Thursday, 14 February 2019

Abroad thoughts from home.

Posted by Tony Hutton

In 1845 the poet Robert Browning was in Northern Italy and wrote a very famous poem 'Home thoughts from abroad' which start off  ' O to be in England now that April's there'.

I appreciate we are not yet in April but it's not really far away and we can look forward to cricket in England during the last week in March anyway. I have transposed Browning's poem to my own thoughts from home about cricket abroad, and lots of it too.

In the early and mid nineteen nineties I had the pleasure of watching England play abroad, twice in Austalia and once in South Africa. Sadly the advent of the ubiquitous Barmy Army soon put a stop to that.

Adelaide Oval 1991

Since then I have watched anyone but England abroad and enjoyed Australia again, when India were the visitors, Sri Lanka and even U.A.E. and Jersey when lesser know countries were involved. Now I have give up overseas travel altogether and am content to watch action from afar on television. That also has it's problems, often involving turning off the sound either to get rid of the Barmy Army's endless chanting or the so called commentators and summarisers who just talk and talk, hardly pausing for breath, flogging the topic of the moment to death.

It is a far cry from the days of the great commentators, like Arlott and Benaud, who would let the picture tell the story and pause for breath from time to time. They could also string words together in a proper format and come out with memorable phrases which caught the mood of the play exactly, unlike the present band of former players. People tell me that Atherton is the best of the bunch, but unfortunately I cannot help recalling his rather negative attitude as England captain on the tours which I followed.

Sydney cricket ground 1995

Never mind, I still enjoy watching Test cricket from a distance and welcome the return to form of the West Insides side, temporary or not. They have produced some of the most gifted players I have ever seen in the past and I am sure they will again. Hopefully Sri Lanka can also turn the corner on their present our of South Africa. However the most disturbing feature yesterday was the very sparse crowd watching the Test Match in Durban - hardly anybody there!

The most pleasing thing for me from England's win in St Lucia was the performance of Mark Wood. I have watched this young man's career at Durham with great interest and am delighted to see him hopefully back to full fitness after so many setbacks. I have just been reading Duncan Hamilton's excellent book on Harold Larwood and feel that there are similarities between the two of them. Larwood being quite slim and not very tall when his career began. However I trust Wood's lunchtime will be somewhat different from the great man, who apparently had up to four pints of beer, a fag and a cheese sandwich!

Things have also sprung to life at home with the eventual issue of full fixtures for Minor Counties and County second eleven games. This means that we now have a full draft fixture list of cricket to watch from the last week in March to the last week in September, plus a couple of weekends in october. Nearly every Friday is a day off to deal with domestic matters, but otherwise our programme for the season is more or less complete.

Still waiting for the MCC out match programme, but we have most forms of cricket covered during the season with the exception of T20, World Cup and Test Matches which we happily leave to the hurrah Henrys, the beer swillers and the Barmy Army.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Selling off the family silver

posted by John Winn

During the 1970s and 80s I built up a large collection of Darlington FC programmes dating back in a few cases to the 1920s. Following their demotion to the Northern League for financial reasons in 2012 and their exile to Bishop Auckland for four years my support for the club waned and last season, for the first time in about 30 years, I did not see them play despite the fact that home matches are now played back  in Darlington, sharing with Darlington RUFC at Blackwell Meadows, just about a mile from my beloved Feethams.

I stopped collecting programmes in 2000 and five years ago donated virtually a complete set from the years between 1970 and 2000 to the club to dispose of as they wished. They decided to keep them for their archive. About twelve months ago I decided to sell the remainder through an organisation called Sportingold, based in Buckinghamshire.

Sportingold hold auctions of sporting memorabilia about ten times a year, the next is on March 8th and bids can be placed on line, by post or phone and in person at the auctions which are held in Stokenchurch near High Wycombe. The excellent catalogue is dominated by football, not just programmes but shirts, medals, photographs, autographs, badges etc. Cricket items occupy a relatively small part of the catalogue but at the last sale there were a number of items from the summer game. These included handbooks, scorecards including one for Gentleman v Players at Lord's in 1887. This had a reserve of £70 and sold for that amount. Other items included photographs and cigarette cards, about fifty lots in all. Other sports included boxing, both rugby codes and horse racing. 

