Sam Brain was Glamorgan`s first regular wicket-keeper in the Minor County Championship, and in 1893 he had created a unique record, when playing for Gloucestershire, by making three stumpings in consecutive deliveries as sixteen year-old leg-spinner Charles Townsend took a hat-trick against Somerset at Cheltenham College.
His feat came shortly before the end of the second day’s play with Somerset having amassed a lead of 301. Believing they had more than enough runs in the bank, there was something of a carefree mood in the visitor’s camp as Townsend began his eighth over thinking that he might not have many more overs to bowl. It duly proved to be his final over of the day, but not quite in the manner the young leg-spinner intended. To his fourth delivery of the over, Arthur Newton advanced down the wicket, but missed the ball as he played an ungainly heave and was promptly stumped by Sam. The Somerset professionals, George Nichols and Teddy Tyler, no doubt under instruction from their captain to go for quick runs, then repeated the stroke as in successive balls they too advanced down the wicket to the young spinner and departed in identical fashion ‘stumped Brain, bowled Townsend.`
Like his older brother Jack, Sam was educated at Clifton College, before going up to Oxford and joining the family’s brewing buisness in South Wales during the mid-1890s. Sam’s agile glovework, coupled with his bold and uninhibited strokeplay in the middle order secured him a regular place in the Glamorgan side from 1896. By the time he retired in 1908, Sam had amassed over 2,000 runs in his career for Glamorgan, and had 240 dismissals to his name. The fact that he had almost as many stumpings than catches to his name spoke volumes for his deft skills behind the stumps.
In June 1897 he also struck one of the fastest centuries in Glamorgan’s history during the match against Monmouthshire at Newport, with Sam reaching three-figures in just 53 minutes. His whirlwind hitting came on the second and final day of the game at the Rodney Parade ground after the home side had avoided following-on in the pre-lunch session. With a first innings lead of 59, the instructions from his brother Jack, the Glamorgan captain, were for quick runs to set up the prospect of a run chase in the final session.
By lunch Glamorgan had slipped to 62-4, and soon after the interval, they lost a fifth wicket. The tempo of the innings then changed with an astonishing stand of 123 in just forty minutes between Bertie Letcher and Sam Brain. The latter was quickly into his stride with a series of powerful drives as he followed what his elder brother had asked for by racing to his fifty with a brace of fours against Foster Stedman, the home side’s captain. Sam added three more strongly struck fours in Stedman’s next over, whilst at the other end Bertie also swung lustily as the ball disappeared to all parts of the Newport ground.
With Glamorgan now having a quite healthy lead, many felt that Jack Brain would declare, with the correspondent of the South Wales Daily News writing “it was thought likely now that every moment would see the visiting captain declare, but runs continued to come with greater freedom than at any period of the match.” Perhaps Jack was enjoying too much his brother’s massive blows, one of which went high over the rugby grandstand and into the adjoining road. Stedman then bowled Letcher as he advanced down the wicket, but Owen Jones, the cricketing curate from Llandovery College then joined Sam who soon afterwards reached his century after a mere 43 minutes at the crease.
Once again, many thought this would prompt the declaration but Sam carried on and hit another trio of lusty fours, before Stedman, who had become quite frustrated by the situation asked Tom Mayes, the Monmouthshire wicket-keeper to take off his pads and come on to bowl. It was meant as a measure of disgust, but it brought about the end of Sam’s whirlwind innings as he tamely chipped a ball back to his counterpart, and walked off having struck a six, 19 fours, 3 threes and 7 two’s in an explosive 53 minutes at the crease. His efforts failed to see Glamorgan to victory, as after being set a target of 308 in 144 minutes, the Welsh county’s bowlers claimed a brace of early victories before, with an hour to go, the heavens opened causing the match to be abandoned as a draw.
Sam also served on the Glamorgan committee from 1901, until his increasing business commitments forced his retirement from the Minor County side. He was subsequently appointed Chairman of Brains Brewery in 1914, but continued to play club cricket for Cardiff and the MCC, and he led the family`s business until his death in 1934. He also took great delight in the way two of his sons – Michael and Pat – both kept wicket in first-class cricket for the Welsh county. Michael made one appearance against Oxford University in 1930, whilst Pat appeared in six matches between 1921 and 1928, and like his father and uncle, was always ready to help out the county whenever they were short of players. In his younger days Sam was also a talented polo player and, like his brother, owned several steeple-chasers.
BRAIN, William Henry (Sam)
Born – Clifton, 21 July, 1870.
Died – Dinas Powis, 20 December 1934.
Batting and Fielding Record
Minor County Championship – 113 v Monmouthshire at Rodney Parade, Newport, 1897.
Minor County Friendlies – 42 v Berkshire at Cardiff Arms Park, 1904.