DateLine: 22nd November 2005
With his booming shots and crafty medium pace, Colin Wells brought a hint of a past era to his cricket, and is one of a tiny number of recent players to have played his last first team match over 20 years after his first. Sussex born and bred, and with his brother Alan as captain, it is not surprising that his decision to leave the South coast at the end of 1993 caused consternation. It was rumoured in some quarters that the relationship between the brothers was very badly damaged by Colinís decision to move to Derbyshire, although after selection for only one Championship match in the whole of the 1993 season it was hardly surprising if he felt the need to leave, especially after a glorious 185 against Cambridge University in June had not won him back his place.
His Derbyshire career started poorly, with a First-class average of just 16.83 in his first season. He hadnít been helped by being erroneously marketed as the direct replacement for the recently departed John Morris. He patently wasnít, as Wells was asked to bat at no.6 and provide plenty of overs, and the newly re-registered Mohammad Azharuddin had taken Morrisís no.4 spot anyway. Being compared to such a popular and productive player as Morris would have assisted few players. A poor season at the age of 33 prompted some wiseacres to announce a terminal decline in his powers. As such, there was much pleasure in his resurgence in the 1995 season. The omens were good for Wells when Derbyshire trounced Sussex by an innings and 379 runs in their first match (although ironically Wells contribution was 2* and he wasnít required to bowl). A half century in his next match, and then a century against Oxford University confirmed he had reacquainted himself with his ability. His bowling remained steady, and was especially useful on slower pitches and in one-day matches. Despite a useful contribution to the silver winning championship campaign of 1996 (and the recording of 165, his third best ever First-class score in his 310th match) , Wells was released in an effort to cut the average age of the squad.
Wells was Somersetís second XI coach and captain in 1997 and 1998, but was then brought back to Derbyshire as cricket manger/coach on the persuasion and recommendation of then captain Dominic Cork. Wells made one last appearance in an emergency, and his 39 year old body managed to take 2-7 off 4 overs as a desperately thrown together Derbyshire side beat Surrey comfortably. However, as usual at the County ground, the pitch was often the least contentious place to be, as members murmured their disapproval that Wells had been given a new 2 year contract as a reward for a miserable season 2000. Wells left at the end of 2002, after no longer being Dominic Corkís chosen man. However, after being verbally offered a new deal, Wells had to be paid off to go. If the situation seemed ridiculous then, it was as well that many had forgotten that when Wells joined Somerset as Second team coach in 1997, Andy Hayhurst made the opposite move from Somerset to coach Derbyshireís Second XI.
However cricket managers are not as targeted or memorable as their footballing equivalents, and as such most memories of Colin Wells at Derbyshire are of an able and committed cricketer, none more so than at The Oval in 1996, when after badly straining ligaments in his right foot he cracked a first innings 82 and then, after the condition worsened, he came out to bat at no.10. After having to be assisted down the many steps of the Oval as he came out to bat shortly before tea, he and batting partner Dominic Cork took their tea at the boundary edge sitting in deckchairs, as the prospect of having to ascend and descend the steps again was not a pleasant one. His taking out of 35 minutes from the game was an essential factor in Derbyshireís great escape, as Surrey failed to take the two wickets they needed, despite the taking of their eighth Derbyshire scalp signalling the arrival of Wells at the crease. In the years before England caught on to the idea of one-day specialists, Wells was one of a select few who had played ODIís but not Tests for England, when he donned the Three Lions in a Sharjah quadrangular tournament, after an excellent 1984 county season with both bat and ball.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)