Tag Archives: history

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

These (cricket) boots are made for walking

Physical fitness is a big issue for cricketers and an area of changing attitudes over the years, from the rotund pipe smoking gents of yesteryear to the gym bunnies of today.  Not that all old days cricketers was oblivious to fitness, Tom Richardson was a fast bowler renown for his fitness and stamina in his prime.  He used to walk from home to the Oval each day to help him keep fit – 14 miles!  He did it carrying his kit bag too.  It kept him slender in his youth but I’m not sure the long-term effects were positive, he retired in 1905 in his early 30s over weight and suffering from bad rheumatism.

Tom Richardson

A slender Tom Richardson who kept in shape by walking 14 miles each day.

(Read more about Tom Richardson in ‘Beyond Bat & Ball: Eleven Intimate Portraits’ by David Foot.  Available in the MCC Library).

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Filed under Cricket, cricket grounds, fitness, History

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

Weird Exhibits

When I published ‘Comb but not forgotten’ (http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/comb-not-forgotten) a few weeks ago I stated that there was nothing as strange at Lord’s museum as Malcolm Woodhead’s old comb collection.  Today I decided I’d better actually check whether or not this was true so I consulted Heather Thomas our museum’s conservator, and she found me a selection of item’s that definitely rival Malcolm’s combs!

Heather: the gatekeeper of the weird and wonderful.

Heather: the gatekeeper of the weird and wonderful.

The first contender is quite famous.  This poor sparrow was hit and killed by a Ball during a MCC v. Cambridge match in 1936.  To honor the poor creature’s memory he was stuffed and mounted and displayed with his killer!  Now I think that’s pretty weird, but it’s a very popular exhibit.

MCC8553I chose this second item, mainly because I thought it was something else.  I spotted it while Heather was going through a draw of cricket balls.

dung

I cannot believe I’m the only person who thinks this looks just like a piece of dung!  Well it isn’t apparently.   It’s identified as “darkly coloured amorphous lump of unidentified material, possibly some form of resin”.  The old catalogue card had it down as “BALL of raw rubber, used by native boys in the GOLD coast, 1905” – but this hasn’t been confirmed by the museum experts so I’m still going to think of it as old dung – which is a pretty weird museum exhibit outside a dedicated dung museum.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get weirder…(When Heather handed me this final exhibit a gagged).

Drum roll please…

Denis Compton's hip joint

…may I present…Denis Compton’s hip-joint!

There’s no joke – it really is the body part of a famous cricketer.  It was presented to us by his surgeon who removed it when Compton had his hip replaced (obviously).  It’s quite disgusting and definitely qualifies as a weird exhibit.

If anyone can beat that I will be impressed.

yuk

yuk

(The Lord’s Museum doesn’t just have weird stuff, we do have nice things too.  Please come and visit us).

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Filed under Cricket, History, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC, MCC

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

This is London – how d’ye like it?

After one year here I still feel like a tourist.

After one year here I still feel like a tourist.

I never fail to be surprised by the unexpected things you find in cricket annuals.   Today in was a poem about London.  This caught my eye as it’s now just over a year since I moved to London to work at Lord’s.  I absolutely love it!  I like the energy, the noise, the architecture, the history, the feeling of being on a film set and (unlike most) I find it really friendly.  The author of the poem was not so impressed.

DESCRIPTION OF LONDON

Houses, churchers, mix”d together;

Streets, unpleasant in all weather;

Prisons, palaces,  contiguous;

Gates – a bridge, the Thames irriguous;

Showy outsides, insides empty;

Bubbles, trades, mechanic arts,

Coaches, Wheelbarrows, and carts;

Warrants, bailiffs, bills unpaid,

Lords of laundresses afraid;

Rogues that nightly shoot at men.

Hangmen, aldermen, and footmen;

Lawyers, poets,  priest, physicians;

Noble, simple – all conditions;

Worth, beneath a thread-bare cover;

Villany, bedaub’d all over;

Women, black, red, fair and grey,

Prudes, and such as never pray;

Handsome, ugly, noisy, still,

Some that will not – some that will;

Many a beau without a shilling,

Many a widow – not unwilling;

Many a bargain, if you strike it:

This is London – how d’ye like it?

I found it in W.Whitham’s List of Cricket Matches 1895.

list of cricket matches

I’m not into poetry and not entirely sure of his meaning, but most of it doesn’t sound very complimentary!  He admits there’s lots going on, which is good I suppose, but he also claims there are nightly shootings and women with loose morals and that all the streets are unpleasant.

I notice the book is from Sheffield, very close to where I grew up.  In my experience there is a lot of distrust of London life in that part of the world.  My Grandma in particular was full of complaints – “it’s dirty, smelly, noisy, full of crime, where all the money goes, over crowded, on the news too much.” (although if it was really full of crime I never understood why she should complain why it was on the news all the time, surely all that crime needed to be reported).  She never actually went to London of course.