I have submitted items to the last eight auctions, more will come under the hammer on March 8th, and have been very pleased with the results. The organisation is very impressive, just put Sportingold into a search engine and you will be able to access the last catalogue, the one for the next auction will appear about a week in advance of the sale. It takes about six weeks for payment to arrive, which might seem a long time but of course payment has to be collected from a range of buyers and their cheques cleared. Including the March date there are seven more auctions this year and I estimate that by submitting programmes to each of those I should just about clear my collection by the end of the year. If you feel inclined to look in your loft you might be encouraged by some of the prices realised at the last sale with many items fetching over three figure sums and some exceeding the £1000 mark. Commission is 12%. Good luck.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Whatever happened to?

posted by John Winn

The Wisden of 1919 was a slim volume, priced at 2/6d, 12 and half pence, and like its immediate predecessors many of its 326 pages were taken up listing the casualties of war, the Roll of Honour beginning with Lt Frank Adam died aged 21 and ending with 2nd Lt John Drummond Wyatt-Smith, aged 19 who in 1917 had taken 39 wickets at a cost of little over 6 runs each for Sherborne School. Further pages were given to men killed in 1917 as well as 'Other Deaths in 1918'. There was some cricket but mostly that played in Public Schools.

In his notes editor Sydney Pardon welcomed the end of the 'long nightmare of war' and the return of first class cricket but lamented the decision to reduce county matches to two days. In Pardon's opinion it would have been preferable to postpone the return of the championship until 1920. Following on from the 1918 edition when five 'School Bowlers of the Year had their 'portraits' displayed, five 'Public School Cricketers of The Year' were chosen and they are pictured above. They were AC Gore, Eton, APF Chapman, Uppingham, NE Partridge, Malvern, PW Adams, Cheltenham and LP Hedges Tonbridge. 

By far the best known of these is of course Percy Chapman, top right, born 1900, died 1961 and who played 26 tests captaining England in 17. A handsome man of great personal charm the 1919 Wisden describes him as a 'fine natural cricketer' and he went on to score centuries for Cambridge in the Varsity match and for The Gentlemen in the same week in July 1922. Chapman was relieved of the England captaincy and dropped from the side in controversial circumstances when he was left out of the fifth test against Australia in 1930. Wisden politely refers to his later 'ill health' much of which was due to his excessive drinking which prompted his wife to divorce him in 1942 after which he became a sad, overweight figure, frequently drunk and suffering from depression. Perhaps we should heed the words of EW Swanton who in writing Chapman's obituary said that we should best remember him in his 'handsome summer youth'.

None of the other four ever achieved anything like Percy Chapman's fame but the careers of each are preserved in cricket records to this day. Adrian Gore (top left) who was born in Ayr in 1900 died in 1990 and is described by Wisden as 'a naturally gifted all-round sportsman with a touch of genius'. His performances for Eton in 1918 were 'remarkable' and his 'vicious inswingers' took 51 wickets at an average of 7.51, against Sandhurst he took 14 wickets in the match including nine in the second innings. Considering his great season in that year it is perhaps surprising that Gore only played 16 first class matches between 1921 and 1932, mostly for The Army. On one occasion his 'devestating bowling sank the navy'.He had a distinguished military career ending with the rank of Brigadier  and a DSO. 

Norman Partridge (centre) 1900 to 1982 and born in Birmingham was outstanding for Malvern in 1918 scoring more than 500 hundred runs at an average of over 100 in six innings and the following year claimed 71wickets at 12.98. He was selected to play for The Gentlemen in 1919 but his school refused him leave of absence. He gained his Cambridge blue as a freshman but appears not to have completed his studies. Between 1921 and 1937 he played somewhat spasmodically for Warwickshire. His fast medium inswingers brought him 347 wickets for the county and although never no balled his action was considered somewhat suspect. 

Percy Adams, bottom left, was born in St Pancras in 1900 and died in Pimlico in 1962. He played only one first class match, for Sussex v Cambridge University at Fenner's in 1922, bowled by Gubby Allen for 1 and keeping wicket had one stumping to his name. Are there any other first class cricketers whose career runs equal their stumpings? It is keeping that gets him into the five portraits in 1919 for he 'proved himself a most efficient stumper' but, and herein may lie the reason for his relatively few appearances after school days, 'he gets his hands damaged rather easily'. As a batsman he was 'too fond of pulling short balls'.  

