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Jack Mercer: A Bowler of Magical Spells

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Written by Andrew Hignell

Though he didn’t play regular first-class cricket until he was 31, Jack Mercer took nearly 1,500 wickets in the county game, mostly bowling fast-medium for Glamorgan, where he gradually acquired all the variations of that craft. As a batsman he had two principal shots which he named ‘Cautious Caroline’ and ‘Saucy Sally’; the latter brought him a record-setting 31 runs off an eight-ball over in 1939.

His involvement with county cricket extended from 1913 when his success with his village side, Southwick, attracted the attention of the Sussex club, through to 1983 when he kept the score book for Northamptonshire seconds.

In between he led an astonishingly diverse life. He was in St Petersburg, ‘smitten’ with a Russian ballerina, when the First War broke out; his aptitude for her language took him to Bletchley Park in the Second. He was watching racing at Longchamp when told he was needed on an MCC tour to India; his white-gloved magician’s hands featured in early television advertisements.

Andrew Hignell here relates the life of the one of the most genial and long-serving of county cricket’s practitioners, from the smithy to a Marylebone mews.

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