Tom Pritchard, hero of Warwickshire in the post-war years, and widely recognised as the greatest cricketer never to play a Test for New Zealand, has died, aged 100.
Taranaki-born Mr Pritchard played for Wellington before the onset of the Second World War, and also played a first-class match for a New Zealand XI against the touring Sir Julien Cahn side.
Only the third New Zealand first-class cricketer after John Wheatley and Syd Ward to reach 100, he is remembered as a fast-bowler and a handy lower order batsman who starred for Warwickshire, playing a leading role in their championship title win in 1951.
With Mr Pritchard’s passing, New Zealand’s oldest first-class cricketer is now former Canterbury left-arm spinner Alan Burgess (97), who toured England alongside Mr Pritchard in the 1945 New Zealand Services team.
Good enough to have played Test cricket for many years, Mr Pritchard would almost have certainly been selected in the 1949 New Zealand team which toured England, but for his decision to not jeopardise his county contract with Warwickshire.
He played extensively for services teams during the war years, including the biggest match at that stage of his overseas career, the inter-command “Test” between his Central Mediterranean Forces team and the Middle East Forces team in Rome.
The story goes that England and Warwickshire batsman Tom Dollery spotted Mr Pritchard playing in an inter-service game and, recognising his talent, persuaded him to shift to England after the war.
Having spent a year qualifying via Warwickshire’s second XI, Mr Pritchard made a telling impact on the county circuit, taking more than 100 wickets a season every year from 1948 to 1951.
Mr Pritchard was at his most destructive while leading Warwickshire to a surprise title in 1951, at one stage taking 36 wickets in four matches, including his third Warwickshire hat-trick, still a club record.
In a first-class career spanning 200 games, he took 818 wickets at 23.30 - including 695 during a decade of service at Edgbaston.