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Sixty years, which is the total time spanned by my career with Surrey County Cricket Club as player, coach and scorer, is a very big slice out of a life-time, but I have no regrets about it. Whatever the differences in method, tactics and so on between my day and the present, I am glad that I played when I did, for I consorted with some of the greats and we all enjoyed the game. Cricket has been good to me in that I have met so many friends and have been enabled to visit so many countries which I would otherwise never have seen.
My keenness on cricket began at an early age. After leaving school, I turned out for my father's club, Streatham United, on Streatham Common at the age of 16. A Mr. Raphael, father of J. E. Raphael, who played cricket for Oxford and Surrey, and also got a Blue for Rugby and represented England in nine Internationals between 1902 and 1906, used to watch our team occasionally and he mentioned my name to the Surrey County authorities. As a result I had annual trials at The Oval nets for three years. I remember that the first coach to see me was the famous Bobby Abel, a kindly man. Then E. H. D. Sewell became coach and later on, in 1946, when I, too, took up the position of coach, I looked up an old coaching report-book to see what he had said about me. It read: A fair bat and a promising bowler, but I was rarely called upon to bowl in first-class cricket.
When 18 I went to Mitcham C.C. and a Surrey Committee-man, a Mr. W. W. Thompson, spoke about me to the then County Secretary, the late W. Findlay. In December 1910, Mr. Findlay strongly advised me not to become a professional cricketer; but I told him that I was sure that, if given the chance, I would make good. So I joined the County staff in 1911 at a wage of 25s a week -- one golden sovereign and two half-crowns. I think my winter pay was £1 per month! But I was happy, though when I watched Tom Hayward, Jack Hobbs, Ernie Hayes and Co., I thought I would never reach their high standards. There were, if I recall, 30 players on the bowling staff, which meant that, quite apart from the first eleven, one had to be very good to get a place in the second team.
In those days when the first team were playing away, and even if a second eleven match was taking place at The Oval, members came to the nets for practice (half an hour a time). This meant that the left overs were continually bowling at them and at the end of the day were rather tired. We had a kitty and sometimes we picked up eight or ten shillings each, which at that time was a fair sum.
I was allowed to turn out for Mitcham on Saturdays and in four consecutive matches I scored a century -- for Mitcham, the Young Players of Surrey, Surrey Club and Ground and Surrey second eleven against Wiltshire. As a result, I was given a game for the county eleven against Cambridge University and, in my very first first-class match, I scored 53. There was at that time a public house with a flat roof over on the gas-works side of The Oval, with six or seven tiered seats for customers who could see cricket for nothing. As the pubs were then open all day long and the beer was both cheaper and stronger, the customers by the afternoon got a bit under the influence and frequently gave us the bird. I got it on my first appearance and I thought it rather hard, for I naturally wanted to do well and took only two hours for my 53. All this, too, from people who were not in the ground!
We lesser lights had to put in our own practice with the coach at 10 a.m. and then wait for any visiting players and our own first eleven players who came out for a knock and bowl to them. I remember rushing to bowl against G. L. Jessop, but after he played forward and the ball narrowly missed my head, I had sense enough to bowl at his legs.
Soon after my baptism against Cambridge, I was as usual bowling at the nets when, ten minutes before the start of a match with Lancashire, I was told that I was playing, Tom Hayward having dropped out. This was such a shock that I nearly dropped, too. In those days there was a telegraph-office on the ground and, having seen the batting order, I sent my father a wire telling him the news. My father, who was a Lancashire man, had taken a few hours off from work and come to The Oval, so that he missed my telegram. He told me that he was sitting in the crowd, but had not got a score-card. So he turned to the man next to him and asked: "Who is this lad coming in to bat?" He was shaken when he was told: "It's a second eleven lad named Sandham." I scored 60 and my father said that after I was out he left for home. I remember being nearly run out at 49 by that splendid batsman, R. H. Spooner. Come to think of it, it seems rather silly to risk a run out at 49 or 99.
