Wisden Obituary

Malcolm Nash

NASH, MALCOLM ANDREW, died on July 30, aged 74, after being taken ill at a function at Lord's. Had life worked out differently, Malcolm Nash might have been remembered for a five-for against the Australians to set up a famous Glamorgan victory at Swansea in 1968. Or as the county's fifth-highest wicket-taker, and their leading bowler when they won the Championship in 1969. Instead, his death provided an excuse to dust off a few minutes of grainy film. It showed him as the fall guy in one of sport's greatest episodes.

On Saturday, August 31, 1968, nearly four weeks after the humbling of the Australians, Nash returned to St Helen's for the final home Championship match of the season, against Nottinghamshire. He bowled well, taking four of the five wickets to have fallen. Garry Sobers had arrived at the crease at around 5pm, irritated that his team were scoring too slowly. The best batsman in the world had dropped down to No. 7 to fit in a trip to the bookies, and wanted quick runs to set up a declaration. Nash would be talking about what happened next for the rest of his life.

He usually bowled left-arm seam and swing, but had been experimenting with brisk spin, in the style of Derek Underwood (who four days earlier had bowled England to a famous Ashes victory at The Oval). With the match drifting, Nash decided there was no harm in giving his new stylea public airing. Sobers smashed the first ball over wide long on, and out of the ground. The second sailed in roughly the same direction, bouncing off the roof of The Cricketers pub. The third, over long-off, clattered into the wooden benches in front of the pavilion. Glamorgan's captain, Tony Lewis, advised Nash to switch back to his usual style: "Whack it in the blockhole, like you normally do." He was ignored. The fourth disappeared high over deep midwicket. Amid mounting excitement in the crowd, and with thousands watching on BBC Wales, Sobers crashed Nash's fifth ball towards long-off, where Roger Davis caught it, before toppling backwards. Sobers began to walk off, but Glamorgan's Tony Cordle indicated that Davis had carried the ball over the rope. For the final ball, Nash reverted to seam-up, but continued round the wicket. It was invitingly short, and Sobers hammered it over midwicket - and out of the ground.

The Glamorgan secretary, Wilf Wooller, moonlighting for the BBC, had ignored orders to hand back to London, and now enjoyed his moment of commentating immortality: "He's done it! He's done it! And, my goodness, it's gone way down to Swansea!" Six sixes in an over was cricket's four-minute mile - it had never been done before - and Sobers's feat was front-page news. Nash did not resent the spotlight. "I suppose I can gain some consolation from the fact that my name will be permanently in the record books," he said. And he remained philosophical. To mark the 50th anniversary, in 2018, he published an autobiography - Not Only, But Also - that highlighted his other achievements, yet acknowledged his inextricable link with Sobers. "There's no point in moaning and groaning and crying about it," he said. "Garry and I had a few beers that night, and I wasn't glum."

Nash was born in Abergavenny, and introduced to cricket by his father, a stalwart of the local club. He went to Wells Cathedral School in Somerset, where he excelled at cricket and hockey, in which he represented Wales Under-21. When he arrived at Glamorgan, his initials - MAN - and unabashed self-confidence earned the nickname "Super". He made his first-class debut in 1966, and blossomed in 1968, claiming six for 25 against Gloucestershire, then seven for 15 as Somerset were bowled out for 40. In the win over the Australians, Ian Redpath and Bob Cowper were among his first-day victims. "He has more pace than is at once apparent, makes the ball cut some odd curves through the air, and occasionally brings it back sharply from the pitch," wrote John Arlott in his Guardian match report.

Nash bowled off about 12 paces. "He had a whippy action and got close to the stumps," said Lewis. "He pitched the ball up, made the batsman play, and got late swing." Glamorgan started poorly in 1969, but gathered momentum. In August, they faced Gloucestershire in a top-of-the-table showdown at Cheltenham. On the opening day, Nash was close to unplayable. "Line, length and stamina, together with the ability to cut the odd ball away from the right-handers, helped him to finish with six for 37," wrote John Woodcock in The Times.

Assisted by a formidable group of close catchers, Nash was key to Glamorgan's strategy. "He was one of the best attacking bowlers in the country," said Lewis. "And he got good batsmen out." He finished the season with 71 Championship wickets at 18. Nash remained a consistent performer, but in 1977 - almost nine years to the day from Sobers's assault - Lancashire's Frank Hayes hit him for 34 in an over, again at Swansea (a four off the second ball prevented a gruesome double). He took it on the chin. "I'd say: 'So I'm in the Guinness Book of Records at No. 1 and No. 2. You tell me who's managed that.'"

His best season was 1975, when his 85 wickets included 14 against Hampshire at Basingstoke. The following summer he was chosen for a Test trial at Bristol, but that was the closest he came to international recognition. His lack of pace may have concerned selectors, but Lewis said: "In this country, he would have been successful."

Nash was also a hard-hitting tailender. In 1976, he cracked a hundred before lunch against Surrey at The Oval. Nine days later, he raced to another, off 61 balls, in a Benson and Hedges Cup game against Hampshire at Swansea - Glamorgan's first century in the competition. He was club captain in 1980 and 1981, but they were not happy years. Nash retired in 1983, and spent two seasons playing for Shropshire. He lived in America for a while, working in sports marketing and later as a school bus driver, but returned to Wales in 2013 after being diagnosed with a heart condition. In 2006, an Indian company had paid more than £26,000 at auction for the ball Sobers had smashed "down to Swansea". It was a Dukes, yet Glamorgan had always used a Stuart Surridge; the popular theory was that Sobers had unwittingly handed over the wrong ball. Nash stopped short of criticising him, but was "getting somewhat irritated that my reputation and integrity are being called into question". Above all, he was never allowed to forget that late-August afternoon at St Helen's. "I don't think it changed my character too much,"he said. "I've got fairly broad shoulders. But I didn't bowl slow left-arm again for a while."

© John Wisden & Co.