Brian Halford
7th November 2019

Nicknamed Wally?

If you were asked which Warwickshire player of the 1980s and 1990s was known in the dressing-room as "Wally" because his cover-drive evoked comparison with the great Wally Hammond, who would be your guess?

Dennis Amiss, perhaps? David Hemp? Nick Knight? Ian Bell? (Yes, Belly counts as the 1990s – he made his debut in the last match of ’99!).

Well, it was none of those. The answer is a chap who came in rather lower down the order: Gladstone Small.
Small has a towering reputation as one of the finest bowlers in Warwickshire’s history. The Barbados-born seamer took 717 first-class wickets at 27.98 apiece for the Bears and another 396 at 25.48 in limited-overs cricket.

He took 55 wickets in 17 Tests for England, carried a thin Bears attack pretty much single-handed early in his career and was almost unplayable at times. A bowler from the top-drawer.

"One of my nicknames was Wally because Dennis Amiss said I had a cover-drive like Wally Hammond. The trouble was that bowlers knew it was my only shot so they didn’t bowl much there."

Gladstone Small

But he could also bat a bit – quite a lot more than career-figures of 4,409 first-class runs at 14.36 suggest. He scored seven half-centuries, including one against Glamorgan at Edgbaston in 1988 in a thrilling match in which he showed his all-round prowess.

Small achieved the rare feat of scoring 100 runs and taking ten wickets in a match – scoring 31 and 69 and taking six for 79 and six for 42 – in the Bears’ four-run defeat.

Mr Hammond would have been proud of that.

“One of my nicknames was Wally because Dennis Amiss said I had a cover-drive like Wally Hammond,” Small recalls. “The trouble was that bowlers knew it was my only shot so they didn’t bowl much there!

“I loved batting. As a boy in the Caribbean I was a batsman who just bowled a bit of spin because bowling was just bloody hard work. But after I joined Warwickshire, as my bowling developed, I didn’t have the time to work on my batting.

“If there was an hour and a half in the nets in the morning I would be bowling to the guys like Dennis Amiss or Alvin Kallicharran or Geoff Humpage who loved to bat, then it was lunchtime so off to the pub for lunch. The only time I batted was in the middle.

“Also, in those days it was harder to score many runs down the order. These days teams bat down to 11, as Jack Leach proved in the summer, and bowlers work really hard at their batting. We never had that luxury. Back then the tail was usually pretty weak so, going in at eight, you often didn’t have much to work with.

“There was a 100-over limit to first innings too, so if the wicket was flat the batters got runs and batted for most of those overs. If it was lively you would go in to face somebody like Malcolm Marshall or Sylvester Clarke – there were some pretty good bowlers around then.”

Small was one of them – as was a young quickie who also featured in that Glamorgan match in 1988. It was 21-year-old Allan Donald’s second season with the Bears and that game brought a glimpse of the future as Donald, Small and Tim Munton teamed up in the pace attack.

"Lloydy changed the mindset. He was a gambler and was prepared to try to win a game even if it meant risking losing it. With three-day cricket there were a lot of declarations and sometimes he would set teams targets of only four an over but he backed us as bowlers."

Gladstone Small

It was quite a match. Those three bowlers took all 20 wickets as Glamorgan made 272 and 136. Then Warwickshire, chasing 194, slipped to 107 for nine. That left Small and number 11 Norman Gifford needing to set a new record tenth-wicket stand to win a first-class match – and they came so close, adding 82 before Small fell lbw to Greg Thomas for 69, leaving Gifford unbeaten on 23.

“I remember that partnership because it was one of my biggest scores, though not the biggest,” Small said. “I got a 70 against Lancashire and Wasim Akram (I scored quite a few to third man!).

“Giff was a great fellow and brought a lot to the team but batting wasn’t one of his strengths. But we kept going and eked out a few runs and got very close before I was out lbw.

“That was one of A.D’s early games. He and Tony Merrick were competing for a place. A.D had come over all fresh-faced and hardly speaking a word of English, this boy from the bush in Bloemfontein. We thought ‘what have we got here?’ but Kalli and Andy Lloyd had seen him play in South Africa and knew he was an unpolished gem. What a bowler.

“That was one of the first games that A.D, Munt and I played together.”

It was also the first season of Andy Lloyd’s captaincy and his bold, inventive leadership was to drag the county out of the drift of the ’80s towards the glory of the ’90s.

“Lloydy changed the mindset,” said Small. “He was a gambler and was prepared to try to win a game even if it meant risking losing it. With three-day cricket there were a lot of declarations and sometimes he would set teams targets of only four an over but he backed us as bowlers. Lloydy and Bob Cottam, who came in as coach at that time, sowed the seeds of all the success that was to follow in the ’90s.”