Eric Meads, who died at the Park House Nursing Home, Cinderhill on 23 June 2006, might be described as the county’s diminutive wicket-keeper, being just 5 feet 4.5 inches in height. However, his predecessor Arthur Wheat only managed 5 feet 3 inches and his successor, Eddie Rowe claimed to be 5 feet 5 inches – but as no photo can be located of Rowe and Meads side by side, we cannot verify their relative heights!
Born in Carrington on 17 August 1916, Meads went to the local school, where he was in the eleven for three years and captain for two. He played cricket on the Forest for various local clubs, and in 1936 represented the Notts Cricket Association v Notts Club and Ground.
However another keeper, John Stirland, was tried in several C&G matches that summer and seemed favourite to be taken on Notts playing staff when Ben Lilley (aged 41 in 1936) retired. Another possible rival was Les Tomlinson, the Forest Wanderers batsman-wicketkeeper (later to be the County scorer).
In the end, Meads was preferred and joined the staff in 1937. Lilley faded out that year and his understudy, Arthur Wheat, took over as First Team man. Wicket-keeping matters at the time were not quite that straight-forward; Sir Julien Cahn had in his employ Cecil Maxwell, regarded as the most promising batsman-wicket-keeper in England. In what, by modern ethics might seem odd, Maxwell could only play for Notts when he was not required for Sir Julien’s team. So with Wheat and Maxwell sharing keeper duties in the last three pre-war summers, Meads appeared just once a first-class game, versus Hampshire at Trent Bridge on 16 August 1939.
Serving in the RAF during the war, Meads was fortunate to be stationed within travelling distance of Trent Bridge. Notts were the only county to arrange matches through every wartime season (albeit Saturday one-day games), Maxwell had left the area, Wheat was not often available so Meads naturally filled the gap. Peace returned, Wheat was now 48, allowing Meads to naturally step into the 1946 championship side.
So successful was he that in the first three summers, he played in every First Eleven game, then in 1949 he volunteered to stand down for one match simply to give his understudy, Eddie Rowe, a taste of top-grade cricket. In the next three years, Meads only missed only seven games in all. The arrival of Bruce Dooland in 1953 very quickly changed that position. Meads was unable to read the subtle spin variations of Dooland and Rowe was drafted in as a result. The only downside to the change was that Rowe, career batting average 5.46 was an even worse rabbit than Meads. In 205 first-class games for Notts, Meads scored 1,475 runs @9.83 with a top score of 56 not out versus Worcestershire at Trent Bridge in 1948. He caught 366 catches and took 80 stumpings. Meads last game for Notts was against Northants at Trent Bridge on 8 9 10 July 1953. In 1948 he made 74 dismissals (59 ct, 15 st), the highest by any keeper that year.
At the close of 1954, Meads, who was then living in Sherwood, left the playing staff to concentrate on his printing and stationery business, which was based in St Peter’s Gate in Nottingham,
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 371