Alan Ward – Fast Bowler Made a Perfect Foil for John Snow
Alan Ward would have made a perfect foil for John Snow had he been a faster right-arm bowler during his era. Derbyshire, Border, and Leicestershire Not many very tall fast bowlers have survived for long in top-class cricket, and Alan Ward is a case in point. In his day Alan Ward could be very fast indeed, and one often felt that his spirit was willing but his flesh weak. His height, relatively slim build, and a right-arm action that somehow never looked natural — he almost seemed to over-balance as he delivered the ball — conspired to cause numerous injuries, especially in the legs.
One way and another he has been handled as if he came from Ming instead of Downfield. Few bowlers have been so carefully nurtured by their county nursery—few have made so sudden an impression on the county scene. Is he the new Frank Tyson? That was it. He had taken 26 county wickets for a total cost of 308 runs which worked out to 11.8 runs each. He played some festival cricket but he did not take many more wickets.
All he did was spoil his average a bit. As a result of this month of menace, Ward found himself in an MCC side at the beginning of this season, and he found himself being interviewed by such diverse organs as York- shire Television, The Daily Telegraph, and The Cricketer (ever on the ball!). “You’re the fastest bowler in the world,” said the gentleman from Yorkshire Television, by way of an opening. “I’m not,” said Ward, with some spirit, which must have depleted the interview no end. “That sort of talk is unwarranted at this stage of my career,” says Ward, sensibly. “I’ve played for MCC after half a dozen matches and I’m thrilled about having played for them, but really I’ve done now.
It would have been better if things had been gradual.” He shrugged. “But they haven’t. “I’m ambitious. I want to play for England. I’m tremendously curious to know how this season will go, but I fancy there will be a few batters looking out for me.” Asked to digress on which way he moved the ball (a subject on which several fast bowlers I could think of would contribute not less than 5,000 words), Ward carefully kept a very, very straight face and said, “I bowl a lot of straight balls.” He thought a moment. “You could say I’m experimenting,” he allowed. He did not exactly slip himself when playing for MCC against Yorkshire.
The weather was cold and grey and not really conducive to whittling them down. Alan Ward looked philosophical. “But then that old currant bun comes out,” he says, “and you feel different again. You feel like bowling quick.” Ward was right about the batters who are looking out for him. His start this season was as gradual as he could have wished it. So gradual, in fact, that it was almost imperceptible. That may be no bad thing. If Alan Ward is going to bowl as fast as Frank Tyson, not many Englishmen will mind if he takes another two years to work up to it.
Derbyshire nursed him gently after a promising debut in 1966. He was capped in 1969 and played for Derbyshire until 1976 when he moved to Leicester- shire for two seasons without being able to command a regular place. His five Tests were spaced between 1969 and 1976, but injury plagued him when he had his big chance in Australia in 1970-71, and he had to return home early without sharing in the success of John Snow and England’s other fast bowlers.
Alan Ward best bowling return in a Test was 4 for 61 against New Zealand at Trent Bridge in his second Test match. He took 10 wickets in that short series at 21 each but the auspicious start was deceptive. For Derbyshire, Alan Ward took 7 for 42 against Glamorgan in 1974 and he also once took 4 wickets in four balls in a John Player league match. He was often useful as a hard-hitting, right-handed tailender. First-class career (1966-78): 928 runs (8.43) and 460 wickets (22.81) Test matches (5): 40 runs (8.00), 14 wickets (32.35), and 3 catches.