My years at Cambridge

G H Longman

My recollection of Cambridge cricket, which commences as far back as 1872, must of necessity be somewhat dim, and this dimness is immensely increased by the loss of my old friend, Mr. A. S. Tabor, with whom my cricket career, both at Eton and Cambridge, was so closely connected, and whose powers of memory would have been of immense assistance.

One thing which has impressed itself on my memory very particularly is the extreme cold of certain early May days at Fenner's, with a strong N.E. wind blowing, and I particularly recollect having a catch from Mr. C. I. Thornton's bat out in the country on such a day, which mercifully stuck in my hands.

Another recollection concerns College examinations. In those days there were certain so-called May examinations, and in 1872 the days of those examinations clashed with those fixed for one of the University matches. Mr. Thornton, who was then Captain of the Cambridge Eleven, was very anxious that I should play for the University, and informed me that when he was in the same position he went to his tutor, Mr. Blore, told him that he knew nothing about the subjects, and that Mr. Blore had excused him from sitting for the examinations. In the innocence of my heart I called upon Mr. Blore and the interview was as follows:

Mr. Blore: Good morning, Mr. Longman, what can I do for you?

Mr. Longman: Well, sir, the fact is that the May examinations take place on the same days as those fixed for one of the University Cricket Matches, and I thought perhaps I might be excused from sitting. The fact is, I don't know much about the subjects.

Mr. Blore: Mr. Longman, if you do not know much about the subjects, all I can say is you ought to. Such a request never was made before and I trust it never may be again. Good morning.

Such is life !

Well, in process of time my old friend and companion in arms, Mr. A. S. Tabor (now, alas, no longer with us) and I--both freshmen--were given our Blues, and, Cambridge having won the toss, we were selected to go in first for Cambridge in the Oxford match. I took the first ball--a fast yorker on the off stump--which I just managed to stop. The Reverend G. R. Dupuis, who for many years, together with Mr. R. A. H. Mitchell, looked after the cricket at Eton, remarked at the time that if he had wanted to bowl me out that was the Ball he would have bowled. The wicket was good, runs came steadily, and we were so successful that the hundred was hoisted on the telegraph board without the loss of a wicket--an achievement which had never before been accomplished in the history of the match. As the hundred went up I caught Mr. Tabor's eye, and I have always felt that that was the supreme moment of my cricket career.

One cannot give an account of this match without saying one word of admiration for the extraordinarily masterly innings of Mr. Yardley, who made 130. He ran me out, but I think he was justified, as I was tired and getting runs very slowly.

The other individual performance which I would like to mention is that of Mr. Powys, who obtained six wickets in the first innings and seven in the second; in both Oxford innings my cousin, Sir Edward Bray, the late County Court Judge, and Mr. Powys shared the wickets.

In my judgment Mr. Powys was in 1872 the fastest and one of the best left-handed bowlers in England, but he never again bowled with the pace and spin he achieved in that year.

There is an incident which showed supreme captaincy. In the second innings, when Mr. Powys was bowling to Mr. Ottaway from the nursery end, Mr. C. I. Thornton placed himself in a then very unusual place, about level with the long-stop and about three yards on the leg side, where, sure enough, he caught out Mr. Ottaway, off quite a good stroke from a ball of Mr. Powys's, which, but for Mr. Thornton's intervention, would have gone to the boundary.

One recollection of this match might be of interest, viz: that Mr. R. A. H. Mitchell, who as everyone knows, was a tower of strength to the Oxford side during his Oxford career, was heard to say at the beginning of the match that he hoped those boys would get a few before they were out. When 20 and 30 went up without a wicket he began to get a little uneasy, and I think that his love for his two Etonian cricket pupils soon became overwhelmed by his loyal partisanship for Oxford--and quite right too.

The one other recollection to which I shall refer only came to the knowledge of Mr. Tabor and me two years ago, and was as follows: An ardent Oxonian was sitting in the pavilion at about 1 o'clock on the first day of the match, and up to him came another Oxonian with the eager question: Well--how is it going? Going! replied his friend, there are two........little freshmen in, and they've got the 100 up without a wicket.

This match is ancient history, and all cricketers know that we won in one innings. In spite of that, however, I cannot help feeling that Oxford were quite as strong a side as Cambridge, if not stronger. Anyone looking through the list of names of the Oxford Eleven will see that it contains those of Mr. C. J. Ottaway, Mr. W. H. Hadow, Mr. W. Law, Mr. E. F. S. Tylecote, Mr. C. A. Wallroth (an extremely good batsman), Lord Harris (then the Honble. G. Harris), Mr. C. K. Francis, Mr. A. W. Ridley, and last, not least, Mr. S. E. Butler, at that time an extremely good fast bowler. All of these gentlemen, with the exception of Mr. C. A. Wallroth, represented the Gentlemen at Lord's in the Gentlemen v. Players match at some time during their cricket career.