The fifth of our outstanding schoolboys is Lionel Paget Hedges, bottom right, 1900 to 1933. Described at the time of his early death as 'brilliant schoolboy batsmen and a fine cover point' Hedges had an outstanding season in1918. Going up to Oxford in 1920 with county championship cricket for Kent already on his CV, his team mates in the varsity match included Jardine and Robertson-Glasgow but in a rain ruined match his one trip to the crease yielded only a duck. Wisden maintains that his finest hour came at Maidstone in 1920 when he hit a sharp 130 to gain victory over Yorkshire. Hedges took up a teaching post at Cheltenham College in 1924 thus qualifying for Gloucestershire which extended his first class career to 1929. He was an amateur dramatist and in 1931 he acted in the film Tell England. He is not listed among the twelve main characters who include Fay Compton and Anthony Buckeridge best known as the author of the Jennings stories. 

In 1920 Wisden featured five batsmen in its portraits feature, for the record they were Percy Holmes, Herbert Sutcliffe, Patsy Hendren, Andrew Ducat and Ernest Tyldesley. 

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Not quite the end of the world

Posted by Tony Hutton

Oh calamity as Robertson Hare used to say. Not many people will remember him, but he wasn't a cricketer. The massed ranks of the cricketing media are having a field day following England's calamitous defeat in Barbados but lets put things into some sort of perspective. England have lost one match, admittedly by rather a large margin, but fair to say that four of the West Indian players produced possibly their performances of a lifetime. Certainly Holder, Dowrich, Roach and Chase are unlikely to do as well again in the future, but full marks to them - all really outstanding.

The calm before the storm - The Three Ws ground in Barbados.

However let us leave the endless post-mortems to the 'experts'. It has perhaps gone virtually unnoticed that England Lions, the second team squad, are not doing particularly well in India. One or two defeats already despite centuries for Davies and Billings (yet another pair of wicket keeper batsmen). England Under 19s have also lost their first match in Bangladesh, so something of a common thread seems to be emerging.

Not to worry for the discerning cricket watcher there are far more other things to think about. For instance although the Minor Counties fixtures were apparently published in full (but kept under wraps) some months ago, we are still waiting for most of the venues for 2019 to be announced. A few counties have taken unilateral action and have disclosed where they will be playing, but the majority still seem to be struggling to keep up. At least the Scarborough Beckett cricket league has announced full fixtures this week. Some very pleasant grounds in that area for the uninitiated.

Three Ws ground Barbados.

One or two others have been asking me where the County Second Eleven fixtures for 2019 have got to. Yorkshire were first in the field and have been followed by Lancashire and Surrey, but the full ECB list is still not available. Likewise the MCC list of out matches, of which there are rather a lot against school and club sides, has not yet appeared. Perhaps the powers that be are unaware of the small number of passionate cricket watchers who watch cricket at all levels and wish to plan their summer calenders, which is a pursuit fraught with difficulties from the word go.

However no doubt all will be revealed in due course. It's probably the fault of the World Cup or something, which seems to be causing great consternation throughout the world of cricket's administrators. Something to which we will not be paying great attention in these columns.
Nice to follow the example of our Lancashire correspondent who watched England's two warm up matches in Barbados in pleasant surroundings before returning in his own words 'to the sleet of Manchester' before the Test match even started. He was impressed with the Three W's ground and his admirable pictures appear here.

Which brings me back to a story from a previous England tour to West Indies when several England players were renewing acquaintance with Gordon Greenidge. Darren Gough did not know the great man and asked his colleagues who he was. On being told he was one of West Indies all time greats, he asked if he was one of the three Ws!

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Eighty years on.

posted by John Winn

The gas man finally came to call, not on Monday morning but shortly after lunch and whilst waiting for him I took my 1940 Wisden from its resting place and turned to coverage of the West Indies' tour of the previous summer, a summer firmly enshrined in the history books as the world went to war for the second time in a generation. With England starting another series against that opposition this afternoon it seemed appropriate on this most frosty of mornings to look back eighty years to when Trinidadian Rolph Stewart Grant brought his sixteen men for what was only their third tour of what, at that time, they might have called 'the mother country'.

In his postings Tony often uses the phrase 'proper' cricket, and if I might partially borrow from his lexicon, this was a 'proper tour' for they arrived in time to play a match at Gravesend on May 3rd, more than seven weeks before they met England at Lord's and only the outbreak of war which caused five matches to be cancelled prevented the tour continuing into September. Amongst the cancelled matches was the traditional Scarborough Festival game against HDG Leveson-Gower's XI. That game scheduled to start on September 7th should have been preceded by Yorkshire v MCC and Gentlemen v Players but these too were cancelled.

