1969 July 26, 2008

The strange case of the missing opponents

A look back to Glamorgan's 1969 Championship-winning season and a curious game where their opponents left early

Club cricketers across the world are familiar with opposition who fail to turn up. Ones that leave before the end of games are less commonplace. In first-class cricket it is almost unknown, but it's exactly what happened at Bournemouth in June, 1969.

The Glamorgan side that won the Championship in 1969 ... despite the problems at Bournemouth © Getty Images

When Glamorgan, who went on to win the Championship that summer for only the second time, visited Hampshire in 1969, both were sitting in the middle of the table. Hampshire took a first-innings lead thanks to a hundred from Richard Gilliat, but the final day was ruined by rain.

Surprisingly, Glamorgan extended their first innings into the third morning before declaring after just 15 minutes. After an hour of Hampshire's second innings - by which time they had crawled to 28 for 1 - rain sent the players from the field. Light drizzle continued for the next four hours, and the match was clearly going to end in a draw.

But it was one of those days when the rain was never heavy enough to make an abandonment a formality. "We longed for a storm to end the futility of hanging around," wrote Alan Gibson in the Times. "Duty, not hope, kept us miserably waiting."

The smattering of spectators disappeared as the afternoon dragged on, even though there was no public announcement about what was happening. At some stage, after an early tea was taken, someone appears to have told Roy Marshall, the Hampshire captain, that the umpires had abandoned play. Rather foolishly, Marshall did not check with them. His team changed, packed their bags, ordered taxis, and went home.

Glamorgan were set to do likewise, and were hanging around outside the pavilion when Tony Lewis, their captain, spotted Peter Wight, one of the umpires. "I suppose it's all off," Lewis said by way of passing the time. To his surprise Wight said it wasn't. "There's more than two hours to go, the rain is not too heavy ... it's too early to cancel the match. The rain isn't heavy and the wicket will be ready as soon as it stops." His colleague, Lloyd Budd, agreed.

A rather bemused Lewis told his players to return to the dressing room and wait for the official announcement while Hampshire officials tried desperately - and unsuccessfully - to contact their team.

In just two minutes we had won the game and secured the pointsGlamorgan captain Tony Lewis

At 5pm the rain stopped, the umpires inspected, and announced that play would resume at 5.30, half an hour before the scheduled close. No purpose would be served by playing those 30 minutes but, under the regulations, the officials were quite right.

Glamorgan changed back into their whites - not that they needed to - although Gibson noted that Peter Walker's "fetching pink undergarments" were on view. At the appointed time, the players ambled out to the middle and took their places. Tony Cordle marked out his run, Budd called play ... and nothing happened.

For two minutes the fielders and umpire stood around. After the first minute it started raining and, to add irony to the farce, Hampshire's batsmen would probably have been offered the chance to go off - had they been there. At the end of the second minute, Wight took off the bails and headed back to the pavilion.

Inside, the umpires announced that Glamorgan had been awarded a win by virtue of Hampshire's - inadvertent - refusal to play. They took 12 points to Hampshire's seven. Lewis said that he had no doubts as he travelled back to Cardiff that Glamorgan had secured the victory, albeit in far from ideal circumstances. "In just two minutes we had won the game and secured the points," he said.

Marshall, when contacted later that day by the Guardian, was bemused. "I understood from the umpires, and the opposition captain who was with me at the time, that the match was off."

Hampshire lodged an appeal with the MCC, basing their argument on the fact that a result would have been impossible even if they had been there. Initially the MCC upheld the actions of the umpires, but with Glamorgan in second place in the Championship as July neared an end, the matter was subsequently referred to a special meeting of the MCC's full committee.

The full MCC committee met at the end of July and overturned the umpires' decision © Getty Images

On July 31 the result was overturned and the game declared a draw. "There is little doubt that due to a lack of communication between the umpires and captains, a genuine misunderstanding occurred," a statement said, adding that the umpires had acted "correctly within the Laws of Cricket".

One angry Glamorgan member told the Guardian that he could not understand the decision. "Once you start compromising with rules you get into all sorts of difficulties." Glamorgan lost ten points, extending the gap between them and leaders Gloucestershire to 26 points.

Fortunately, the incident had no impact on the final Championship table. Glamorgan's eventual margin of victory was 31 points, and they were the deserved champions. They sailed through the season unbeaten - the first time that had happened since 1930 - and used only 13 players throughout the summer. Hampshire finished fifth.

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The Cricketer - Various
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack (1981)
The Times (Various) The Guardian (Various)

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo.