Of the Championship matches played at Rodney Parade, Newport, the game played from May 31 to June 2 of 1939 was by far the most famous. It was a sort of local Derby game, with Glamorgan taking on another West County team, Gloucestershire. There were three players in the Glamorgan team with the surname Davies, but they were all unrelated. Glamorgan were dismissed for 196. Gloucestershire then declared on 505 for 5, Wally Hammond scoring an imperious 302. One of Hammond’s sixes had broken one of the high windows of the power station that ran outside the southern boundary of the ground. The window was never repaired and remained broken until the building was demolished some 20 years later. This was Hammond’s second 302 in a First-Class innings; it is the highest First-Class score that has been achieved by the same batsman twice in his career. Hammond’s innings ended when he was caught by ’keeper Haydn Davies off left-arm spinner Emrys Davies.
Even in the truncated Gloucestershire scorecard, there were five entries in the name of Davies: Emrys took 2 wickets and held a catch while Haydn took a catch and made a stumping. The other Davies in the home team was ‘Dai’, a champion batsman and a highly respected umpire later in his career. Requiring 309 to avoid an innings defeat, Glamorgan responded with a first-wicket stand of 255, all but wiping out the deficit themselves to lay the foundation for a substantial total of 577 for 4. Opening batting, Emrys went on to score an unbeaten 287, his career-best and then the highest individual score by a Glamorgan player, and only 15 runs shy of Hammond’s score.
Emrys Davies first saw the light of day on June 27, 1904 at a place with the beautifully lilting Welsh name of Llanelly, Carmarthenshire, Wales. It appears that the name ‘Emrys’ is the Welsh equivalent to the English name ‘Ambrose’. From the archives of the National Library of Wales, we learn that Emrys was the son Thomas Davies, a tin-worker, and his wife Mary.
Emrys studied at Pentip Anglican School in his hometown. In later years he went on to marry Gertrude Moody in 1927, and the duo produced a son, Peter, who won a Rugby Blue at Cambridge and was skipper of the Glamorgan Seconds in the 1950s.
Having completed his schooling, Davies joined the workforce of Llanelli Steelworks and played for the works team, primarily as a left-arm spinner. The first mention of his name in a published cricket scorecard appears from match between Glamorgan Club & Ground and Cardiff, in 1923. He was not yet 19 then.
Glamorgan had graduated to Minor County status in the 1890s, entering the Minor County Championship in 1897. It was on May 18, 1921 that Glamorgan, captained by Norman Riches, played their first County Championship match, against Sussex at Cardiff Arms Park, winning by 23 runs against a team captained by Arthur Gilligan and having in their ranks players of the calibre of Vallance Jupp and Maurice Tate.
The archives speak of Davies developing into a left-hand batsman, usually up the order as well. He made his First-Class debut in 1924, against Gloucestershire. Glamorgan awarded him his cap in 1928.
In his First-Class career spanning 1924 to 1954, mainly as a professional for Glamorgan, Davies played 621 matches, scoring 26,564 runs at 27.92 with 32 centuries and 141 fifties. He also took 903 wickets at 29.30, and had 32 five-wicket hauls and 2 instances of 10 wickets in a match.
With his 26,564 runs, Davies is the second-highest scorer for Glamorgan till date after Alan Jones (the man cruelly deprived of an England Test cap when the series England vs Rest of the World in 1970 was stripped of its Test status). He also stands fifth in the all-time list of wicket-takers for Glamorgan with his tally of 885 wickets. His tally of 211 catches places him 11th on the overall list for Glamorgan among non-wicketkeepers as well.
Dr Andrew Hignell, Honorary Statistician and Historian to Glamorgan CCC, has this to say about Davies: “Davies’ nickname of ‘The Rock’ was a most fitting one, as his batting often proved to be the foundation of the Glamorgan innings.” That the accolade was well-deserved is quite evident from his numbers. He scored in excess of 1,000 runs in 16 consecutive seasons, from 1932 to 1953. His best season was 1937 when he scored 2,012 runs. He had seven seasons in which he aggregated 1,500. He also took 100 wickets in 1935 and 103 in 1937.
In 1935, Emrys Davies became the first Glamorgan player to achieve the ‘double’ of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets, cutting things a bit fine and taking his 100th wicket with his last ball of the season. He repeated the feat in 1937, becoming the man to do the first two ‘doubles’ for Glamorgan.
He had two outstanding all-round performances in his career, scoring a century and taking 5 wickets in an innings. The first of these was in the game against Warwickshire in 1935 when he scored exactly 100 (and added a further 21 runs in the second innings). He then opened bowling and took 5 for 54. He picked up another wicket in the second innings.
