Category Archives: England

The birth of “Carnival Cricket”

In a recent digital story Arjuna Ranatunga bemoans the dominance of ‘carnival cricket’ and the threat it poses to the longer form of the game.  http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/protecting-test-cricket .

I was surprised to learn that limited overs cricket didn’t really develop until the 1960s, and even then it would have looked very much like ‘normal’ cricket.  One-day cricket as we now know it, with music, coloured clothing, day-night matches etc could probably be accredited to Kerry Packer.

ODI

1975 Prudential World Cup semi-final. Games were played in traditional whites with the red ball and all matches were daytime matches.

In the very early days of cricket matches were often low scoring, meaning that they could often finish within a day with all 4 innings being bowled.  But as batting techniques improved 3 day games became the county norm.  One-day games were played during World War 2, usually fundraising events, but these matches depended on generous declarations rather than restricted overs to ensure a result within the day.  In 1956 a MCC research committee suggested a limited-overs county knockout competition be introduced to attract more spectators, but the suggestion wasn’t taken up.  It wasn’t until 1963 that a limited overs contest, the Gillette Cup, was finally launched and the world had to wait until 1971 for the first official international one-dayer – and even this only came about as a last resort to offer the crowds a meaningful contest after the first 3 days of a test match in Melbourne were rained off.

World Series cap worn by the Australians team, now part of the MCC museum collection.  Coloured caps and kit were a real novelty when they first appeared.

World Series cap worn by the Australians team, now part of the MCC museum collection. Coloured caps and kit were a real novelty when they first appeared.

It was Kerry Packer’s World Series in 1977 that seriously increased the profile of the shorter game.  Surrounded by a range of controversies this series introduced many of the now familiar features of limited-overs cricket including day night matches, coloured clothing and white balls.  I’m not sure whether Kerry Packer intended to invent all these new features.  He wanted to attract a big TV audience and knew the best way to do this was to have the cricket on in the evening and night primetime, so floodlights were needed, but the players had a problem seeing the red ball well under artificial light so it was changed to white, but then they couldn’t pick up the ball from the cricket whites so the next step was coloured clothing.   Not that I think all the changes had a practical origin, you only have to look at our collection of mementoes to realise that this was intended to be a livelier more colourful style of cricket!

WSC 'boob tube', also in the MCC collection.  Not sure if you'd get away with wearing that in the Lord's pavilion!

WSC ‘boob tube’, also in the MCC collection. Not sure if you’d get away with wearing that in the Lord’s pavilion!

Intentional or not Packer had a real and lasting impact on the world of cricket, and this was even recognised by some at the time.  Wring in 1978 Henry Blofeld stated –  “Already Packer has had a considerable effect on cricket, and if he were to disappear tomorrow his influence would remain.”

So is Test Cricket safe?  I certainly hope so and if the sell out crowd today at Lord’s is anything to go by then I think it will be safe for a while yet.

(Further reading –  One-Day Magic edited by Ken Piesse.  One-Day Cricket by David Lemmon.  The Packer Affair by Henry Blofeld. All available in the MCC library.

Cricket boob-tubes and many other unexpected exhibits can be seen in the MCC museum at Lord’s)

You shouldn't really put on museum objects - don't tell anyone!

You shouldn’t really put on museum objects – don’t tell anyone!

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Filed under Ashes series, Australia, Cricket, digital stories, England, History, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC, MCC, one day cricket, war

from 11 to 1?

Number 11 debutante Agar is the top scorer in the Trent Bridge test so far.  So now seems like a good day to take a look at some batting 11s from history.

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Wilfred Rhodes was another left-arm spin bowler who started his career at a young age.   By the time he retired from the Yorkshire team he had scored a phenomenal 30,000 runs and taken an amazing 3,608 wickets for Yorkshire.  But it’s a feature of his international career I’m more interested in highlighting today.  During his career he held the record for both a first and last wicket partnerships!  In 1903 in the 1st test of an Ashes series he batted at number 11 and took part in a 1st innings last wicket stand of 130.  England went on to win the match.  8 years later he took part in another great partnership of 323 this time he was opening the batting.  Will Agar go on to achieve this?  Will he move up the batting until he’s the opener in the 2021 Ashes series?  Let’s wait and see.

