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You'd do a double take on seeing these names on a scorecard
March 21, 2011
Only about 1900 years after the Roman invasion, Julius Caesar from Godalming had a long career as a batsman. He made three centuries for Surrey, the highest of them 132 not out against Sussex in Hove in 1864. This Caesar, like his namesake, came to something of a sticky end: aged 47 in 1878, and possibly depressed that his cricket career had drawn to a close, he threw himself under a train near Guildford on March 6 (not quite the Ides, but not far off).
Someone answering to the name of the Bard played for Worcestershire in the 1920s: William Harold Nelson Shakespeare appeared in 26 county games soon after the First World War, making his two highest scores - 62 and 67 not out - against Warwickshire in 1919 (sadly, at Edgbaston rather than Stratford-upon-Avon). He was a Wing Commander in the RAF, and later became Worcestershire's president.
The 19th-century novelist had a couple of cricket connections. A scene derived from his book The Pickwick Papers, of a cricket match between Dingley Dell and All Muggleton, featured on the back of the British ten-pound note for years, and he also played an unwitting part in the birth of international cricket: he was asked by the catering company Spiers and Pond to undertake a lecture tour of Australia in the winter of 1861, and when he turned them down they changed tack and invited an English cricket team to undertake the first tour down under instead. But a Charles Dickens did play first-class cricket - in four matches for the South African province Griqualand West just after the Second World War. When he played against Orange Free State he was dismissed by Keats.
Nearly 350 years after Henry VIII's former Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More was burned at the stake, Thomas Jasper Mytton More was born in Shropshire, for whom he kept wicket in Minor County cricket. An Old Etonian, he also played for MCC.
George Bernard Shaw
Someone whose parents presumably had a sense of humour, left-arm spinner George Bernard Shaw played 16 matches for Glamorgan between 1951 and 1955. He took 10 wickets against the Combined Services in a first-class match at Cardiff Arms (and the Man?) Park in 1952.
Percy Jeeves was a Yorkshire-born allrounder who came close to achieving the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in his first full season for Warwickshire, in 1913. Although his form fell away a little the following year he was highly thought of - but sadly he was killed in action in France two years later, aged only 28. But his name lives on: when the author PG Wodehouse - a cricket fan himself, who played several times at Lord's for the Authors XI - was casting around for a name for probably his finest comic creation, Bertie Wooster's omnipotent manservant, he lighted upon Jeeves' surname and borrowed it.
About the nearest the man who became Britain's prime minister in 1976 came to cricket was when he defeated Ted Dexter - the England captain at the time - to retain his Cardiff seat in the 1964 General Election. Later, when home secretary, Callaghan advised against the 1970 South African tour of England taking place, and it was almost immediately cancelled. But although Callaghan the politician died in 2005, Callaghan the cricketer put in a recent appearance: Cameroon's team for their World Cricket League Division 3 match against the Gambia in Accra (Ghana) in February 2011 featured one Wamba James Callaghan.
A long-serving character in the even-longer-running BBC Radio serial The Archers, Brian Aldridge is played by Charles Collingwood, a keen club cricketer himself. New Zealander Brian Aldridge was a long-serving umpire who stood in 26 Tests and 45 one-day internationals, including the 1992 World Cup final in Melbourne.
Senator Robert Kennedy (the politician) served as attorney general under his brother, JFK, and was assassinated himself in 1968, while running for president. Robert "Senator" Kennedy (the cricketer) was a fast-medium bowler for Wellington who played four Tests for New Zealand in 1995-96.
A slight cheat here, as no one of this name has ever played first-class cricket - but Holmes' creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did: his only wicket, in 10 first-class games for MCC, was that of WG Grace, who was playing for London County in 1900 (WG was 51 at the time, but had scored 110). But many people believe Holmes' distinctive first name was adapted from the surname of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire fast bowler Frank Shacklock, while it's even more likely that the name of Holmes' even cleverer brother was borrowed from another Derbyshire bowler, William Mycroft.
Alec and Eric Bedser
The Surrey twins? That would be rather too easy. But there was another set of Bedser twins, also named Alec and Eric, born in South Africa in 1948 - and remarkably they became good cricketers too. Alec, a medium-pace bowler (naturally), played first-class cricket for Border, but sadly died in a car accident in 1981. Eric, while he didn't quite reach the first-class ranks, was a decent cricketer and a good all-round sportsman.
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