Well I like London!  Anyone else have any strong opinions either way?  Have any of you met many ‘willing widows’ here?

Let me know.

Me and my husband being touristy at the Monument

Me and my husband being touristy at the Monument

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Filed under Cricket, History, Librarianship, London, Poetry

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

I need a hero!

batting sling

Playing through the pain.

I’m in a very bad mood today.  It’s a damp day outside, I had to endure England’s dismal batting performance into the early hours and I have a sore toe – I’m fed up and uninspired!  I don’t want to be at work I want to be in bed, or slumped on the sofa with the curtains closed playing my new Lara Croft game.  I’ve been in a bad mood all week, the pain in my toe has caused me to limp, having a knock on effect of causing me to strain some kind of muscle in my leg.  I’m miserable, I feel sorry for myself, it’s all going wrong so I think I need some tales of cricket heroism and stoicism to help me keep going!

I’ve found three tales of bravery and endurance  to bring to you today, but hope this will inspire you to think of loads more and to send to me to give me encouragement in my difficult hour.

Going back to 1984 we have Paul Terry who batted with a broken arm (http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63378.html).  At first glance his efforts don’t appear all that heroic, scoring just 7 runs in the first innings, absent hurt in the second and his side crashing to defeat by an innings and 64 runs.  But a closer look shows his 7 runs allowed Lamb to get his century.  It was an effort for his team-mate – a heroic gesture in a lost cause!

Paul Terry

“Just hold your end up until he gets his hundred”

For our next heroic tale we go back to 1963 (http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/62930.html ).  An England v West Indies broken arm batting performance again, this time from Colin Cowdrey.  His arm was broken while he was batting on the fourth day, he retired hurt and went for treatment, but then on the fifth day with 2 balls to go and England desperately trying to hold out for a draw on 228 for 9 (still 6 runs behind) he was needed again!  He came out to the crease, his arm in plaster ready to do his duty – luckily he didn’t have to face a ball – but he was ready to do his bit – what a man!  He describes the moment in his autobiography …

“So with six runs needed and two balls to go I walked out to the wicket.  Although I later saw photographs of myself looking very grave I felt confident that even if I had to face a couple of overs I could keep the ball out of my wicket one-handed.”

Cowdrey in plaster

For our final hero we go all the way back to 1836, a time when cricketers played without pads and when men were men (if this tale is anything to go by!)  The player was Alfred Mynn, the match North v South at Leicester played before a capacity crowd.  During the pre-match practise Mynn was hit hard by the ball in the ankle, he returned to his lodgings where a doctor strapped up his ankle for him and things didn’t seem too bad.  His side, the South, batted all day and he wasn’t needed.  The next day he felt much better and came into bat with a runner at 8.  He batted well and even forgot his runner at times!  Patrick Morrah describes it in his biography of Mynn.

“His innings started with a minor comedy that kept the spectators in good humour…once he started hitting he forgot all about his leg and his runner…Mynn hit the ball away, and he, Wenman and Taylor all charged up the pitch…the same thing happened several times.”

Mynn cover

He scored 21 not out, but his ankle began to feel worse, he struggled bowling, but did bowl and even took the final wicket!

“Next morning Mynn’s leg had swollen to an alarming extent, and it was painful for him to walk.  Almost any other player would have dropped out of the match, but Alfred would play as long as he could stand, and he was determined to bat.”

This innings there was no comedy running and his agony was evident, yet he scored a magnificent 125 not out.  Throughout his innings his poor leg was bashed by the ball again and again, but he refused to retire and batted five hours.  When the innings ended he staggered to the tent and received medical attention.  The doctor was shocked by the state of his leg… “the leg was so swollen and inflamed that it seemed impossible that any man so disabled could have stood up for so long.”  The doctor told him to go home, where he could receive the best medical attention.  His home was in Kent and there was a coach about to leave for London, but the big man, unable to bend his leg, was not able to fit into the coach and had to lay flat on the roof rack for the entire journey!

Mynn photo

When he got to London he was taken to a tavern, too ill to travel further.  For some time his condition was so serious that he was thought unlikely to live.  And then when he recovered slightly a doctor who assessed his injury recommended amputation of the leg from the hip!  He refused this operation, and did recover, although it was 2 years before he was able to return to the cricket field.

N.B.What happened to Mynn was a major factor in cricket pads becoming more acceptable and no longer being viewed as unsporting or unmanly.

Inspirational stuff!  And it’s left me feeling rather ashamed of my complaints about my toe.

(Further reading: ‘M.C.C. the Autobiography of a Cricketer’ by Colin Cowdrey.  ‘Alfred Mynn and the Cricketers of his time’ by Patrick Morrah.  Both books available in the MCC library.)

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Filed under Cricket, History, injury