Category Archives: England

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

Dancing with Death

dancing

Thankfully Vaughan’s attempts at ballroom didn’t end in death.

Little bit of a footnote to my last blog on death.  I had an enquiry this week from a descendent of Dodger Whysall a 1920s cricketer who died of septicemia in 1930 from an injury he sustained while dancing!  Yes it seems modern cricketers aren’t the first to enjoy a tango off the field.  He slipped over on the dance floor and banged his elbow, the injury developed complications and he had a blood transfusion in an attempt to save his life, but it was too late – poor thing.  I wonder if he was a good dancer.

I will try do get off death for my next blog, but do let me know if you know of any more ‘interesting’ cricket deaths and I’ll included them after a few more cheerful blogs.

'Dodger' is third from the right at the back, this was the 1924-25 Ashes team.  He doesn't look like a dancer!

‘Dodger’ is third from the right at the back, this was the 1924-25 Ashes team. He doesn’t look like a natural dancer!

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Filed under Cricket, dancing, death, England, History, Lord's Cricket Ground

Death of a Cricketer

Obviously a big death is in the news at the moment.  How we should remember her? what type of funeral? etc.  It’s got me thinking about death (cheery I know) and reminded me of the week I spent cataloging memorial and funeral service brochures.  Some of them were moving, some sad, some uplifting.  Here are a few of my favourites.

Larwood mem

As you may know if you read my ‘Villains?’ a few weeks ago Harold Larwood was a somewhat controversial figure due to the part he played in bodyline bowling.  Yet many believed his disgrace was ill deserved and the Rector’s words reflect this in the opening address.

“Harold lived as he bowled – honestly, steadfastly and wholeheartedly.  For various reasons, which are now part of the game’s history, he was not always appreciated but despite this he continued his spell with fortitude and preserved his own integrity.”

A very nicely put tribute I think.

Don Bradman mem

I like this one because it’s nice and joyful.  I love the picture on the front, it’s so 1930s and reminds me what incredible times this man saw (as well as being an incredible cricketer).  I think the cartoon on the back with the umpires signal of ‘out’ is touching and funny.

owzat DonMy very favourite though, makes me feel sad.

Hedley Verity mem

Unlike the first two, his life was cut short violently and prematurely   At just 38 he died in Italy as a prisoner of war from wounds received during an attack on a German battalion in Sicily.  Before he went missing in action his last known words were “keep going, keep going” urging his men on in the attack.  At first there was hope he might have survived his wounds and be in a prisoner of war camp but word was received of his death and the Telegraph & Argus paid this moving tribute on 2 September 1943…

Wherever good cricket is appreciated, wherever sportsmanship is accepted as an indication of character, wherever men are honoured not because they are wealthy or gifted, but because they are in the true sense of the word men, there will the name of Hedley Verity be ever respected.

The humble last resting place of Hedley Verity.

(Memorial and funeral service brochures are among the many interesting and quirky items that can be viewed in the Lord’s Museum, Archive and Library.  Catalogue available on-line soon.) As well as a brave and well respected man he was a great bowler with the best first-class average in his day and the only man to take 14 wickets in a single day in a test match.  His death was a terrible waste of talent.

Here’s me hunting for interesting things to show you.

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Filed under Australia, bowling, cataloguing, Cricket, death, England, History, injury, Librarianship, MCC

Villains?

A few words about the men who cause the brave cricketers' injuries.

A few words about the men who cause the ‘brave’ cricketers’ injuries.

Last week I dealt with the heroics of cricketers who played on in-spite of nasty injuries.  But what about the cricketers who cause injury to others?  The villains (depending on you point of view!).  Here are a few possible candidates.

Grievous Bodily Harmison –  On the first day of the Ashes 2005 Stephen Harmison took 5-43 in an extremely aggressive spell.  He hit Justin Langer on the elbow, broken Matthew Hayden’s helmet and smashed the grille on Ponting’s helmet causing a dramatic looking gash on his cheek.  Ricky Pointing recalls the moment in his Ashes Diary

“There was no pain, just a ringing feeling as the impact of the blow reverberated around my head.  I felt fine, but pretty quickly I began to feel something trickling down the side of my face, and when I looked at my shirt I could see bloody dripping onto it.”