Wilfred Rhodes going out to open the batting for Yorkshire in 1919.

Wilfred Rhodes going out to open the batting for Yorkshire in 1919.

 

(The idea and information for this blog were provided by MCC Research Officer Neil Robinson).

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Filed under Ashes series, Ashton Agar, Australia, Cricket, Cricket records, England, History, Wilfred Rhodes

The doctor will see you now

This week I posted a wonderful article on facebook about the achievements of amateur cricketer and GP Dr Neil Metcalfe, http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/10508018.national_award_for_York_medic/  I wonder how he compares as a cricketer and doctor to the most famous doctoring amateur cricketer Dr W.G. Grace.

A great cricketer and doctor?

A great cricketer and doctor?

During his lifetime Dr Grace’s medical career was seen as a bit of a joke by many of his contemporaries.  The popular prejudice was that he did not take his medical career seriously, placing cricket (and the money he made from it) far above his patients.  Certainly his cricketing career seems to have interfered with his qualifying as a doctor, it took him well over a decade when 4 years was the normal time it took in this period.  As Simon Rae points out in his biography of Grace, he spent… “a longer period as a medical student than it took him to score his first fifty centuries”.  Even then his qualification might have been delayed further if the weather hadn’t intervened, he was due to play a match at Lord’s on the day of his final exams, luckily the start of the match was delayed by rain allowing him to take his exam in the morning and play in the afternoon, but if it hadn’t have rained who knows which commitment he would have chosen to sacrifice.

Once qualified as a doctor, at the age of 31, the popular perception may well have been incorrect as his biographers seem to agree that he was actually a good GP.  They give several examples of his dedication and his kindness and generosity to poorer patients.  Bernard Darwin asserts that he worked hard all winter and once “during a match in which he made two hundreds, he did not go to bed at all throughout one night but sat up with a poor woman whom he had promised to see through her confinement”

A rather mean cartoon printed in the Telegraph shows WG taking a large cheque for his cricket while his patients die in the background! (Drawing now held in the MCC collection)

This rather mean cartoon shows WG taking a large cheque for his cricket while his patients die in the background! (Drawing now held in the MCC collection)

When cricket did take him away he hired an assistant to cover his duties.  He was even given an allowance by Gloucester CC to cover this expense.  So hopefully the cartoon above isn’t accurate and no one actually died because he abandoned them for cricket!

He was very popular with his patients.  Whether that was to do with his celebrity rather than his skill though we may never know.  It must certainly have been a strange experience for them asking him to check a nasty rash etc., he was the most famous sportsman of his age – I imagine it would be a bit like going to the doctors with and being treated by David Beckham or perhaps Sachin Tendulkar!  Grace’s mere presence was said to cheer many patients on their sick beds.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean he was without skill, it is said he once saved the life of a teammate.

“In 1887, he saved the life of his Gloucestershire team-mate A.C.M. Croome, who was involved in a horrific accident during a match against Lancashire at Old Trafford.  Trying to cut off a four, Croome ran headlong into the railings in front of the pavilion and tore his neck so badly that he would have bled to death had not Grace rushed over and held the wound together for a full half-hour before a surgical needle and thread were found and the gash was stitched.” (Rober Low).

He was also said to have an incredible ability to identify smallpox.  He claimed that if it was present in the patient he only had to walk into the room and he could smell it!

So the evidence suggests that both WG and Neil are excellent doctors, but how do they compare on the cricket field?  I think it might be unfair to Neil to discuss that further!  Lets call it a draw.

WG of the modern era?

WG of the modern era?

(For further reading try Great Lives: W.G. Grace by Bernard Darwin, W.G. Grace A Life by Simon Rae, W.G. by Robert Low – all available at the MCC library.  Or you can check out what else we have in our collection on Dr Grace, or anything else, by searching our on-line catalogue at http://www.lords.org/history/ )

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Filed under Cricket, doctors, England, History, injury, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC, WG Grace

War and Cricket

Obviously war is an enemy of cricket.  War has taken the lives of many cricketers and first class cricket ceased for the duration of the 2nd world war.  It also disrupted club cricket, mainly because members were away with the forces but also because cricket grounds might be needed to help the war effort, TTF’s  Wortham (St. George’s) ground housed an anti-aircraft gun battery! http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/cricket-lovely-cricket-%E2%80%93-tale-wrotham-stgeorge%E2%80%99s-cricket-club  Here at Lord’s we hosted an army camp during the war.  But clubs could also gain from the war.