In this connection, I have often been asked how Jack Hobbs and I managed to steal so many sharp runs. I guess I must have run hundreds for him, for I never called him for one! As a matter of fact, he used not to call, for I knew from his push-stroke to the off that he wanted to run. I was always a yard or so down the pitch after the ball had been delivered and as I was rather fast between wickets, he knew I would make it. I remember Herbert Sutcliffe talking to me after being in with Jack for the first time about these short runs. I said: "Well, I know when he wants a quick run without calling, so I run." Herbie said something to the effect that he was not going to run any; they had got to stop; but I noticed that he found that he had to when coupled with Jack in Tests -- and a jolly good job they made of it, too.
Incidentally I read in a newspaper article last summer the view that Hobbs and Sutcliffe never took a chance with their running. I cannot agree with this. The fact was that, like Jack and myself this pair developed such an understanding that, though the element of risk remained, it was reduced to a minimum. I wondered at the time how the author of the article, who was born less than two years before the close of Jack's playing career, could have written with such authority. I also heard of a retired former player who said in a speech at a club dinner that Hobbs and Sandham wouldn't have made the runs they did in these days. Well, perhaps I would not have done, who knows; but to say that Jack would not is a bit much! I looked up the person concerned in Wisden and I see from his birthday that he was 12 years of age when Jack retired in 1934. I fancy that, being the great batsman he was, Jack would have coped.
In 1913, I made my first first-class century, 196 against Sussex at The Oval. Curiously enough, I hit the last of my 107 centuries also against Sussex, at Hove at the age of 47 in my final game before retiring.
Many people have asked if any particular person taught me. The fact is that I must have had a natural aptitude for batting and I always watched the established players. I was always on the players' balcony to see Tom Hayward and Jack Hobbs open the innings for Surrey. Tom was my idol then, though later on he frightened me, for when I was twelfth man away from home and he had made a good score, he would bark at me to get him a whisky and soda. I would say "Yes, sir," but was afraid to ask him for the money. My own fault, I suppose, but Tom had many a whisky and soda on me! He was the senior professional and well in with the various captains Surrey had had, and what he said went.
The 1914-18 War finished Tom's career and I was destined to take his place in 1919. I wonder how many centuries Hobbs would have made during that break in first-class cricket, for I once asked him when he considered he was at his best and he said: "Before the 1914 War broke out." My association with him was broken for a time in 1921 when he was taken ill with appendicitis during a Test at Leeds against Australia. That season was a bad one for English batsmen, who had no experience against fast bowlers of the pace of Jack Gregory and Ted McDonald. What a pair for any opening batsman to face! Incidentally, I consider that McDonald had the most graceful action I have ever seen in a fast bowler. As a result of Jack's illness, many openers were tried for England and I think about 30 men turned out for the country that year. I got my chance in the last Test at The Oval, going in at No. 5 and making 21. Being an opener, I found it rather nerve-racking to have to sit and wait until five minutes past six to take my turn at the wicket.
Odd things stick in the memory. I recall in 1921 an amateur named T. J. Moloney, who bowled under-arm, appearing in one of our trial matches. Well, he was bowling against Jack, who jokingly advanced down the pitch, only to miss and be stumped by Herbert Strudwick. A few weeks later Struddy said that was the worst thing he ever did, for later on Moloney played in one or two county matches and, as his mode of bowling was down the leg-side, Struddy experienced many narrow escapes from batsmen swinging their bats and just missing his head. Struddy's friend was included in the side when we went to Trent Bridge for the Whitsun Bank Holiday match, for which in those days the ground was always full before the start.
Notts batted and after a while Moloney was put on to bowl.
His was a new Surrey name to the crowd and they were curious. Well, you never heard such a howl of laughter as that which followed his first delivery. When quiet was restored and just before Moloney bowled his next ball, a man just behind me on the boundary shouted: "Keep him on, Fender. I'm going home to fetch my old woman." In actual fact, Moloney had the last laugh, for I think he took three wickets for eleven runs, all caught on the boundary.
