From Minshull to Collins
Certain numbers can trigger instant recognition from the true cricket fan. The figures 400, 375, and 501 evoke the memory of Brian Lara's epics of batsmanship, in Antigua and at Edgbaston. 519 will remain linked to Courtney Walsh. The intensity of the debate over the number of centuries scored by Sir Jack Hobbs is due in part to the attachment many have to the traditional figure of 197, rather than the perhaps more statistically accurate figure of 199.
The number 628 is perhaps known to fewer followers of the game. It marks the crowning achievement in minor cricket records, the highest single innings score by a batsman in any class of cricket. Compiling this class of records is fraught with difficulty - it is hard to verify, hard to locate scorebooks, and sometimes there are feats that beggar belief. The names are generally obscure, the teams even more so (although it is worth noting that the highest partnership for any wicket ever recorded was between a certain SR Tendulkar and VG Kambli). The record of 628 has stood for over 100 years, and was set by AEJ Collins, a schoolboy at Clifton College. More of Collins later, as it is worth tracing the history of this particular record.
In the early days of cricket this is difficult - records are far from complete, and scoring was rudimentary. A convenient starting point is the first known stroke-by-stroke scorebook record of a game. This dates from 31 August 1769, when the Duke of Dorset's XI played Wrotham. It also contains the record of the first known century, an innings of 107 by John Minshull. As far as it can be traced, the record was broken twice in the next decade. Minshull was playing for Surrey six years later when John Small (senior) broke it, making 136. Small was playing for the legendary Hambledon club, who in this match at Broad Halfpenny Down beat the county by a massive 296 runs. Small was in his way a cricketing revolutionary, a bat-maker who abandoned the curved bats then in style for the modern straight-bladed bat. Both Small and Minshull were participants in the match where J Aylward extended the record to 167, as Hambledon beat All England by an innings.
Lord Frederick Beauclerk was the next record holder; at the beginning of the 19th century he dominated the cricket scene like no one else. Described as "an unmitigated scoundrel" by Benny Green, he was also a talented cricketer, who in 1806 beat Aylward's record by three runs, whilst playing as a given man for the Homerton Club against Montpelier. Montpelier were so overwhelmed by Beauclerk (who also had a hand in ten of their wickets) that they conceded the match.
Beauclerk's 170 stood until the first double hundred was hit in 1820 by Mr W Ward. He was playing for the MCC against Norfolk at Lord's and recorded the massive score of 278. Ward was a prominent figure in more than one way. A powerful hitter, he wielded a four-pound bat, a favourite that saw 50 years of service. He was a director of the Bank of England and later an MP for the City of London. He also saved Lord's five years later; when Thomas Lord decided to develop the ground for housing. Ward bought out Lord's interest for £5,000, later to transfer the lease to JH Dark.
Ward's record stood until 1837 when Alfred Adams, playing for Saffron Walden against Bishop's Stortford (at the time villages in rural Essex, now suburban commuter towns) beat it by a solitary run. We know more about the next holder of the record, the splendidly named Edward Ferdinando Sutton Tylecote. He was a Test player, touring Australia with Ivo Bligh, and hitting a memorable 66 in the match that decided the series. A wicket-keeper, he made two first-class hundreds for Kent, but his big innings came when he was just 19, and at school at Clifton College. In a practice match between Classical and Modern he hit the first quadruple hundred, 404*.
Tylecote, of course was a classical scholar, and after the Moderns had been dismissed for exactly 100 (Tylecote taking three wickets - presumably his wicket-keeping talents were not required), he opened the innings. The 100 mark was soon passed, but it appears that although this was a single innings match, the game continued until all Classical batsmen had had an innings. By the third afternoon, the Classical scholars totalled 630, with the next highest score being 52. The bowling figures mercifully are not recorded. Tylecote scored one seven, five fives, 21 fours, 39 threes, 42 twos and 87 ones - all run except for one four hit out of the ground. and batted for approximately 6 hours.
Tylecote's innings attracted considerable publicity, and was the subject of an article in that year's Wisden by WH Knight, who listed all known double-hundreds - only 26 at that time, with seven of those innings taking place in 1868. High scoring was to become more commonplace in the next few years, with the improvement of wickets and the advent of WG Grace. Clifton was definitely the place to make a high score, with both WG and his brother EM making double centuries for the Clifton Club. In 1876 WG made 400* for the United South of England. Presumably he was not much interested in passing Tylecote's record.
