Austin David George Matthews (1904-1977) represented England at cricket and Wales at table tennis, as well as gaining a Final Welsh Trial Cap at rugby union.
Austin came from Penarth; his parents were Frederick Harper Matthews, a coal trimmer, and his wife, Mary Margaret. After leaving school, he studied theology at Lampeter, entering in October 1925. However, he decided he was not ‘really fitted for the church.’ He moved to Northamptonshire, making his debut at rugby for Northampton Saints and at cricket for the county team in 1927. At rugby, he was a first class forward, who also played for East Midlands and for Penarth. He captained the Saints team in 1935. His Northampton cap is stored in the archives of Penarth RFC, together with his cap as a final Welsh rugby triallist for 1929. Matthews was later to referee the first Combined Oxford and Cambridge tour to Argentina in 1948.
As a cricketer, he bowled right-arm fast-medium with a high action. His obituary in Wisden commented ‘he was accurate and had the cardinal merits of keeping the ball on the wicket and making it run away.’ In his nine years at Northants, he took 567 wickets at an average of 26.45 runs for each. He was the county’s leading wicket taker in 1936, taking 83 wickets. He was also a useful lower order batsman, hitting two first-class centuries.
Yet Northants was a weak side; it is unlikely that Matthews could have kept his place in one of the stronger teams. In 1937 he left the county after a disagreement over the terms of a new professional contract and a delay in discussions over a possible benefit year. Believing that his county career was over, he found a job coaching cricket and rugby at Stowe Public School, near Buckingham. Apart from war service in the RAF, he remained at Stowe until 1953.
At the end of the 1937 summer term, Matthews left Stowe to visit his family in South Wales. There he met up with his old friend Maurice Turnbull, the Glamorgan cricket captain. Matthews was quickly drafted into the side. Several bowlers were injured, so he agreed to turn out a few times to help out, now as an amateur. In one of his first matches for his new county, he took 14 wickets for 132 runs against Sussex at Hove. The Times reporter commented ‘His fast medium bowling was not deadly in the last sense of that word, but it was always accurate. The ball was always doing something, and he never let the batsman feel he could relax.’ He followed this up with six wickets against Somerset at Weston-super-Mare.
Less than three weeks after joining Glamorgan, Matthews was included in the England squad to play against New Zealand at The Oval. The Times felt that in doing this the Selectors had provided a real surprise. Other members of the team included Len Hutton, Cyril Washbrook and Denis Compton. In the event, the match, affected by rain and played on a lifeless pitch, ended in a draw. Matthews finished with respectable figures of 2 wickets for 65 runs. However, he was not to play for England again.
Matthews continued playing first-class cricket into his mid-forties, finally retiring in 1947. He took 225 wickets for Glamorgan, at an average of only 15.88 runs for each. He also coached Cambridge University from 1934 to 1950. Matthews had strong views about coaching and frequently wrote about it. In particular, he contributed a feature article ‘Cricket a game – not a subject’ to the 1966 edition of Wisden. For him, coaching was not to be over-indulged for its own sake.
Matthews died in Penrhyn Bay, Llandudno, on July 29 1977. His obituary in Stowe’s alumni magazine, The Stoic, described ‘a personality who loved people, whose enthusiasm was infectious, and whose laugh was worth going a long way to hear.’
ESPN Cricinfo (n.d.) Austin Matthews England. Retrieved January 7 2021 from https://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/16942.html
Austin Matthews (1978). The Stoic, 161, 178. Retrieved January 7 2021 from https://stowemedia.azureedge.net/cmsstorage/uploads/medialibrary/stowe/old-stoic-events/os%20publications/the_stoic_161_july_1978.pdf
Northampton Saints (n.d.) Club records. Retrieved January 7 2021 from https://www.northamptonsaints.co.uk/club/history/club-records
Halford, B. & Hignell, A. (2018). The daffodil blooms: the glorious rise of Glamorgan CCC to county champions in 1948. Bedford: ACS. Retrieved January 7 2021 from https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/The_Daffodil_Blooms/n67RDwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=daffodil+blooms&pg=PP1&printsec=frontcover
From Our Special Correspondent. (1937, August 7). Glamorgan's Smart Win. Times, 4. Retrieved January 7 2021 from https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.uwtsd.ac.uk/apps/doc/CS67711239/TTDA?u=walamp&sid=TTDA&xid=a0d97d18
The Third Test Match. (1937, August 9). Times, 4. Retrieved January 7 2021 from https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.uwtsd.ac.uk/apps/doc/CS67449097/TTDA?u=walamp&sid=TTDA&xid=11a81fec
From Our Cricket Correspondent. (1937, August 18). Cricket. Times, 5. Retrieved January 7 2021 from https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.uwtsd.ac.uk/apps/doc/CS84095250/TTDA?u=walamp&sid=TTDA&xid=e4b2cb62
Museum of Welsh Cricket. (n.d.) Austin Matthews. Retrieved January 7 2021 from https://glamorgancricketarchives.com/austin-matthews/