Ovington's lovely pavilion is a converted bomb shelter!

Ovington’s lovely pavilion is a converted bomb shelter!

Ovington CC’s pavilion is an old bomb shelter and I found good example of cricketers making use of war in a 1940 article in The Cricketer Annual where we are given an account of a platoon who tried to play cricket in the forest as more suitable ground was unavailable.

“It was Corporal Plugg who most brutally exploited the conditions…

Private Sockett, his first victim, avowed that he watched the Corporal advancing to the crease, and saw his arm come over.

His next impression was of blue sky through branches, viewed from the stretcher which took him to the First Aid Post.

When Sergeant Bone was removed to Pullbright Infirmary to be furnished with a fresh set of dentures, it became clear that steps must be taken to reduce casualties.

A meeting of the Sports Committee decided that the obvious remedy was the provision of bowling-screen.

This was all very well, but funds would not go to it, the district was so remote that the finished article would probably take weeks to arrive, and the unit’s genius of improvisation was not immediately equal to the occasion.

All available canvas was covered with nauseating camouflage, and sheets were no longer being issued.  Indeed a pair of the latter, obtained locally at some cost, proved unsuitable, and the problem was still unsolved when the enemy aircraft visited our area.

The occasion proved happily that our movements had been well concealed from aerial observation, for, after dropping numerous flares, he departed without releasing the incendiaries and high explosives we had grimly and gaily anticipated.

It also provided us with some beautiful white parachutes, to which the flares had been attached, and these made admirable bowling-screens, so that the season ended without further casualties.

The only sufferer from Field-Marshal Goering’s reconnaissance was Corporal Plugg, who went down to second in the bowling-averages, but, as I have heard unofficially that a spare length of parachute is providing Mrs. Plugg with a Siren Nightgown, I feel that he can do without the coveted cricket-ball

Sergeant Bone and Private Sockett heartily agree with me.”

(From Down in the Forest by G.D. Martineau)

That’s a nice story, like something out of Dad’s Army.

bat and ball

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Filed under club cricket, Cricket, cricket grounds, England, History, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC, war

Is cricket posh?

a-uniformed-eton-schoolboy-is-watched-by-local-boys-at-the-eton-v-harrow-cricket-match-at-lords-in-london-uk-in-1937

Eton schoolboy cricketer waiting to go into Lord’s being marvelled at by some local boys.

In my latest TTF story Barry Dennis tells us about a joke suggesting that his cricket team, Wimbledon CC, is rather posh (http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/joining-yahs).  But is cricket in general posh?

Growing up I always thought so.  We didn’t play cricket at my school, it was something that was played at posh schools or by the posh boys in Enid Blyton books.

Having visited a couple of cricket clubs now I realise not all cricketers are posh, some of the people I’ve met have been very common (ha ha only joking), but they have been what I regard as normal.  So where does the posh image come from?  Does it depend on whether or not your school teaches cricket?  Is there a north/south divide?  Is it because cricket spectators seem so much better behaved than those at the football (even though attending football is much more expensive)?  Is it down to the appearance of those immaculate cricket whites?  I would be genuinely interested to hear your views.

Although I admit my childhood impression was not entirely correct – I think it had some basis in reality.  For example, 7 out of 11 of the England test team who played in the last test were privately educated, that’s pretty high when you consider only 7% of the population attend private schools.  So is there something ‘posh’ about cricket?

