Beautifully engraved certificate from the Philip Mead Bat Company issued
in 1923. This historic document has an
ornate border around it. This item is hand signed by the Company's Directors and Secretary and is
over 80 years old.
Cricket bat company named after the famous player, Philip Mead.
Mead, Charles Philip (1887-1958)
The Man who Never Encouraged Bowlers (by John Arlott)
He was never much concerned with records. But, pressed to choose
one for himself, I have little doubt that he would have picked
that which, in fact, stands to his name - with no indication that
it will ever be wrested from him. That record is for the
greatest number of runs scored by any player for one team in the
entire history of cricket. The number is 48,892, scored by Philp
Mead for Hampshire.
The figure is staggering. He would have liked us to make that
comment. he would have pointed out, though, that he did not only
bat for Hampshire; that, in all first-class matches, he totalled
55,061 runs, with 153 centuries and an average of 47.67. But for
four seasons lost to the First World War, he must have made
atleast 8,000 more. His first-class career is given officially
as from 1905 to 1936: but in 1905, while he was qualifying for
Hampshire, he played in only one match. so his runs were made in
twenty-seven seasons: an average of more than 2,000 runs a year.
We may adduce one more piece of evidence about him before we
dispense with "damned dots" - Mead's average in Test cricket
against Australia (51.87 in, surprisingly enough, only seven
Tests, and jthose spread over seventeen years) is higher than his
figure for all play.
No one who saw Philip Mead bat will ever forget him. At the fall
of Hampshire's second wicket he would emerge from the pavilion
with a peculiar rolling gait, his sloping shoulders, wide hips
and heavy, bowed legs giving him the bottom-heavy appearance of
those lead-based, won't-fall-down dolls of our childhood. Leath-
ery complexioned, with a long nose, a wry expression and eyes
which seemed always to be screwed up against the sun, he had a
semi-comic air: but he was a very serious batsman. At the
crease, he went through precisely the same ritual before every
ball was bowled to him. First he touched his cap four times to
short-leg (whether that fieldsman was there or not) then he
tapped his bat four times in the crease and, finally, took four
small, shuffling strides up to it. Then, and only then, the
bowler might bowl: if he tried to do so before the ritual was
completed, Philip stepped away from his stumps and, when the
bowler stopped, started the whole procedure over again. He wore
out some dozens of cap-peaks in his time, and - "I know it some-
times held them up; but is used to put some of the hasty ones
off, and I shouldn't have felt happy if I hadn't done it."
His batting gave a superficial impression of clumsiness, accen-
tuated perhaps by the fact that he was left-handed. But his
footwork was so neat that he seemed always in position, his bal-
ance was utterly perfect and his timing so delicate that he
seemed only to need to stroke the ball to send if for four. One
of his maxims was: "No point in trying to bash the case off it:
just hit it hard enough for four." He had all the strokes and,
though he relished the cover-drive ("that's everyone's favourite
stroke, really"), he never favoured any to the extent of playing
it to the wrong ball.
The best critics of batsmen - the bowlers of four countries, who
opposed him over three decades - described him, with remarkable
unanimity, as "the hardest of them all to get out". That was the
way he wanted to be. Alec Kennedy, who knoew him better than
anyone, thought the most remarkable facet of his batting was that
he made so many of his big scores on turning wickets. Yet Alec
added, "But he was as fine a player of fast bowling as I ever
saw." That judgment was borne out when Mead stopped the terrify-
ing progress of Gregory and McDonald, the Australian fast bowlers
of 1921, in the Fifth Test with an innings of 182 (not out), then
the highest score ever made by an English batsman against Aus-
tralia in England.
There probably will be no end - and can be no clear decision - to
the debate as to whether Philip Mead or Frank Woolley was te
greater left-hand batsman. There is no doubt that Woolley was
the greater stylist, and he scored more runs: but Mead had the
higher average - over all, and against Australia - and, by his
standards, that would be conclusive.