It was at Swansea again, this time against Hampshire in 1946 that he had another remarkable match. Opening batting, Davies scored 119 out of a total of 316. Hampshire were then shot out for 135, Davies taking 3 wickets. When the visitors followed on, he took 5 for 61 before contributing 42 undefeated runs in a Glamorgan win by 7 wickets.
In his annus mirabilis of 1937, Davies took his only hat-trick, against Leicestershire, with the wickets of George Geary, Herrick Bowley, and Haydon Smith. Later that season he became the fifth Glamorgan batsman to reach the landmark of 10,000 First-Class runs.
Among his numerous outstanding batting feats for Glamorgan, another partnership record is still in force today, this time worth 313 runs for the third wicket, when Davies (215) combined with Willie Jones against Essex in 1948.
Three Tests, at Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras had been planned for the scheduled second Test tour of India by an England team for 1939-40. A certain amount of uncertainty about the viability of the tour became more and more evident in view of the political situation in Europe at the time, as another World War loomed ahead.
On July 25, 1939, the MCC made the following communiqué to the press: “While none of the arrangements for the tour of India this winter have been cancelled, views are being exchanged at present between M.C.C. and the Indian Cricket Board of Control to ascertain if a postponement of the tour of India to the winter of 1941 might be desirable.”
Meanwhile, the selection panel comprising Peter Perrin (Chairman), Brian Sellers, and Maurice Turnbull (with designated skipper Jack Holmes co-opted to the panel) went ahead and selected a 16-member touring party with 40-year old Jack Holmes of Sussex named as skipper. Bob Wyatt of Warwickshire, as the most experienced man of the group, having already played 40 Tests, was nominated as vice-captain. Emrys Davies (Glamorgan) and Stan Nichols (Essex) were included in the proposed team as the all-rounders. The list of the selected players was released to the press on August 2, 1939.
However, the tense situation on the Continent persuaded the powers that be, both in England and in India that undertaking a cricket tour would be highly injudicious at that time. The notice for the cancellation of the tour was made known to the press on September 4, 1939, a day after Britain and France had declared war on Germany. Unfortunately for Davies, Test cricket thus passed him by as a larger game got underway in Europe. The proposed England tour of India in the winter of 1940-41 did not materialise either, and there was no more Test cricket at all till 1946.
The archives do not show Davies playing any First-Class cricket during the War years. There was tragedy for Glamorgan when pre-War captain Turnbull was killed in action in 1944 shortly before the Normandy landings. Despite being almost 42 when he played his first post-War Championship game in 1946, Davies showed that he was still very much a force to reckon with. He scored 54 and 30 and forming a new spin combination with the multi-talented new skipper of the team, Johnnie Clay, taking 5 for 37 and 3 for 28, although Yorkshire won the game by 5 wickets. He scored 93 and 10* in a drawn game against Sussex the same year. He scored 2 centuries and took 68 wickets in his first post-War season.
In 1947 he created a new record for Glamorgan by scoring 5 centuries in the season. The last real hurrah for Davies as a bowler was in 1950 when he took 57 wickets, the last time that he was to top the 50-wicket mark. He was 46 then. Even as late as 1953, we find him scoring 1,174 runs at an average of 28.63.
There is a story, apocryphal perhaps, of Davies telling Wilf Wooller, the new Glamorgan captain, after being bowled by Frank Tyson for the duck in this game: “I am finished. I can no longer see the ball.”
A grateful Glamorgan County Cricket Club had first awarded him a benefit in 1938 that raised £688 and another in 1947 that raised £1,880.
In view of his self-confessed visual impairment, it is curious that Davies should have opted for a career in umpiring on his retirement from active cricket. He officiated in 152 First-Class games between 1955 and 1960 — a fairly long innings in the long white coat.
Of these, 9 were Tests. Emrys Davies made his debut as a Test umpire in the company of Frank Lee in the second Test of the 1956 Ashes, at Lord’s, a game Australia won by 185 runs. He was there in the epic Old Trafford Test of the same series as well, where Jim Laker took 19 wickets.
Davies officiated in his last Test, also in the company of Lee, in the fifth Test against India at The Oval in 1959, a match where India were blown away by Fred Trueman and Brian Statham. He retired from his umpiring duties at the end of the 1960 domestic season on account of ill health. Even so, he maintained his link with cricket by taking up a coaching assignment with Llandovery College, where he devoted himself to the developing the cricket talent of the undergraduates from 1961 to 1970. There is also record of his coaching at Johannesburg.
Emrys Davies passed away on November 10, 1975, aged about 71, at his native Llanelly. In the words of the EW Swanton, “The phrase ‘Nature’s gentleman’ could have been invented for Emrys.”