DateLine: 20th December 2005
If there was a prize to be won for the longest wait for the shortest Test career, Alan Wells would definitely be a contender. In his fifteenth season as a county cricketer, at the age of 33, he finally ascended to the Test team for the Sixth and final Test against the West Indies at The Oval in August 1995. However, with the cricketing gods being some of the cruellest around, they decreed that his first ball should be a brute of a delivery of Curtly Ambrose. If he’d have been on 100 it would have been a very difficult delivery; the fact it was his first meant he could do little else than flick it straight to Sherwin Campbell at short-leg. To make it even crueller, the pitch was a South London shirtfront. As such, the game pottered to an inevitable draw, although in one of the sub-plots which only cricket can throw up, the dismissal of Mike Atherton for 95 allowed Wells 40 minutes at the crease, in which time he was able to make 3*, much to the pleasure of a good natured but slightly bored crowd. He had made his ODI debut (10 years after his brother Colin had) at Lords earlier that summer, scoring 15 off 10 runs as England won comfortably. He was not selected for the winter tour to South Africa, and he was firmly consigned to the one cap club.
Wells was a bedrock of the Sussex side in the 1980’s and 1990’s, with the catalytic season coming in 1989, when he was transformed from a batsman who averaged in the 30’s to one whose season average frequently topped 50. As befitted a man who batted at no.4 for most of his career, he was halfway between stonewall blocker and elegant strokeplayer, although, when appropriate, he did enjoy going after spin. He was county captain at Hove from 1992-6, experience which helped him acquire the role of England A captain on their tour of India in 1994/5. His international chance may well have come earlier in the 1990’s, but for the fact that he went on Mike Gatting’s rebel tour in 1989-90, and hence was banned from 1990-3. Wells had earlier made his competitive cricket debut in South Africa, playing one match for Border in 1981-2, in only his second First-class match. His departure from Sussex was a somewhat sour one. He had returned from a benefit tour to the Caribbean in October to find that he had been stripped of the captaincy. Although Sussex had posted a record losing score in the 1993 Natwest final, his years in charge had seen only moderate success, with a succession of mid to low placed Championship seasons. He played for Kent from 1997-2001, where age finally caught up with his form, although even in his late thirties he was still capable of playing enjoyable and well constructed innings.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)
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