This man, Charles Philip Mead - "Phil" - was the ultimate run-
hungry batsman. Indeed, at times it seemed that he was not in-
terested in batting but only in runs. Like the Sikhs, who only
draw their knives to draw blood, he did not care to pick up his
bat except to oppose a bowler for runs which counted. He had a
rooted aversion to batting in the nets: and, when others took
pre-season practice, he would do his utmost to evade it, with
words, "You may lead in May, but I shall catch you in June."Once,
when he voiced dissatisfaction with his timing in a century which
was his first innings of the season, Alec Kennedy pertinently en-
quired when he had last held a bat in his hands. "Last Scarbor-
ough Festival," was the the answer.
Mead was consciously, and quite downrightly, a *professional*
cricketer: he executed his craft for the best living he could
get (and that was fairly meagre); and he would not, I fancy, have
objected to being described as a mercenary. Hampshire, in his
day, paid talent money to their batsmen strictly on a basis of
fifty-run increments, irrespective of their effect on the match.
So, an innings of 49 went worthless financially: one of 99 no
better rewarded than 50. Hence, more than one Hampshire batsman
was run out when Philip had the strike on 49 or 99: and one
famous left-arm bowler, an old opponent recalls the many times
when Mead steered him through the short-leg fieldsmen and, as he
completed the stroke, set off for a run with the words, "That's
another ton of coal for the winter."
It is not unusual to hear it said that Mead was a slow scorer;
but the records do not bear out that argument. He could *look*
slow because his movement to the ball was so unhurried, and be-
cause he never seemed to swing the bat: he came by his runs at a
steady but unobtrusive rate. Perhaps the illusion was best
demonstrated, in all innocence, by an old Hampshire member who
said to me, "Of course Mead was so dull: I once saw him
stonewall nearly all day for 280!" In truth, he scored as fast
as he could, consonant with his assessment of safety. I have
called him run-hungry, but it might be more accurate to describe
him as a run addict. Many batsmen, when they have made a century
- or 150 or 200 - will take risks and, in effect, throw away
their wickets. But the more runs Philip Mead made, the more he
wanted. In 1912, when Hampshire were in a losing position
against Warwickshire, he saved them in the second innings with
207 not out, scored in exactly three hours. The next day,
against Sussex at Portsmouth, he made a century before lunch and,
when Bob Relf caught him at cover for 194 in mid-afternoon, came
into the dressing-room with the words, "I didn't get over it
Once in scoring vein he would go on and on, combative, acquisi-
tive, never losing poise, power or patience. Between early June
and mid-July in 1921 he scored 1,601 runs; a year later he made
1192 in seven consecutive innings: in 1927, from the end of May
to late June, he played fourteen innings (four of them not out)
for 1,257 runs (an average of 125.70): he was then forty years
For several years before he retired he was so crippled by rheuma-
tism and backache that he could barely stoop to lace his boots.
But still the runs came and he still caught almost anything
within his reach at slip, though he would not care to run for the
snicks that scuttled past him. To the end, even on the eve of
his blindness - such an ironically savage blow to fall upon one
of his keen eye for the ball - he batted with monumental skill
It was Mead's dishearteningly broad bat that changed Maurice Tate
from a slow off-spinner to a pace bowler. In desperation,
against that unwavering defence, one afternoon at Horsham, Tate
gathered all his energy and flung down the first quick ball he
had ever bowled in all his life. It pitched on Mead's off-stump,
made hurry off the pitch and flicked away the leg bail. So Tate
described it; thirty years later, Mead, unprompted, confirmed the
description. "A pretty good ball, Philip?" "Not half: a real
trimmer: mind, I don't say I wouldn't have played it if I'd ex-
pected him to bowl fast ... but, yes, it was a good 'un."
"Did you say anything to him, Philip?"
"What? Me? 'Course I didn't. I never encouraged bowlers."
That might be Philip Mead's epitaph as a cricketer: pre-
eminently among all the men who ever wielded a bat, he never en-
(Thanks : "The Boundary Book", ed. Leslie Frewin, McDonald, 1962)
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