Somerset Legends. Hallam Moseley.

A view from beyond the boundary…

Around Christmas 2016 some memories of Hallam Moseley were posted on grockles.com after some footage of the John Player League appeared on one of the discussion threads. It brought back my own memories of Moseley and his time with Somerset. I posted the following, now expanded, article as a tribute to a player who gave his all to Somerset and touched the hearts of a generation of Somerset supporters. 

A number of varying comments have given me pause to think about just what it was that made Hallam Moseley the Somerset legend many hold him to be. It was certainly not performances alone nor do a smile or an unforgettable boundary throw of themselves quite make the legend he became although they were key to it.

What is clear is Hallam Moseley constantly touched large numbers of people’s lives, or at least their cricket loving lives, and left them feeling the better for it. A number of people have described how the mere sight of a photograph or a memory of Moseley brings a smile to their face. I suspect it also brings joy to their hearts. Having the personality and the talent to do that is worth much in any human being.

Where a cricketer with such gifts is good enough to hold a place in a strong county team for over a decade they become legendary figures to many. It is not a rational thing. It cannot be quantified. It is an intangible visceral emotion that touches the heart. You either feel it or you don’t and there is nothing to be done about it either way. Most who saw Moseley play feel it.

In performance terms Hallam Moseley was not out of the very top drawer of cricketers. Few are. He never played a Test Match in that era of great West Indian fast bowlers. But, to achieve the legendary status he has within and, with some, beyond Somerset, he had to be good enough to warrant continuing respect as a First Class cricketer whatever his other attributes.

He was at or very near the top drawer of county players. 557 first class wickets and a bowling average of 24.53 in a first class career of over ten years and over 200 matches testifies to that. Whilst his 16 five wicket hauls suggest he did not regularly bowl sides out his average suggests he was consistently threatening and a regular wicket taker.

He remains Somerset’s top wicket taker in List A cricket which was his and Somerset’s strong suit in his day. He took 313 wickets at 19.91 with an economy rate of 3.63 in days when teams tended to score at between four and five runs an over. That is undeniably in the top drawer of county List A players.

List A, in his time the John Player League and various cup competitions, was what supporters flocked to see. They filled grounds and Hallam Moseley was one of the players people came especially to see. More than once I found myself standing through the length of a sold-out John Player League game.

By comparison with Moseley, Colin Dredge, another Somerset favourite and slightly younger contemporary (the current game has changed too much for statistical comparisons with today to be valid) returned a more than creditable 253 List A wickets at 25.42 with an economy rate of 4.02. His first class bowling average was 30.10. To set this comparison in context Moseley almost certainly enjoyed greater use of the new ball than did Dredge during their respective careers.

Many have made comments which recall the attributes that gave Hallam Moseley the place he holds in many of our hearts. The wickets, the economy, the fielding, that gazelle of a throw, the classic tail-end sixes, the genuineness of the man, the smile, always the smile, the warmth he exuded, the rapport he built with supporters, the time he was always prepared to give them and the life-long appreciation he instilled in them. That is where Hallam Moseley’s legendary status comes from. All these things in a rare personal and cricketing mix.

Bill Alley, another top county player who did not play Test cricket, exhibited a mix of personal and cricketing qualities that similarly drew people to him. He too enjoys legendary status among Somerset supporters of a certain age. It is an attribute achieved by few.

There have been better players than Hallam Moseley, or Bill Alley for that matter, who played for Somerset. Some played for Somerset for as long, even longer but few won hearts as quickly or to quite the extent he did. For many of us he still has the power to raise our spirits at the mere thought of him on a cricket field.

And for those with the strength to go on here are a couple of anecdotes to spice the mix…

I did not see Hallam Moseley play anything like as often as I would have liked for I never lived within two hundred miles of the County Ground for most of his career with Somerset. A friend did live in Somerset at the time and he describes a time before Moseley’s arrival. It was a time of old style fielding where fielders, particularly pace bowlers, did not often extend themselves in the chase and would not ‘attack’ the ball as is the modern way.

Then out of the Caribbean blue arrived this exuberant young pace bowler with the windmill action and a huge smile who raced around the boundary, scooped up the ball and in the same smooth movement propelled it with an underarm flick like a guided missile to the keeper.

He was one of the harbingers of the fielding revolution wrought by one day cricket. Not enough, of itself, to warrant ‘cult’ status. That required all the attributes listed above and more. But it was such a spectacular introduction that it made an immediate impact on people’s consciousness; an impact that became indelible over the next ten years and remains inprinted in minds to this day.

I am sure the join between the ‘old’ days and the harbinger of the new was not quite as clear cut as this. Brian Rose and Peter Denning preceded Hallam Moseley in the great Somerset team of which he was a member but he came in on the cusp of the change and his impact on people’s consciousness was immediate and lasting.

For myself I remember in particular the knife-edged Gillette Cup semi-final at Canterbury in 1974 with 500 travelling Somerset supporters corralled into a stand next to the lime tree. They cheered the team on, as only Somerset supporters can, as wickets fell early in the Kent innings against a paltry Somerset score of 154. “Will they run wild if they lose?” asked one ashen faced Kent lady of her husband. He failed to answer. There was no riot nor was there ever any prospect of one whatever the result.

Towards the end Bob Woolmer gradually eased the lady’s fears as he edged the match towards Kent. As Woolmer closed in Brian Close turned to Moseley. Moseley ran in. As clear as day I remember him passing the outside edge of Woolmer’s bat five times in an over. Woolmer finally connected with the last ball and drove it for three, perhaps Moseley stretched a little too far trying to coax movement out of the ageing ball.

Moseley stuck doggedly to his task through that exasperating over. Not a ball was fired in short. He simply strove to beat the bat. Many of the top pace bowlers struggle to keep their calm when persistence and pressure like that does not take a wicket. Moseley, professional to the core, kept his cool. That was the measure of the man.

I am eternally thankful I was privileged to watch a fine cricketer and a wonderful man who gave his all for Somerset and who was prepared to give any of us who wanted it his time.

The original version of this article was first published on grockles.com on 28th December 2016.