We then went to Leicester and in due course Moloney was brought on. He bowled one ball down the leg-side wide enough for Lord, the opening batsman, to turn right round and try to hit it to the fine-leg boundary. He hit it all right, but straight to the tummy of Strudwick, who caught it as much in self-defence as anything. After that game, Struddy said: "If Moloney plays again, I won't," so we never saw that bowler again.
In reference to under-arm bowlers, there was one, G. H. Simpson-Hayward, of Worcestershire, who was good enough to be chosen to go with the M.C.C. to South Africa. A tall, very strong man with powerful fingers, he could spin the ball either way. The following season, when Surrey were playing Worcestershire, there was talk in our dressing-room about how to deal with him. Struddy said: "Well, I know which way the ball will turn, for I kept to him in South Africa." When Struddy went in, he was out first ball -- lbw to a full-pitch!
I was a member of the 1922-23 M.C.C. team to South Africa where at that time cricket was played on matting wickets, there being no grass pitches as now. Coming out from grass pitches, we took a long time to get used at the matting, but Jack Russell did very well and he made two separate hundreds in the last test at Durban, a feat the more remarkable as he was far from well during that match. We were captained by one of the nicest men I played with, F. T. Mann.
In 1924-25 I was honoured again, being in the team to Australia. Though I scored a good many runs on the tour, my Test record read thus: lbw, caught on the leg-side, played on and, finally, run out. The only time I made two centuries in the same match was when I got 137 and 104 to Sydney against New South Wales during that trip. M.C.C. were captained by A. E. R. Gilligan and he again led the side when I went to India with M.C.C. in 1926. We played 32 matches and I missed only four of them. That was a tiring business, for there was no flying then and India was not divided, so that there were long train journeys. Nevertheless, because of this, I probably saw more of India than many people living there.
After India came a visit to the West Indies under the Hon. F. S. G. Calthorpe. I understood that the West Indies asked if M.C.C. could send some of the older England players and Wilfred Rhodes, George Gunn and the late Joe Hardstaff (as umpire and baggage-man) were in the party. Our first Test was at Barbados on the fastest pitch I ever batted on, a view shared by the veterans I have mentioned. I remember the first bouncer I received from Learie Constantine and though I did not mind fast bowlers, I was a bit lucky to get away with this one, for I mistimed it and just cleared short-leg. Other bouncers, which came frequently, I let go!
Meanwhile George Gunn, then 47 or 48 years, who opened with me, put out his tongue at Learie every time he bowled him a bouncer. George made a modest score and left me and the others to deal with an infuriated fast bowler, thoroughly roused in front of his own people! Over the years I have enquired of players who subsequently visited the West Indies how they found the pitch in Barbados. Their reply has been: "It may have been fast in your time. It isn't now."
Why are there no fast pitches in England today? In my early days it was agreed that the Leyton pitch and that at Taunton were the fastest in the country and allowed fast bowlers and batsmen who liked fast bowling to come into their own. Nowadays fast bowlers seem to get little reward for their skills and energy. In last season's Tests and Pakistan and India, they bowled with the new ball and then gave way to the spinners, who operated from then till the end of the innings. Surely at the start of a match the batsmen and fast bowlers are entitled to expect a fast pitch to play on if there has been no rain about.
Reverting to the West Indies tour, in the last Test -- also the final match of the tour -- England scored 849 and 272 for nine and the West Indies 286 and 408 for five. Then it rained for, I think, two days and the game was abandoned as a draw. It was in this match that I made my highest score ever, 325; but I would not have done so but for Joe Hardstaff, who was umpiring. I started with sore toes and after reaching 100 I said to Joe: "I'm off now." But he said: "No, you stay here and talk to me. I don't know anyone out here."
