Don Shepherd took a club record of 2, 174 wickets for Glamorgan between 1950 and 1972. In all first-class cricket, he claimed 2,218 victims, yet remarkably, Shepherd never played in Test cricket. Indeed, the off-cutters tally of over two thousand wickets is the highest by any bowler never to have played for England. His remarkable record also spoke volumes both for his ability and perseverance , and highlights the way English cricket in the 1950`s and 1960`s was so well blessed with fine spinners for the Welshman to be constantly overlooked at the highest level.
Like many great spin bowlers, Shepherd made his Glamorgan debut in 1950 against Surrey at The Oval as a seam bowler, and up until 1955, he was a fast-medium bowler, regularly opening the bowling. In 1952 Shepherd claimed 115 victims and won his county cap at Preston after taking 11-101 against Lancashire. However, in the mid-1950`s, he lost form and found it difficult to regularly hit the seam. He sought advice from Wilf Wooller, Haydn Davies and other senior players, and as a result of their guidance, Shepherd decided to convert to off-cutters. After hours of practice in the nets, he claimed 10-85 in the final match of the 1955 season, against Warwickshire at Neath, and flushed with this success, decided to concentrate on off-cutters in 1956.
It was a change which reaped fantastic rewards, as 1956 saw Shepherd claim 168 wickets for Glamorgan - the second highest ever total in the club`s history. `Shep` passed the hundred mark in eleven further seasons, and year after year, he tricked and teased the finest of batsmen on the county circuit. He was also supported by a group of outstanding close to the wicket fielders, especially Peter Walker, and top-class wicket-keepers including Haydn Davies, David Evans and Eifion Jones, allof whom were instructed by `Shep` to stand back rather than up to the stumps. This was not surprising as Shepherd was not a classical off-spin bowler, and delivered the ball at almost medium pace. He also had the priceless ability to undercut the ball and make it move in the air, thereby causing the batsmen to misjudge the length of the ball.
Shepherd was a match-winner on a turning wicket, and year after year produced some remarkable returns on dry and dusty surfaces. These included 6/5 against Nottinghamshire at Newport in 1961, 5/2 against Leicestershire at Ebbw Vale in 1965 and 7/7 against Hampshire at the Arms Park in 1966, whilst he took a hat-trick against Northamptonshire at Swansea in 1964. However, he could also contain the best of county batsmen even on the flattest of surfaces, and a sequence of Glamorgan captains knew that `Shep` could be relied upon to bowl for hour after hour, and rarely get taken apart by the opposition.
He was also an aggressive lower-order batsman who in 1961, equalled the world record with a whirl wind half-century against the Australian tourists at Swansea. He reached his 50 in just 15 minutes, with only eleven scoring strokes, hitting six sixes, three fours, a two and a single. `Shep` was also a very cunning tactician, and from 1962 he served as a wise senior professional. In 1969 he was Tony Lewis` vice-captain and the year, `Shep` had led Glamorgan to victory over the 1968 Australians at Swansea, with the 79 run victory being a tribute to his subtle tactics and shrewd bowling changes.
These successes led to the Glamorgan off-cutter winning a place on the 1969/70 M.C.C. tour of Ceylon and the Far East with the M.C.C., and in 1970 he was one of Wisden`s Five Cricketers of the Year. He eventually retired in 1972, but has kept a close link with the county game by acting as the club`s bowling coaching, as well as broadcasting with B.B.C. Radio Wales.
(Article: Copyright © 2000 Dr.A.K.Hignell)
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