The Cricketer / Features

March 1974

Happy, Happy Days

Harold Gimblett looks back at his 50 years in cricket

Harold Gimblett

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Harold Gimblett, born at Bicknoller in 1914, played for Somerset from 1935 to 1954, having burst upon the scene with a sensational innings of 123 at Frome against Essex. He reached his century in 63 minutes, won the Lawrence Trophy, and was immortalised in verse in Punch. He played for England three times-many critics thought it should have been more oftenand his virile, exhilarating batting brought him 49 centuries, 21,108 runs and a top score of 310 for Somerset-all records for the county. His total of 232 sixes was a first-class record for an opening batsman at the time of his retirement



Harold Gimblett: 'If any bowler still thinks evil of me, please don't' © The Cricketer
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Now, at the age when I am very much a 'non bender', my cricket is played down memory lane. As a country lad I have joined the happy band of sages who sit and sometimes thinks and sometimes just sits.

What memories they are, going back 50 years of cricket of all types. I am surprised at the memory's ability to remember incidents and games which I have not thought of for decades. I remember my first six at the age of nine whilst at Williton C. of E. School, a chip into 'Jobber Jones's' orchard and a lost ball. My first hundred at 11 in a Juniors' game at West Buckland School. An innings for that school with a United Banks touring side against a 'Spofforth' when all seemed lost, and with the match won returning to the pavilion to the cheers of the whole school.

My innings for Somerset Stragglers against Wellington School, Somerset, of 168, and nearly causing the death of the headmaster, who was 'dreaming' on a seat by the pavilion, and the ball missing his head by a fraction.

Of my first game at Taunton on the County Ground when, not as a batsman but a bowler, I took seven for 49 and earned the praise of that giant of Somerset cricket, S. M. J. Woods. Alas, I did not know who he was. Shame on me.

Of later years, now nearly 40 years ago, my appearance for Somerset, by accident, at Frome. Just how or why a whippet should achieve such heights I still cannot find an answer. Is there, or should there be, one? I don't think so, for this is cricket. The glorious unexpectedness of that innings. Of the many memories, one in particular was the expression on Maurice Nichols' face when I hit him straight and true over the sightscreen when he took the new ball at 200. Meeting Jack O'Connor. How encouraging he was when I arrived at the wicket and our friendship still goes on.

My first visit to Lord's, and meeting Patsy Hendren. Sitting with him for a long time and hearing him reminisce-oh, what a memory!

To Nottingham to face the 'terrors' and, having made some runs, a shortish man with a brown trilby followed me into the dressing room and took my bat out of my bag and pronounced it was not heavy enough and disappeared. He reappeared next morning with two bats 2 lb. 9 oz. each and said, 'Use these and you will get thousands of runs'. Of course it was George Gunn. Every time I played there afterwards, George never missed one innings. Truly a memory I treasure.

To Manchester - a happy hunting ground and a good innings, batting all day to save the game and catching the train still in my whites and pads. Of meeting and earning the praise of that great reporter-in my opinion, second only to Robertson-Glasgow - Sir Neville Cardus. I have his report still, and turn it up from time to time. I treasure it.

To my first Test, a terrified lad so green in the arts of cricket I should not have been picked . . . of Hedley Verity fathering me the whole match, truly a gentleman of cricket. My onslaught of Nissar in the second innings, when I truly clobbered him. My meeting Sir Jack Hobbs after the first innings when Amar Singh had made me look and feel a right 'nana'. I was walking around the ground feeling very unhappy when he spoke to me. With his umbrella he demonstrated just how to play the in-swinger. I am sure he could have got runs with it there and then.

Of meeting the Hammonds, the Sutcliffes, the Woolleys, the Paynters, the Larwoods. Oh, just where does one stop in such a short - article? To Somerset and the then so-happy and loyal band of professionals. Small in numbers, but such entertainers. Arthur Wellard, now having `retired' at 70 from active cricket, such a stalwart with a heart of a lion when bowling. I am so privileged to have played with him and to have seen many of those great hits way out of the ground.

Bill Andrews - just what can I say? A great bowler who made the best of batsmen falter on his day. A comedian on and off the field who managed to pass some remark no matter what the depressing scoreboard looked like. Of Wally Luckes, that neat and competent stumper who, because he had no 'gimmicks', never got the reward he deserved. Horace Hazell, a far greater bowler than given credit for, and the only man I know who deliberately fielded in the pre-lunch session at Lord's with the front of his shirt outside his trousers. Of the two Lees, such a help at all times; Frank taught me all I knew about opening an innings.

Because of cricket, palaces and stately houses have opened their doors to me. 1 have visited South Africa, Rhodesia, India, Ceylon and Wales. Should I have visited these places if I had not played cricket? No.

Penning these thoughts has been wonderful, and, on reading them through, even with so much left out, I am so glad that it all happened to me, and if any bowler still thinks evil of me, please don't. The pleasure of just playing cricket is too great to have such thoughts.

Thank you to all I have played with over these past 50 years. Thank goodness, too, that it was cricket and not soccer, for seeing players kissing and hugging one another because a goal has been scored nauseates me. Just what would Lord's be like if when a player made a century the rest of his side charged out of the pavilion and performed these rites. Long may cricket be played as it is!

Harold Gimblett died in March 1978, aged 63.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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