A delighted Steve Harmison celebrates Damien Martyn's wicket

It was generally felt that England were attempting to show intent with this aggression.  It was not only the style of bowling that was aggressive but it was noticeable that Harmison did not approach any of the Australian batsmen to see if they were OK after they had been struck.  It was also felt that England were being unnecessarily aggressive in the field when throwing the ball at the stumps while the batsman was in his ground – Pointing accused Vaughan and his team of “macho posturing”.

So is Steve Harmison a villain?  Steve Harmison himself was later to describe the moment as one of the worst of his career.  And he was not referring to the balls he bowl but the fact he failed to show the courtesy of checking that the batsmen were alright.  I do sort of agree with him, it’s always nice to see good manners even in the heat of battle.  On the other hand I doubt Ponting would have welcomed his concern, in another match he was hit by Matt Prior while fielding at silly point, Prior asked if he was OK and Pointings reply was apparently a colourful range of expletives!   England were attempting to show a different, more competitive side and I think they went too far.  I won’t condemn Harmison as a villain however, as he has shown remorse, just a temporary bully.  What do you think?

The cut required 8 stitches.

The cut required 8 stitches.

The West Indian Pace Quartets – these men were not only accused of bullying bowling tactics but of altering the whole game of cricket for the worse!

“Until we can breed 7 ft monsters willing to break bones and shatter faces, we cannot compete against these threatening West Indians.  Even the umpires seem be scared that devilish-looking Richards might put a voodoo sign on them!” (from a letter to Wisden Cricket Monthly, June 1990)

“Their game is founded on vengeance and violence and is fringed by arrogance.” (David Frith. editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly, 1991)

Bloody Windies! England tour of terror.’ (News of the World headline 1994)

The main accusation against the West Indian team was that they relied on violence and fear to get wickets rather than skill.  And that this tactic resulted in games than were less interesting to watch as they lacked bowling variety.  Fast aggressive bowling was nothing new but their speed and their use of four fast bowlers rather than the more traditional two gave batsmen little respite from the onslaught.

Mike Gatting had lost part of his nose after being hit in the face by a ball from Marshall

Mike Gatting lost part of his nose after being hit in the face by a ball from Marshall

So were these players villains?  Injuries were caused but then injuries have always been a feature of cricket as last week’s blog demonstrated, did they deserve the special vilification they sometimes attracted?  The allegation that they relied on terror is under serious dobt, the introduction of the one-bouncer per over rule in 1991 did little to dent the team’s success rate, so arguments that the relied on intimidation and lacked talent appear unfounded.   As to intimidation and aggression these are a traditional tactics to restrict a batsman’s scoring options, and unlike with Bodyline (see below), the fields set did give talented batsmen some scoring options.

Michael Holding bowling

“It would be naive and misleading of me to claim that I never bowl bouncers without trying to intimidate the batsmen. On the contrary, I want him to be aware that if he gets on the front foot against me he might find himself in trouble – in other words he might get hurt. But that is quite a different thing from actually wanting or intending to hurt him. I have no desire to hurt anyone.” (Michael Holding)

I don’t think the West Indies pace attacks were villains, just talented aggressive fast bowlers.  I also find the arguments of Savidge and McLellan quite convincing, in that much of the criticism levelled  at the West Indian quicks was tinged with jealousy, sour grapes, and at times, racism.

The Bodyliners – Now for the big one!  Possibly the most vilified group of cricketers in cricketing history.

So bad they almost caused an international incident! - Cable from the ABC to MCC.

So bad they almost caused an international incident! – Cable from the ABC to MCC.

