In December 1972, Tony Lewis became the first Glamorgan player to lead England in a Test match, and joined an elite group of players to lead his side to victory in his debut at international level. His elevation to Test cricket was a worthy reward for his consistent run scoring and astute captaincy of Glamorgan, which included the Championship title in 1969.
Lewis was brought up in Neath, close to the town`s cricket and rugby ground at The Gnoll. It was no surprise therefore that he developed into a talented cricketer and rugby player at Neath Grammar School. He played for the Welsh Schools XI, and in 1955 made his debut against Leicestershire at the Arms Park. Despite being dismissed for a duck, the Glamorgan selectors showed great faith in the young amateur, and with the help of Wilf Wooller, the Glamorgan captain, he went up to Christ`s College, Cambridge to read History.
Lewis duly became a double Blue, and went on to play club rugby for Neath, Pontypool and Gloucester, before a knee injury forced him to concentrate on his cricket career. In 1962 Lewis was appointed captain of the Light Blues, and fittingly rounded off his successful sporting career for the university with 103* in the Varsity Match. He continued his good form on coming down, and shared in a record partnership of 238 with Alan Jones for the second wicket against Sussex at Hastings.
He subsequently became a regular in Glamorgan`s middle order, and developed into a dashing strokeplayer, with a wide range of elegant drives and deft cuts. His most successful summer was in 1966 when he compiled 2,052 runs, including 223 against Kent at Gravesend. For many years, he had been groomed by Wilf Wooller as a future Glamorgan captain, and in 1967 he took over the captaincy. He developed into a sound tactician, and under his shrewd leadership, Glamorgan rose to third place in 1968, before the winning the Championship outright in 1969, with the side remaining unbeaten throughout the summer.
Lewis proved most adept at getting the best out of the players at his disposal, and was widely regarded as the finest captain yet to play Test cricket. In 1969/70, he was rewarded with the captaincy of the M.C.C. touring team to Ceylon and the Far East in 1969/70. It proved to be successful tour, so in 1972 when Test skipper Ray Illingworth, and experienced batsmen Mike Smith both announced they would not be going on the winter tour, the England selectors had little hesitation in appointing Lewis as the captain of the side to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
On December 5th, 1972, Lewis led out the England side in the opening match of the tour at Hyderabad and a fortnight later, he led the team out at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground in New Delhi in the First Test of the series with India. Despite a duck in his first Test innings, Lewis hit 70* in the second innings and shared a partnership of 101 with Tony Greig to steer England to their first win in India since 1951/52.
In the Fourth Test at Kanpur, Lewis recorded his maiden Test hundred with 125, and his overall efforts drew many favourable comments from the Press. Several writers felt that Lewis had proved himself to be the heir apparent to Ray Illingworth, who was nearing the end of his Test career. For the opening Test of the 1973 series with New Zealand, Illingworth was nominated captain, with Lewis playing as a specialist batsman.
Soon afterwards, Lewis aggravated his old knee injury in a match for Glamorgan and withdrew from the Second Test. After missing several weeks of cricket, he returned to a Glamorgan side who were collectively short of confidence, and Lewis failed to regain his place in the England squad. Glamorgan were also in a rebuilding phase, and it came as something of a surprise when at the end of 1973, Lewis was only offered a match contract, especially as barely twelve months previously, Lewis had been tipped to be England`s next captain.
He loyally played in the early games of the 1974 season, but with his knee continuing to give him problems, Lewis announced his retirement from the county game in July. He has subsequently become a highly respected journalist and broadcaster. As well as being a member of the "Test Match Special" commentary team, he has been the anchorman for BBC television`s coverage of Test and domestic cricket. Lewis has also remained closely involved with Glamorgan, acting as the club`s Chairman and latterly as President. In 1998/99 he served as President of the M.C.C. and it was fitting that during his term of office Lord`s and the county grounds of England and Wales played host to the 1999 World Cup.
(Article: Copyright © 2000 Dr.A.K.Hignell)
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