The tour began in 'miserable' weather but better conditions followed and a popular bunch of cricketers attracted good crowds and took home a decent profit. Eight first class matches were won, six lost and eleven drawn. Casting an eye down the list of players names like Headley, Stollmeyer, Gomez and Constantine catch one's attention but as the late Tony Cozier wrote 'responsibility rested heavily on the shoulders of too few'. By the time they got to Lord's on June 24th they had 13 first class matches under their belts, four of which had been won and although England won by eight wickets, 55,000 paying customers saw some excellent cricket with Headley scoring centuries in both innings.Those lucky enough to be there on the second day saw a wonderful partnership between Hutton and Compton who added 248 for the fourth wicket in two hours twenty minutes. At one point on the third and last day it looked as though the tourists might save the game but three quick wickets for Doug Wright caused a collapse and England were left to get 99 which they achieved in 17 overs.

A month elapsed before the second test at Old Trafford but although the weather was not as bad as it had been in 1938 when the match against Australia was abandoned without a ball being bowled, only 35 minutes play was possible on the first day and by the time both first innings had been completed there was less than five hours left for play. England's approach was cautious and Hammond's declaration left West Indies to get 160 in 70 minutes. The loss of four wickets for 43 runs suggests a more enterprising approach might have paid dividends.

The schedule allowed another four weeks cricket between tests before the teams came to The Oval on August 19th. Once again good crowds saw excellent batting, estimated attendances of 20000 and 23500 on the first two days, and over the three days 1216 runs were scored while only 23 wickets fell. Centuries for Hutton and Hammond who added 264 in three hours graced the last day after West Indies had scored almost 500 in their only knock, 137 for KH Weekes. There is a wonderfully evocative photograph taken as the players left the field on the evening of August 22nd. It shows Martindale and Sealy each carrying a stump as long shadows stretch across the ground. It was to be the last test these two were to play and there would be no more test cricket at the famous ground for almost exactly seven years when rain ruined the 1946 test with India. Further cricket should have been played at the ground in 1939 but Surrey's match with Lancashire was switched to Old Trafford and was left abandoned as a draw with no play on the third day 'owing to Crisis'.

With war only a little over a week away the rest of the tour was cancelled and the tourists sailed for Montreal in third class accommodation on SS Montrose. They had been scheduled to play at Hove on Saturday August 26th and the day before received a telegram from Sussex which read 'Essential to play tomorrow. Keep the flag flying.' Whether it was signed by Colonel Blimp is not known. Had the tourists delayed their departure to satisfy Sussex's request Tony Cozier suggests they would have travelled on SS Athenia which was sunk by a U Boat a week later.

As some may be aware there was further cricket played at Hove that season for whilst championship matches at Lord's, Gloucester and Old Trafford were cancelled Yorkshire, having beaten Hants at Bournemouth travelled along the coast to play Sussex. In his book 'The Sweetest Rose' David Warner suggests two reasons why the match was completed. Firstly because skipper Sellars 'had received no order to the contrary' and secondly the match was to be 'Jim Park's benefit and they did not want to let him down.' The match was completed on Friday September 1st and with experimental blackout regulations in force they travelled home by coach stopping overnight in Leicester. Back in Yorkshire early on Saturday morning the fine writer JM Kilburn describes the end of an era thus. 'Halts began, one passenger dropping off here, another there. Finally came journey's end in City Square Leeds and thence departed their several ways one of the finest county teams in the history of cricket. It never assembled again'. For Verity of course it was the end of his career, he was to be killed in action in 1943. His final analysis in the nine wicket win was 6 overs, 1 maiden, 7 for 9. On the Sunday war was declared against Germany.

Finally as promised here is the Yorkshire team that played at Guilford in 2002. MJ Wood, VJ Craven, A McGrath, DS Lehmann, MJ Lumb, GM Fellows, RJ Blakey, RKJ Dawson, CEW Silverwood, RJ Sidebottom, and DH Wigley.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

A trip to Guildford

posted by John Winn

Yorkshire, and no doubt many of their supporters will travel to Woodbridge Road, Guildford on June 10th for a championship match with champions Surrey. Matches between the two teams at this venue are a bit like the proverbial London bus, namely that you wait over a hundred years for one to appear then three come along in less than thirty years for Yorkshire having been entertained at The Oval since the mid nineteenth century, in 1991 Guildford was chosen to host a match between the two teams. Although I suspect I was not aware of its significance at that time I was lucky enough to be at the first day of  this match together with a close friend John Simpson.