Described as ‘leg theory’ by it’s proponents but more commonly know as ‘bodyline’ – bodyline bowling involves the bowler pitching the ball short and directed at the batsman’s torso or head while the majority of fielders are places on the leg-side.  It wasn’t a new technique, it was often used to restrict runs, what was different in the 1932-33 Ashes was the speed at which the ball was being bowled by Harold Larwood and Bill Voce greatly increasing the chance of injury to the batsmen.  During the series most Australian batsmen were struck resulting in a number of injuries.  It was thought captain Douglas Jardine chose to using this controversial style of bowling in an attempt to restrain the mighty Don Bradman.

So was there villainy afoot?  And if so who were the villains?  Amateur captain Jardine the mastermind, or professional bowlers Voce and Larwood who followed his orders to the letter?  Or none of them?  Or all three?

Jardine is often seen as the most likely candidate of the three for villainy.  An old school amateur cricketer, upper-class and utterly unapologetic about his choice of ‘win at all costs’ tactics.  Larwood also comes in for heavy criticism especially as he was the one who bowled the ball which hit Australian Captain Woodfull over the heart leaving him reeling in agony.

"the most unsportsmanlike act ever witnessed on an Australian ground." Selector Bill Johnson's verdict on that Larwood delivery.

“the most unsportsmanlike act ever witnessed on an Australian ground.” Selector Bill Johnson’s verdict on that Larwood delivery.

It does seem, however, that the Australians forgave Larwood, he eventually emigrated to Australia and was well received.  Perhaps the former miner was a more likeable figure than the reticent upper-class Jardine.

The bodyline incident was a very unpleasant event in the history of cricket.  Larwood is hard to condemn as a villain, he was treated appallingly by the MCC post-bodyline and physically paid a high price for following his captain’s orders.  Jardine is harder to forgive so I’ve decided that he does qualify for a degree of villainy.

Finally – not a causer of injury, but the biggest villain of the bunch!  I was reading a story which I thought might be a strong contender for inclusion in my blog on heroes.  In 1919 in a match between Sussex and Somerset the scores were level with Sussex 9 wickets down, their number 11, H J Heygate, had problems with rheumatism and was crippled with pain.  But he bravely hobbled out to the wicket as he knew his team needed him.  He arrived at the crease and Somerset’s L. Braund immediately appealed to the umpire.  Heygate was given out as it had taken him longer than 2 minutes to arrive at the crease and the game was declared a draw to the disgust of the crowd.  Now that really wasn’t cricket.  What a villain!

bowler

(Further reading : Ashes Diary 2005 by Ricky Ponting & Brian Murgatroyd, Real Quick: A Celebration of the West Indies Pace Quartets by Michele Savidge & Alastair McLellan, Cricket’s Hall of Shame by Dave Warner – all available in the MCC library)

NB – This post was inspired by philgreaney.wordpress.com

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Filed under Australia, bowling, British Empire, Cricket, England, History, injury, MCC, Umpiring, West Indies

Dead kangaroo anyone?

me in empty stand

Busy week here at the MCC library (if not in the stands!).  I’ve been working on lots of enquiries, I had one about the fixtures of the first Aboriginal tour of England in 1868, one man wanted to know what 1902 Lord’s looked and ‘felt’ like for a chapter of a children’s book he’s writing that features a cricket match.  I also had a rather tedious task that took half a day looking up book reviews for every book written by Eric Midwinter over about 15 years, so glad when I found the last one!

My ‘show and tell’ this week doesn’t involve any of my enquiries though.  I’ve picked a rather interesting menu card for a welcome dinner given to the 1904 England touring team when they arrived in Australia.  It was found by my colleague Heather.

menua

What first attracted me to this item was the marvelous cover.  The lion pummeling the kangaroo is pretty standard Ashes contest imagery.  What’s a little more unusual is the crazy grasshopper thing holding a sinister looking canister which appears to be emitting clouds of some kind of gas.  What does this mean?  Can anyone shed any light on this?  I was also intrigued by the fact that Warner has brought a bag of dead kangaroo to Australia with him, very strange and most unpleasant.  Is he bringing it to the dinner for everyone to eat or is it just a gift for his hosts?  It’s enough to put me off my dinner but maybe the items on the menu would tempt me…

menu 001aAt the risk of appearing utterly unsophisticated I have to admit that I have no idea what any of these dishes are!  Are they really posh dishes or is it just ordinary food written in French?  Again, can anyone enlighten me?

