When Carrick flogged the Park
Simon Wilde continues charting the progress of the highest score in cricket ...
The West of Scotland undertook a short tour of the south of England in July 1885, taking in five two-day matches: against Priory Park, Horsham, Gentlemen of Sussex, Crofton Wanderers and MCC & Ground. It was a successful trip, two matches being won and none lost, although the visitors had the worse of the game at Lord's. Everything else was overshadowed by the events of the opening match against Priory Park. A description of this game has been given in King's Cricket Annual for 1886 and was reproduced in DD Bone's Fifty Years' Reminiscences of Scottish Cricket.
The ground at Chichester was situated at one end of Priory Park. On three sides lay boundaries to which fours could be hit, formed by part of the old city walls and a road, which between them circuited the park. The fourth side was a long midwicket area, beyond which stretched the rest of the park, and to this side all hits were run out. Here, further back, lay the ruins of a 13th Century monastery. William Blake was tried for high treason there in 1804. A dramatic backdrop for any cricket match.
JS Carrick's elder brother won the toss for the Scotsmen, and chose to bat. The local side were led by James Lillywhite junior, who had become, eight years before, England's first Test captain. At the time that Lillywhite was in Australia, JS Carrick was playing international rugby as a full-back for Scotland; he played practically no cricket at all between 1876 and 1881. By lunch, after two hours' play, the opening pair, Carrick and Thompson, were still together. They began cautiously, but by the interval Carrick had already passed his century -- the first he had ever made in his cricket career -- and Thompson was well up in the 40s. Curiously, after the freedom of the morning, they spent the afternoon consolidating. Carrick, in four hours, advanced some 90-odd runs, and his partner was equally restrained. King's Cricket Annual: "Lillywhite had used all his wiles to dissolve the partnership, but without success; changes were adopted, but in vain; still the batsmen continued patient, still the runs came."
It appeared as though they were going to bat right through the first day's play, but with five minutes to stumps, Thompson, at 326, played forward to a short-pitched ball and gave a catch to Henley at cover-point. He had batted just short of six hours for 112; he hit seven fours and was missed twice, both times at the wicket. When he was out, Carrick was on 193. Craig batted out time until the close, when the score was 331 for 1; Carrick 196, Craig 2.
The second day was more spectacular. Carrick reached his 200. At 398 Craig gave a return to the bowler, Heasman; and at 436 Henley brought one back sharply to take the elder Carrick's stumps: bowled for 15, and the only time during the two days that the wickets were hit. The younger brother now shared a stand of 164 with Campbell, who was helped by being badly missed by Andrews at short mid-on. Campbell eventually miscued Lillywhite to cover for 69. Carrick batted on past his third century, pursuing his inevitable course. Anderson's arrival at the wicket just heralded the start of another large partnership, and he flogged the bowling, which was by now - little wonder - completely worn-out.
The total went past 700. Carrick was approaching Roe's record score but the clock was also approaching 5.30 and stumps. (Play was to finish an hour earlier because the Scotsmen had a match the next day.) Carrick got his 400 but when 'Time' was to be called the scoreboard - or 'telegraph' as they were then known - showed him to be only 408. Bob Thorns, one of the umpires, explained what happened next:
"Time had just arrived for drawing stumps: he had got 408 runs, but knowing the record was WN Roe's 415, I asked him privately whether, if Chichester were agreeable, he would then leave off with a not out or keep on and try and beat the record. 'Keep on', he replied, which he did until it was beaten ..."
One cannot help wondering how the Priory Park players felt. They had fielded out for two whole days - and not even been given the chance to bat. This raises some interesting points. Looking at the history of vast scoring in England it is revealing that the most productive time was the end of the 19th Century. Now it is clear that this was far from the easiest period for batsmen, so why should this be? Why does the Victorian era provide seven of the 10 quadruple-centuries ever made here, which includes what still stands as the world's record score? And the highest innings total recorded in England - 920 by the Orleans Club - survives from 1882.
The explanation seems to lie in the age itself. For all the talk of a modern pre-occupation with records and statistics, it was the Victorians who were the ones who gloried in the idea of size: an Eiffel Tower, a Crystal Palace, or any huge feat of engineering, a great empire or vast industrial expansion. In 1896 Yorkshire (of all counties!) forsook a victory for the opportunity to create a monument: the highest total ever made in a first-class match -- 887. It was the same sort of thing with the highest score on record. It did not matter if the bowling was weak -- as it often was -- for here would be something unprecedented, peerless. (And A. C. MacLaren: a natural leader and the most magnificent batsman of the Golden Age? Or, with a fantastic score of 424, simply the holder of the record first-class innings?)
When Carrick hit the four that established the new record, the game ended. King's Cricket Annual: "Mr Carrick was 'shouldered' to the dressing-room amid immense cheering, the spectators exhibiting considerable excitement as soon as it became known that the record was beaten.' He had his photograph taken.
Carrick batted 11 1/4 hours and as missed only twice -- once at the wicket and once, from a hit that carried 80 yards, at long-on. His chief scoring strokes were: one eight, two sixes, two fives, 30 fours and 34 threes (singles and twos not known). He took a leg-stump guard only.
At 29, Carrick was the oldest man, by six years, to hold the record, although Thoms recalls that he appeared the least fatigued of any of those taking part in the match. Bob Thorns further remembered this game for the fact that Carrick was a left-hander, which necessitated incessant crossing-over and, when this was continued for two days, a considerable amount of walking for the umpires!
This article first appeared in the June 1982 edition of Wisden Cricket Monthly