So it was not WG who broke Tylecote's record but the far more obscure WN Roe, a promising schoolboy batsman who had gone up to Cambridge. Despite making good scores in college matches, and playing some matches for the University XI, he had failed to gain his blue. In July 1881, University cricket consisted of teams put together by scholars who chose to stay at Cambridge during the summer break. The Emmanuel Long Vacation Club team were to play Caius' long vacation team but could only find nine men. Accordingly they looked for a couple of substitutes, and asked Roe (a Magdalen man) to play. What their opponents thought of this is not recorded, but they cannot have been overly impressed when Roe took five wickets with his off-breaks.
We know far less about the next record holder, JS Carrick, who played for the West of Scotland. The Scots were on tour in southern England in 1885, and took on the Priory Park Club in a two-day match at Chichester. Carrick opened the innings, and proceeded to bat for the entire two days, making an unbeaten 419 out of 745/4. Carrick batted for eleven and a half hours in all and scored one eight (a huge hit to square leg), two sixes, two fives and 30 fours. The Priory Park bowling was headed by James Lillywhite, a bowler with over 1,200 first-class wickets, including eight in his two Tests. He was in his final year of first-class cricket but his figures of 1/170 suggest that Carrick was a very good batsman. Carrick's innings featured some strong off-driving, and big hits to leg, and he only gave two chances, one to deep-mid-on and one to the keeper. Priory Park did not seem to resent being denied an opportunity to bat and at the conclusion of the second day, Carrick was "carried to the dressing room amid immense cheering".
His record stood just a single year before being broken by AE Stoddart. Stoddart was perhaps the most distinguished of cricketers to hold the record, captaining England in Australia, and acknowledged as one of the best bats of his day. He had made his first-class debut in 1885 - he was 22 at the time and it is said that prior to that date he did not take cricket seriously. His name came to national attention following his mammoth 485 for Hampstead against the Stoics, made in a single day on August 4 1886. The Stoics would have had to be stoical indeed as Hampstead batted the entire day of the one-day game, making 813 in the process. Stoddart was seventh out, batting six hours and ten minutes and including one eight, three fives, and 64 fours. The runs were scored at a rapid pace - the score was 370 for 3 at lunch after 150 minutes of play. He made 207 for Hampstead in the next match three days later, and on August 9 was playing for Middlesex and made 98 - 790 runs in a week. His big innings launched a stellar career. He made his debut in Tests the next year (as well as representing England at Rugby), and toured Australia four times, twice as captain. He made 221 in his final first-class innings in 1900.
And so finally to AEJ Collins, and back to Clifton College. Indian-born, Arthur Edward Jeune Collins was 13 when picked to play for his Clifton College house (Clarke's) against North Town. House matches were played to a finish over as many afternoons as it took to complete the match. Few would have predicted that this game would finish six days after it started. Collins opened the batting, and stayed for six hours and 50 minutes, spread over four afternoons. The breaks undoubtedly assisted the young man as he amassed the unprecedented score of 628 not out, out of a total of 836. The next-highest score in the match was 46, the extras conceded by North Town, followed by Whittey's 42. Collins' innings was a challenge to the scorer, who is reported as saying it was "628, plus or minus twenty shall we say". Unlike Stoddart, whose innings was nearly chanceless, Collins was dropped on 80, 100, 140, 556 and 612. When the dispirited opponents batted, Collins took 7 for 33 and 4 for 30 as Clarke's won by an innings and 688 runs.
How could Collins follow this? He continued to play cricket (and rugby, boxing, rackets, cross-country, and swimming) and won a place in the Clifton XI in 1901 and 1902, with some success. He chose to follow an Army career, and that severely limited his sporting opportunities. As a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers he made 58 and 36 against the Artillery at Lord's. He went to France when war broke out in 1914, and was killed in action on November 11 of that year.
It is hard to imagine that Collins' record could be broken in first-class cricket. It has stood for over a hundred years, and few modern minor matches are played under the conditions that would permit a batsman to score such a huge number of runs. However, a quadruple century was made by V Malhotra in Under-17 cricket in India in 1989-90, and Tendulkar and Kambli's huge partnership was made in Bombay school's cricket. Deepak Chougule, currently in England with the Indian under-19s, made 400* in junior state cricket when we was just 13. If the record is to be broken it will likely be in India, by a young batsman whose name will be as obscure as Collins' was in his day.