The final thing that drew me to this item was the entertainment laid on for the touring team.

program

I love the names of the dances, especially ‘Cozy Corner Girl’.  Also I just love the idea of a team of cricketers getting together for a Waltz and a Two-Step etc.  I can’t help but picture the modern teams having a go at this, Prior, KP and Broad et al all twirling and two-steping around a ballroom, mind you most of them will end up on Strictly eventually so maybe it wouldn’t be so strange.  What do you think?

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Filed under archive, Australia, British Empire, Cricket, England, History, MCC

On the Origin of Cricket

At the home of cricket seeking the origins of cricket.

At the home of cricket seeking the origins of cricket.

The origin of cricket is rather obscure.  In Ralph Dellor and Stephen Lamb’s ‘History of Cricket’ they speculate that primeval man may well have played a bat and ball game similar to cricket as a form of hunting practice!  But they offer no evidence of this and concede that cricket as we know it was probably first played by shepherds in Kent “as a means of whiling away the time spent watching their flocks on those upland pastures.”  The name ‘cricket’ as also of obscure origin, Trevor Bailey in ‘A History of Cricket’ says it derives from an Anglo-Saxon word ‘cricce’ meaning staff or crutch as early cricket may have been played with a staff and got its name that way.  Simon Hughes however in ‘And God Created Cricket’ offers the horrifying possibility that cricket may have been invented by the French!  The word ‘criquet’ was a word for a stick and ball game introduced into English by the Normans, the French Normans also had the word ‘wiket’ meaning small gate and ‘beil’ crosspiece.  Henry Blofeld in ‘Cricket and All That’ maintains a more English version, that cricket originated from the word ‘creag’ that was used to describe a ball game played by Edward I in around 1300.  The Wisden Illustrated History of Cricket also refer to ‘creag’ but feel the reference is unreliable and cite a 1598 reference to ‘crickett’ as the first reliable reference –  in a legal dispute over land a witness states that he “did play there at crickett and other plaies.”

So the books in the MCC Library don’t quite agree.  Andrew did find this nice little four part pictorial history in a newspaper clippings file which I think tells the story rather well.

focus on fact 1

focus on fact 2

focus on fact 3

focus on fact 4

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Filed under archive, Cricket, England, History, Librarianship, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC

Men in pants

arrow2b

Haven’t had much time for the blog this last week as I’ve been beavering away with my cataloguing as well as battling a horrible cold and finding time to play with my bow and arrow.  I’ve seen lots of interesting and baffling things in my brochures and annuals thoughI’m always amazed by what books supposedly about cricket can actually tell you about the societies they’re written by, be it gender, race, class – all the big issues can be found somewhere in our cricket collection.  This week what has stood out as a fascinating issue in my annuals is the changing ideal of masculinity.  I have chosen to depict my findings through a pictorial collection of men in their underwear – enjoy!

We start in the 1920’s with the ‘An-on’, the Onesie of it’s day. Note that the model demonstrates his masculinity with his manly moustache and is clearly an athletic gentlemen, also note the availability of ‘super silk’ for the sophisticated sensually inclined man.

In the 1930’s the look is rawer, more minimalist and assertive. This man shows his confidence with his revealing undergarments, flaunts his manly figure with his stance and challenges us with his forceful, almost confrontational facial expression.

By the early 1960s things had changed once more, we now have a man at ease with himself and fully in touch with his feminine side. The image suggests he is far more concerned with avoiding ‘flaccid elastic’ than with proving his masculinity.

So what have we learnt?  Any comments?

Aside from exploring men in their underwear I’ve also spent this week working on a digital story from Kushil Gunaskera about the power of sport.  Please have a listen at http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/power-sport

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Filed under advertisements, adverts, British Empire, cataloguing, Cricket, England, India, Librarianship, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC, Sri Lanka, underwear