Yorkshire's match was part of 'Guildford Week' and Gloucestershire had played there earlier in the week losing by two wickets, seven wickets for Waqar Younis in the Gloucestershire first innings. Surrey won the toss, chose to field and at close of play Yorkshire were 256 for 8 with the runs having come from Moxon, 73 and Robinson, 74. Wisden attributed the rather turgid progress to a slow wicket but equal blame could be placed on the excessively long grass in the outfield. Moxon's knock took four hours, Robinson overcame the problem by hitting three sixes. Not much else sticks in my mind nearly thirty years on other than that as the day wore on the atmosphere became somewhat like that we now associate with twenty twenty cricket. Febrile hardly does it justice and the authorities closed the bars for two hours in the afternoon.

On the second day Yorkshire added another 33 runs and Surrey batted enterprisingly through Bicknell, Alikhan and Stewart, Hartley, Fletcher and Pickles going wicketless, and a declaration at 250 for 2 kept the game open. Those lucky enough to be there on the third day, the final day at that time of course, saw a marvellous day's cricket. More runs for Moxon, but Yorkshire's middle order was well and truly Waqared, he took for five for 8 in one spell which left Surrey needing 193 off 58 overs. Carrick and Batty (J) got amongst the wickets and when 54 were needed off the last six overs and eight wickets were down, Yorkshire must have been favourites but Waqar added 31 runs to his wickets and although he was out in the last over Surrey got home by one wicket with two balls to spare. 44 points for Surrey that week, opponents 6.

Yorkshire's second visit to Woodbridge Road came in August 2002 with only one player, Richard Blakey, surviving from 11 years earlier although Stewart and Thorpe were on test duty. This time Yorkshire won the toss, chose to bat and fared dismally, all out 172, McGrath top scorer with 26. Batty (JN) top scored for Surrey, 99 before being bowled by Sidebottom (R). A century by Michael Lumb was the backbone of a much better second effort from Yorkshire and 446 all out left Surrey needing 237. A century from Ian Ward, well supported by Ian Salisbury gave Adam Hollioake's men a comfortable six wicket win.

Wisden tells an amusing story from this match for with Hollioake having declined to take the new ball in Yorkshire's second innings a four hit into the press tent by Blakey was chewed by the Times' correspondent's dog Bumper. The presence of its teeth marks prompted Hollioake to change his mind and Yorkshire's last four went down for 33 runs.

I have mentioned four of the Yorkshire team that played in 2001, can you, from memory, name the other seven? Answers next time.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Cricket around the world

Posted by Tony Hutton

Despite my recent prognostications of gloom and doom all is not yet lost. Grateful for the opportunity to see Test cricket from around the world since Christmas on TV. Happy memories of visits to Cape Town and Sydney in the past re-kindled, as well as the joy of watching cricket from New Zealand, which I never managed to get to. Also the added bonus of seeing Australia out-played by India as the ramifications of the ball tampering incident seem to rumble on and on.

                                   Sydney 1995

One of the success stories from South Africa has been that of quick bowler Duanne Olivier, who was with Derbyshire last season. A few weeks ago rumour had it that he was on Yorkshire's shopping list, but his performances at international level may have put paid to that. So far have managed to avoid watching any of the antics in the Big Bash, although news suggests that Joe Root has struggled for runs and might have been better off taking a rest from cricket, which seems to have become a twelve month a year game for some.

                          Newlands, Cape Town 1996

Also news (and photographs) from our man in Barbados, Keith Fenton, who has wisely got away from all the problems facing Bolton Wanderers for a spell of sunshine therapy. Keith proudly states that he saw the fourth day of Barbados v Guyana at Bridgetown and that his first ball of the season was at 9.58 precisely on 7th January.
                                          Media Centre, Bridgetown, Barbados.

Barbados were struggling, having been asked to follow on 188 runs behind. As Keith puts it 'that well known Yorkie' Kraig Brathwaite was out early on, but a big partnership between Dowrich and Chase put the home side ahead with six wickets in hand at tea at which point Keith departed with a draw looking certain.
                                 January sunshine in Barbados

The next day he was surprised to learn that Barbados lost their last six wickets for a little over 20 runs (described as a collapse of Lancastrian proportions) and Guyana knocked off the 48 required to give them victory by six wickets. This made three wins out of three for Guyana, who look like taking their fifth title in a row, despite being off the itinerary for Test Matches. Keith also hopes to see England's first warm up match at the 3Ws stadium on Tuesday. No doubt we can expect a further bulletin in due course.