Starting next day at 150 not out, I duly got to 200 and then told Joe: "I'm going now," but he always found an excuse. This time it was: "There's a new ball due. See that off." Or else there was an interval due. Anyway, by tea-time on the second day I had scored about 250 and somebody had been looking up the record by an Englishman in the West Indies. It was around 260 and Joe said: "Stay here and beat that." Having managed to do so, I asked: "Are you satisfied now?" and he replied: "No, go on and make it 300" -- and that's how I made my biggest score! This was all very well, but whenever a wicket fell at the other end, a sprightly new-comer came in and ran me off my feet. One of them was Les Ames, who made 149, and he was no slouch between wickets.
The following winter I went to South Africa with A. P. F. Chapman's M.C.C. team, but unfortunately, after two matches, I was involved in a car accident -- about which I knew nothing, I was looking out of the back window at the time -- and I played no more on the tour. This was a considerable misfortune for the side, for it meant the loss of an opener.
I visited The Oval only occasionally in 1971, but I did go there on the last day when Glamorgan were the visitors and Surrey were trying to get another six points to win the Championship. At one time I saw a West Indian and a Pakistani batting for Glamorgan and a Pakistani bowling to them, and I thought: "Where do the young lads in the various county second elevens come in?" Mind you, I have nothing against imported cricketers, either white or black, and over the years I have enjoyed playing against their countrymen. But what must county coaches think when they have a promising youngster ripe for the first eleven, an imported player is invited and the lad loses his chance? If young English cricketers are to be encouraged, surely there should be a limit to importations and I am glad this has now been done.
Another thing. Bowling tactics have changed from my early days. The advent of in-swing cut out off-driving and cutting, so that on-side play became the main method of scoring and drives through the covers became few and far between. This, with brave fielders standing in very close at short-leg, coupled with slower pitches, has cramped batting and no doubt bored spectators.
Fielding, I think, may be better than in my time -- may be because we played till later in life and were not termed veterans at 39 or 40. It must, however, be remembered that we had to chase the ball to the far-distant boundaries, for the 75-yards boundary was not then the vogue. I remember before the 1914 war, when I was in and out of the county side, I played in a game against Oxford University at The Oval. In those days three or four of the eleven were rested for such matches and the likes of me given the chance. Tom Rushby had asked for a rest but was refused and, no doubt fed-up, did not try too hard when put on to bowl. I was at mid-on when he bowled from the Vauxhall end of a pitch well over on the gasometer side. The other boundary was a very long way away and when Tom was hit to the deep I chased the ball, thinking: "I wonder how many these lively young men have run?" In fact they ran six! I had scarcely regained my position at mid-on than I was off again next ball to the same place, and again they ran six. Slightly annoyed with Tom and also out of breath, I had to pursue the next ball in the same direction though they only ran five that time! It was on my third journey that the Secretary, Mr. Findlay, looked out of his office window. Next morning he sent for me and said chidingly that he was surprised to see me not running very fast -- though he did apologise when I pointed out that I had chased the two previous balls while twelve runs were scored! I think this makes clear that the old-time boundaries were very long on most grounds and one had to be a tremendous thrower to get the ball back to the wicket-keeper. At present, with a fast out-field, fielders possess little chance of cutting off the four. This is a pity, because there are few things better in the game than the sight of a speedy out-fielder after the ball and picking it up near the ring. Of the many fast out-fielders of my day, I would say that Johnny Arnold, of Hampshire, was the best. Englishman. He also had a fine throw.
I remember, too, those two great Australian outfielders in 1921, namely, Nip Pellew and J. M. Taylor. They were very fast and must have saved hundreds of runs on that tour.
Surrey in the end took the Championship last season, though I must say that I do not feel altogether happy that they got home over Warwickshire simply because they won more matches. A clear-cut points margin would have been more satisfactory all round. In the same way, I think Worcestershire's success in the Player League leaves something to be desired, for they got there by a minute fraction of a run per over averaged over the whole season. This seemed to me to be a bit rough on Essex, who scored the same number of points, even if it is accordance with the rules of the competition. If two counties finish equal on points at the top of the table, would it not be better to have a play-off match?