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Merv Wallace

Merv Wallace

Wallace in 1956
Personal information
Full name
Walter Mervyn Wallace
Born(1916-12-19)19 December 1916
Grey Lynn, Auckland, New Zealand
Died21 March 2008(2008-03-21) (aged 91)
Auckland, New Zealand
BowlingRight-arm offbreak
RelationsGeorge Wallace (brother)
Gregory Wallace (son)
Grant Fox (son-in-law)
Ryan Fox (grandson)
International information
National side
Test debut (cap 32)26 June 1937 v England
Last Test13 March 1953 v South Africa
Career statistics
Competition Test First-class
Matches 13 121
Runs scored 439 7,757
Batting average 20.90 44.32
100s/50s 0/5 17/43
Top score 66 211
Balls bowled 6 34
Wickets 0 0
Bowling average
5 wickets in innings
10 wickets in match
Best bowling
Catches/stumpings 5/– 68/–
Source: Cricinfo, 1 April 2017

Walter Mervyn Wallace MNZM (19 December 1916 – 21 March 2008) was a New Zealand cricketer and former Test match captain.

Former New Zealand captain John Reid called him "the most under-rated cricketer to have worn the silver fern."[1] He was nicknamed "Flip" by his teammates, because that was the strongest expletive they ever heard him say.

Cricket playing career

Wallace was born in Grey Lynn, Auckland. He left school aged 13, and was coached at Eden Park by Ted Bowley and Jim Parks. He played cricket with his brother, George Wallace,[2] with the Point Chevalier Cricket Club, and then the Auckland under-20 side.

He made his first-class debut for Auckland in the Plunket Shield in December 1933.[3] Wallace toured England in 1937 as part of a New Zealand team weakened by a policy of refusing to select professional cricketers. He scored two half-centuries (52 and 56) on his Test debut, at Lord's. He headed the tour batting averages, scoring 1,641 runs at an average of 41.02.

He scored 211, his highest first-class score, against Canterbury in January 1940, making his runs in 292 minutes.[4] He joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, but was invalided out due to stomach muscle problems caused by an appendix operation.[5]

The peak years of his cricketing career were lost to the Second World War, and he did not play Test cricket again until March 1946.

He played in New Zealand's first Test against Australia, in Wellington in March 1946, which Australia won by an innings within two days. He also played against the English tourists in 1947. He joined the four-Test tour to England in 1949 as vice-captain to Walter Hadlee. He scored 1,722 first-class runs at an average of 49.20, including centuries against Yorkshire, Worcester, Leicester, Cambridge University and Glamorgan. He scored 910 runs before the end of May, narrowly failing to join Donald Bradman (twice) and Glenn Turner as the only touring batsmen to pass 1,000 runs before the end of May. He was less successful in the Tests.

British film actress Rona Anderson demonstrates her cricket skills to players of the 1949 New Zealand cricket team touring England during a visit to Pinewood Studios. Left to right: Martin Donnelly (kneeling), Geoff Rabone, Walter Hadlee (kneeling), Frank Mooney, Rona Anderson, Harry Cave, Merv Wallace, John Reid

He made his Test best score of 66 against England at Christchurch in 1951, and played his last two Tests as captain against the touring South Africans in 1953. Short but quick, he was able to score all round the wicket, with a particularly notable cover drive. His Test batting average of 20.90 was widely considered to fail to reflect his batting abilities.

Cricket coaching career

Wallace began coaching in his early twenties, when he was employed by the Auckland sporting gods store Wisemans to coach in schools.[6] He continued to coach at school and club level for most of his life. During the 1949 tour of England he acted as unofficial team coach.[7]

Wallace was the official coach of New Zealand's first victorious Test team, against the West Indies at Eden Park in 1956.[8] He was retained for the series against the Australian team in 1956-57.[9] Afterwards, however, his coaching prowess was overlooked by the New Zealand administrators.

John Reid, the captain of the unsuccessful touring team to England in 1958, said it was a mistake not to include Wallace as player-coach in the team: "Our 1958 team was desperately short of experience and technical expertise. In those circumstances, Merv would have been a priceless asset."[10]

After cricket

Wallace ran a sports shop in Auckland with tennis player Bill Webb from 1947 to 1982. The Wallace & Webb Ltd shop included a tea room, so the many sportsmen who dropped in could stay for advice or a chat and could bring their wives or children. It became a popular meeting place for sporting people.[11]

In the 2004 Queen's Birthday Honours, Wallace was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to cricket.[12] He was awarded the Bert Sutcliffe Medal in 2005.[13]

The Old Members Stand at the Eden Park Outer Oval was renamed the Merv Wallace Stand in his honour.[14]


Merv Wallace married Yvonne ("Vonnie") Page in Auckland on 10 March 1948 – a Wednesday, so that their friends, most of whom were cricketers and busy on Saturdays, could attend.[15] His brother, George Wallace, and son, Gregory Wallace,[16] both played first-class cricket for Auckland. His daughter, Adele, married rugby union player Grant Fox;[17] one of their children is the golfer Ryan Fox.[18]

A biography, Merv Wallace: A Cricket Master by Joseph Romanos, was published in 2000.[19][20][21]


Wallace suffered from diabetes in later life, becoming blind and losing several toes. He died in Auckland on Good Friday in 2008. As a mark of respect, the New Zealand team playing England in the Third Test at McLean Park in Napier wore black armbands on Saturday 22 March.


  1. ^ "Merv Wallace's legacy will live on". Cricinfo, 15 September 2000.
  2. ^ George Wallace. Cricket Archive.
  3. ^ Wellington v Auckland 1933–34. Retrieved on 27 May 2018.
  4. ^ "Auckland v Canterbury 1939-40". CricketArchive. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  5. ^ Don Neely, "NZ's first cricket coach", The Dominion, 3 April 2008.
  6. ^ Romanos, Joseph (2000). Merv Wallace: A Cricket Master (Paperback ed.). Joel Pub. p. 14. ISBN 0473070987.
  7. ^ Romanos, p. 13.
  8. ^ "Former New Zealand cricket captain Merv Wallace dead at 91". Associated Press. 22 March 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2024 – via Newsbank.
  9. ^ Romanos, p. 15.
  10. ^ Romanos, pp. 8–9.
  11. ^ Romanos, p. 167.
  12. ^ "Queen's Birthday honours list 2004". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 7 June 2004. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  13. ^ Richards, Harley (4 April 2018). "New Zealand cricket awards". New Zealand Cricket Museum. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  14. ^ "ACSSC History". Auckland Cricket. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  15. ^ Romanos, P. 182.
  16. ^ Gregory Wallace. Cricket Archive.
  17. ^ Agnew, Ivan (24 March 2006). "Cricket legend honoured". Times Live. Archived from the original on 13 August 2016. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  18. ^ Jackson, Glenn (7 December 2012). "Fox happy to follow in son's footsteps". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  19. ^ "Merv Wallace's legacy will live on", Cricinfo, 15 September 2000
  20. ^ Romanos, p. 203.
  21. ^ Cameron, Don (9 December 2000). "Joseph Romanos: Merv Wallace - A Cricket Master". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
Sporting positions Preceded byBert Sutcliffe New Zealand national cricket captain 1952/3 Succeeded byGeoff Rabone
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Merv Wallace
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