177 against Leicestershire at the Aylestone Road ground. But having achieved his long-held dream of leading Glamorgan in first-class cricket, Norman duly stood down from the captaincy at the end of 1921, and returned to his father’s practice. He also spent time with other prominent sportsmen in the city in creating Cardiff Athletic Club and securing favourable terms from the Marquis of Bute over the lease of his beloved Arms Park.

Like so many others, the ground held a special place in Norman’s heart and given his family’s long association with the Arms Park, he became the flag bearer of the campaign to preserve sporting activity in the heart of the Welsh capital. As a result, he disagreed with some of his fellow committee members who organized for Championship matches to take place at other grounds in the south-east of the county and away from his beloved Arms Park. Their motives were based around the financial considerations of using the Arms Park, with the Cardiff club asking for a decent fee to use the pristine facilities. But with gate receipts falling, expenditure of professionals rising and other clubs offering cheaper alternatives, the mid and late 1920s saw fewer county matches at the Arms Park.

Norman also devoted a lot of his spare time promoting the creation of a Welsh national team, including players from other parts of the Principality, in annual games against the MCC, Scotland and Ireland, besides fixtures against touring teams. His actions on behalf of the Welsh Cricket Union met with criticism from others within Glamorgan CCC who believed that that the dentist should be devoting his energies towards the county and making himself available on a more regular basis, thereby strengthening the Glamorgan batting and halting the run of defeats.

Norman Riches, in later life, as President of Cardiff Athletic Club. Picture Credit – Glamorgan Crivket Archives.

He silenced some of the doubters with scores of 170 against Derbyshire at Swansea in 1924, and 136 in the game with Derbyshire at Pontypridd in 1926, but his finest Championship innings came in 1928 when, aged 45, he hit a masterful 140 against a powerful Lancashire attack. Norman played his final Championship match in June 1934 aged 51, against Worcestershire at the Arms Park. He also led the side and batted at number 3 in what proved to be a draw. The following summer he also played in Glamorgan 2nd XI’s Minor County match against Berkshire at Reading, and opening the batting, he made 115 – his final hundred for the county in representative games.

He continued to play in club cricket for Cardiff until 1939. He subsequently became a Trustee and Patron of Glamorgan CCC, besides acting as Chairman and President of Cardiff CC. In September 1948, after Glamorgan had secured their first Championship title, Norman was one of the umpires, along with Jack Hobbs, at one of the special matches held in South Wales to celebrate the achievements of Wilf Wooller and his team. However, during the 1950s he was at loggerheads with the Glamorgan captain as he opposed attempts for the Club to move from the Arms Park and create a base instead at Sophia Gardens.

Norman gained the support of the civic leaders but when the plans resurfaced during the 1960s, together with the possibility of international rugby being staged near Bridgend, the days of county cricket at the Arms Park were numbered. The summer of 1966 duly saw the final batch of Glamorgan fixtures before the move to Sophia Gardens, whilst during September he donned the white coat again and was one of the umpires in Cardiff’s last match at the Arms Park – the ground where six decades before he had first played for the club.

RICHES, Norman Vaughan Hurry

Born – Tredegarville, Cardiff, 9th June 1883.
Died – Whitchurch, Cardiff, 6th November 1975.

Career-bests

Minor County – 217* v Dorset at Blandford Forum, 1907; 1/1 v Berkshire at Cardiff Arms Park, 1902.

First-class – 177* v Leicestershire at Aylestone Road, Leicester, 1921

MINORUNSAv.10050CtSt
Minor
Counties
13621228722839.28163612927
First-class821388441933.99628396
Above – Norman Riches’ Batting and Fielding Record for Glamorgan
BallsMRWAv.5wI10wM
Minor
Counties
2279143347.67
First-class1291790
Above – Norman Riches’ Bowling Record for Glamorgan