One of the best middle order batsmen Sussex have had in recent years
Alan Wells was born in Newhaven on 2 October 1961 and went on to become one of the best middle order batsmen Sussex have had in recent years, and in his prime in the seven years between 1989 and 1995 there were few better batsmen in England yet he won just one Test cap. In these seven years Wells made 10,157 runs at an average of 48.6 for Sussex and scored 30 hundreds but was selected for just two England ‘A’ tours, one limited overs international and the one Test.
England was not necessarily blessed with middle order batsmen at this time so Wells can be considered unlucky not to have earned more international recognition. He was particularly overlooked for the tour of South Africa in the winter of 1995/96, and although he played one Test match against the West Indies in 1995 he was not given another chance.
A brother partnership record
Alan, eighteen months younger than his brother Colin, joined Sussex in 1982 at the age of 20 and in his first match against Cambridge University made 63. After a period of acclimatization to the first-class game he scored his first hundred in 1984 – 105 not out against Leicestershire – and reached 1,000 runs for Sussex. Two years later, in 1986, he scored an exciting 150 not out against Nottinghamshire, adding 149 with Tony Pigott and saving the match. A year later, in the match against Kent, he joined his brother in an unbeaten partnership of 303 in which he made 161 not out with three sixes and 19 fours, with Colin reaching 140 not out. This partnership beat the 50 year old record for partnerships between Sussex brothers which had been achieved by Jim and Harry Parks in 1937.
Top of the averages
Alan Wells led the Sussex batting averages in 1989 and was ninth in the national averages. In 1991 his purple patch continued with him getting 1,784 runs at an average of over 60 which included an innings of 253 not out in 406 minutes with three sixes and 27 fours in the County’s defeat of Yorkshire by an innings and the recording by Alan of the highest Sussex score against Yorkshire, beating Fry’s record of 234.
In 1993 Wells made 93 against the touring Australians at Hove, but was not considered for the Test side. In early 1990 he joined Mike Gatting’s ‘rebel’ English XI in South Africa but escaped any ban. In 1993/94 Wells was made vice-captain of England ‘A’ in South Africa and captain of the team when they toured India the following winter.
The 1993 Nat West final
In 1992 Alan Wells was appointed captain of Sussex, and his excellent run of form continued whilst the team finished 7th, 10th and 8th in the Championship. In 1993 Sussex reached the final of the NatWest Trophy. In the semi-final, with Sussex needing to chase down 220 in the 60 overs, they were reduced to just 110 for six by the 45th over, when Wells, joined by Neil Lenham, scored 106 and saw Sussex home by four balls with Wisden reporting ‘a brilliant one-day innings in which he manipulated the bowling masterfully.’ The final was a real classic. Sussex put up a total of 321 for six only to see Warwickshire squeeze past on the very last ball of the game to make the highest total achieved in a limited overs final to that point.
There was criticism of Wells’ field-placings in the match against Warwickshire and the criticism continued over the next two seasons when Sussex finished 15th and 12th in the Championship. Things were not helped when in his book The Captain’s Year, Wells seemed to criticise two of his team, Martin Speight and Ian Salisbury, while others were saying how the captain was short on inspiration and the dressing room atmosphere was unhappy.
When Wells returned from the West Indies following a benefit match in 1997, he discovered that in his absence the committee had sacked him. Not wanting to serve under another captain Wells opted to leave Sussex and join Kent.
M: 299, I:497, Runs: 17,135 Ave: 40.12