The 1873 match was won by Oxford by three wickets and was chiefly remarkable for the extreme value of Mr. Ottaway's batting for Oxford, but there occurred one hitherto unrecorded incident which, to my mind, immensely emphasised his value. In the second innings, during the stand made by Mr. Ottaway and Mr. C. E. B. Napean (which certainly decided the match) the following incident occurred:--A ball from, I think, Mr. Tillard, pitched on Mr. Ottaway's toe, causing him excruciating pain, his bat was so close to his foot that all we fieldsmen, with the exception of Mr. Tabor, thought he had played the ball. Mr. Tabor, fielding at mid-off, did not like to appeal, but after the over he asked the umpire what decision he would have given if he had been appealed to on the question of Mr. Ottaway's being out l. b. w., and the reply came quickly: I should have given him out sir!Mr. Ottaway did not wince the slightest degree until the next ball had been bowled in spite of being in great pain. This was heroic, and I have little doubt was the turning point of the match. Had Mr. Ottaway been given out, I think we might have won.

With regard to the Cambridge side, I think it should be mentioned that Mr. Goldney, who was given a place in the Eleven as a fast bowler, only bowled two overs during the entire match.

In the 1874 match we were entirely out-played, and so far as the Cambridge side is concerned, Mr. Tabor's score of 52 in the first innings was the one redeeming feature. He certainly played extremely well.

No picture of Cambridge cricket in the'70's would be complete without some reference to the Rev. A. R. Ward. He was President of the C.U.C.C. during the whole of my Cambridge career and was, I believe, chiefly instrumental in preserving Fenner's Ground to the University, though this was completed before I went up. He was very anxious to eliminate the word Fenner's, and took a great deal of trouble to establish the name of the ground as The University Ground.This desire of his had so great an effect on me that I always write and speak of it as The University Ground even now. I believe, however, that to-day the ground is usually described as Fenner's.

He took an immense interest in Cambridge cricket and at his house in Jesus Lane dispensed hospitality to cricketers with no grudging hand. He was also a well-known figure at Lord's, could always during Oxford and Cambridge Matches be found on the top of the pavilion watching every ball bowled, and during hot days was provided with a basin, a large towel and a sponge for the purposes of mitigating the effects of the heat which were bound to be great in the case of a man of his very large build.

One season we were rather short of bowlers and the following conversation took place between Mr. Ward and J. C. Shaw who was engaged that May Term to bowl at the nets on the University Ground.

Rev. A. R. Ward: We are a bit short of bowling this year and I think we shall have to enrol you as an undergraduate. Do you know your Greek Testament?

J. C. Shaw: Wort's thot?

The 1875 match was, to my thinking, one of the best contested games ever played. Oxford won the toss and made 86 runs before a wicket fell. I believe this start was chiefly due to the fact that while the wicket where the ball pitched had been covered, the run-up to the wicket had not, so that whereas Cambridge bowlers had to bowl on a wet run-up the ball pitched on a perfectly dry wicket. This start practically won the match.

In the last innings the two incidents which, I think, sealed the fate of Cambridge were: one, the magnificent catch by Mr. A. J. Webbe, which brought Mr. Edward Lyttelton's innings to an end, and the other, the catch by Mr. Pulmanwhich disposed of Mr. Sims. Mr. Pulman judged the catch extremely well and held it in spite of the ball being wet. When it came to the last wicket I was anxious to give Mr. A. F. Smith a little sal volatile before he went in, but he declined it, saying that he was all right. When he came back to the Pavilion he confessed to me that though he did feel all right until he got outside the Pavilion, he then felt sick. Poor old fellow, he has departed this life and on the principle of de mortuis we will make no further remark about his innings. I feel firmly convinced that, if Mr. Macan could only have got to the other end, he would have made the seven runs off Mr. Ridley's lobs.

May I end on another personal note? The Rev. Hon. Edward Lyttelton wrote an article two years ago describing this match, and his last sentence was this: Has George Longman ever got over it? I will reply to that question, even at this distance of time, by telling him that considering the match only occurred 53 years ago, he must be patient, but that I am going on as well as can be expected.

© John Wisden & Co