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Filed under children, class, Cricket, cricket grounds, digital stories, England, London, Lord's Cricket Ground, oral history, school cricket

On the road

Middlesex v. Glamorgan yesterday

Middlesex v. Glamorgan yesterday

The season is well under way now.  I’ve been to see Middlesex play a couple of times and my next plan is to get on the road and visit some of the cricket clubs that I’ve featured on Taking the Field

First of all I’m heading all the way to Wimbledon!  (http://www.takingthefield.com/clubs/wimbledon-cricket-club).  OK, so I’m not heading too far from my central London base, but it should still be a nice trip.  I’m told Wimbledon still has something of a village feel to it, so it will be a bit of a break from the big smoke.  It’s a really old club, dating back to 1854, they should have some interesting stories (though I probably won’t get to meet any of the founding members!)

Wimbledon CC ground

Wimbledon CC ground

After that my next trip takes me a bit further afield, all the way up to Ovington CC in York.  (http://www.takingthefield.com/clubs/ovington-cricket-club).  Not as old as Wimbledon, they’ve been around since the 1920s.  They have two important matches on the weekend I go up and I hope to get some good photos – but I’m even more keen to find out how true their club motto is:

 “Lucror vel perdo, nos vadum imbibo” (win lose, we shall drink).

OvingtonCC_logo big

Then I’m off to Wirksworth & Middleton CC which I’m particularly excited about as it’s in my old homeland – Derbyshire.  (http://www.takingthefield.com/clubs/wirksworth-middleton-cricket-club).  I’m not all that familiar with the Wirksworth area, but from what I’ve seen in the photographs it’s absolutley beautiful – I just hope I get some good weather.  Wirksworth CC has a really long history, going all the way back to 1757.  Roy Pearce has written some of the history of the club, extracts of this history can be found on the TTF website.

Wirksworth & Middleton have a long and interesting history.

And that’s all I have planned firmly for now – although it’s plenty to be going along with as, when you add in the test match, I’ve now got all my May weekends booked up.

If your club is on Taking the Field and you’d like me to come and visit to get some interviews and take some pictures please get in touch.  And if you’re not on the site yet, but have an interesting club with some good stories to tell, get in touch too and I’ll get you on the TTF site.

warm up big smile

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Filed under club cricket, Cricket, cricket grounds, England, History, London, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC, oral history

What’s in a name?

My latest TTF digital story (http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/history-middleton-cricket-club) includes an account of an opening bowling partnership called Mr Killer and Mr Dearth (pronounced ‘death’) I loved the idea of ‘killer and death’ bowling at you in tandem!  I’ve no idea if they were any good, they may have been quite ineffective bowlers but their names must surely have struck fear into the minds of the batsmen.

Other cricketers’ names that have tickled me are – Napoleon Einstein, he’s a young Indian cricketer who doesn’t look what I’d expect from his name (I pictured a Victorian gentleman with a big mustache!)  I’m not sure if those names have the same connotations in India, but I think a lot will be expected of him if he’s to live up to his name in the international game.

A rather sweet unassuming looking 'Napoleon Einstein'.

A rather sweet unassuming looking ‘Napoleon Einstein’.

I love the name ‘Arthur Fielder’ for a cricketer.  I can imagine endless funny conversations at the matches he played in i.e.

Spectator A – “Who caught that last one?”

Spectator B – “A. Fielder”

Spectator A – “I know it was a fielder, but which one?”

(Ha ha ha ha ha  – Oh come on!  I can’t be the only person who finds that funny!)

A. Fielder bowling for Kent c. 1907 (from the MCC photography collection)

A. Fielder bowling for Kent c. 1907 (from the MCC photography collection)

Alastair Cook isn’t a particularly funny name, but I am looking forward to seeing what the headline writers can do with ‘Captain Cook’ heading over to Australia this winter.  The idea of bowling ‘Onions’ at anyone has also always amused me.  But the favourite name I’ve come across today is ‘Jack Crapp’.  It probably shows my immaturity but I still can’t read it without laughing.  He played for England and Gloucestershire in the 1940s and 50s, maybe the media were more respectful back then as I’d hate to think what they’d say these days anytime he dropped a catch or got out with a silly shot.

Mr Crapp sits 2nd from the right.  Picture from Gloucestershire CCC Year Book 1953.

Mr Crapp sits 2nd from the right. Picture from Gloucestershire CCC Year Book 1953.

As you may have guessed, I find childlike amusement in funny names – please send me some more!

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Filed under Cricket, digital stories, England, History, India, MCC, names, oral history