It happened 25 years ago, 1972

Compton's record season

Basil Easterbrook

The cricket season of 1947 came to us like a late October day of golden sunshine just before the setting in of a dark, drear Northern winter from which at times there seems no escape. In the quarter of a century which has followed we have seen cricket in decline. Before the 1960's had run their course recognised England batsmen like Cowdrey and Graveney barely topped 1,000 runs for a whole season's endeavours without causing many eyebrows to be raised. On reflection, this was perhaps not to be wondered at, for those most closely connected with first-class cricket were kept occupied with rows and wrangles embracing politics, colour, the seeming impossibility of the creation of fast, true pitches, the change in public tastes; the apparent determination of first-class players to live in a cloud cuckoo land of their own devising.

The game which above all other human pastimes has inspired noble thoughts and words in profusion, has been invaded and pervaded by the general bitchiness which for all the technological advances made in a breathtakingly short space of time is, alas, the accepted pattern for living in the second half of the twentieth century. Adventure, boldness and joy had largely gone from the game. Teams are more concerned with stopping the other lot doing anything than winning themselves. There was a term for this when I was a boy. It was dog in the manger. When the spirit grows mean and over cautious inevitably performance suffers in direct ratio and this is precisely what has happened in cricket.

It helps to explain why Australian sides technically no better than England's and in some respects often not as good, have in the past twenty years survived series after series when they should have been beaten into the earth. Sunday Leagues and knock-out competitions, splendid in their way, are only palliatives not cures. If the first-class game becomes extinct the Sunday League would immediately have identical status with the long established Saturday Leagues of the North and Midlands. We shall be a nation of club cricketers as well as a nation of shopkeepers and shop stewards.

The crowd pulling power of the Sunday League, the Cavaliers, the Gillette Cup, comes from the fact that the players are first-class from a background of three-day and five-day cricket. Robertson-Glasgow put it neatly when he tried to show the impossibility of always concentrating three days cricket into one -- "It is as if you approached a famous opera singer and said 'See here, madam, we are going to cut the opera from three acts to one and we want you to sing a lot faster and a lot louder to make up for the other two'."

The first-class complex concerns only 17 teams and no more than 200 players are involved at any one time. If ways and means to do this cannot be found in an island of over 50,000,000 inhabitants then it is time we stopped talking nonsense about British ingenuity and all the other qualities we pride ourselves on including a sense of history, and encouraging of all the arts and crafts known to mankind.

Of course, one likes to see cricket played against the background of a big crowd rather than a sparsely filled or virtually empty ground, but this is beside the point. First-class cricket has never been a game for a mass following and I say that in no derogatory sense. The English climate and personal economics have always made it virtually impossible that this should be so.

Nevertheless, first-class cricket is something which should always be there. The interest in a Test Match is great enough for the telephone service to provide a special number for people to ring who want to know the state of the game. That one fact alone is enough to justify the survival of the first-class game as it stands.

Cricket may have several ills but you do not cure a patient by killing him off. It is a change of heart we need rather than a change of system, for if we scrap the system which permits our best players to perform on their terms instead of being wound up like clockwork toys for over 40 overs then we sell the pass to days that are over and done. There will be no records like Compton's 3,816 runs and 18 centuries in 1947 to aim at because there will be no opportunity for any aiming to be done.

One of these years we may get another glorious summer of weather like we did in 1947 and if we do I hope our contemporary players will answer the warmth of the sun on their backs the way the boys did then. Walter Keeton, George Emmett, Jack Crapp and Denis Brookes all made six centuries, Leslie Todd, Joe Hardstaff, and Leslie Ames seven, George Cox eight, Winston Place ten. Then came Hutton and Washbrook with 11 each, Jack Robertson and Bill Edrich 12 each and far above them all on some dizzy, improbable Parnassus -- Compton with 18.

Compton's Annus Mirabilis began with no real hint that it would be that. He made 73 and 7 for the M.C.C. against a somewhat experimental Yorkshire side who were soundly beaten by 163 runs at Lord's on May 6. A drawn game with Surrey followed and Compton in two useful innings for M.C.C. contributed 52 and 34. Joining Middlesex the following day, he did little with the bat in two matches, the first of which was won by Somerset by one wicket in what will always be remembered as Maurice Tremlett's game. The second against Gloucestershire was won by Middlesex in two days by an innings and 178 runs. Compton's three innings in those games were 6, 25 and 22. Compton had so far played all his cricket at Lord's and when Middlesex headed for Birmingham and their first away game Compton stayed at headquarters to help M. C. C. beat the South Africans by 158 runs. Lindsay Tuckett got him for 18 in the first innings and caught him in the second off Ossie Dawson when Denis needed just three more runs for a hundred after a typical display of free cutting and driving.

Compton had got the taste and he took apart first the bowling of Worcestershire and then Sussex, the next two visitors to Lord's. Going in second wicket down he took out his bat for 88 in a total of 207 and in the second after a stand of 118 in eighty minutes with Bill Edrich, went on to 112 before Dick Howarth bowled him. Rain caused a long hold up on the last day but Middlesex claimed the extra half hour and Worcestershire's last two wickets to win by 234.

Whitsun brought perfect weather and 46,000 paying spectators to Lord's for the two days the game lasted. Walter Robins took the extra half hour on the Whit Monday and Middlesex scored the 21 runs they needed from their second innings without loss. Of the 380 Middlesex made in their first innings Compton scored 110 before Charlie Oakes bowled him, and his running mate all down the length of that glistening season, Bill Edrich, made 106.

When I asked Compton if he could account for his astonishing feats in 1947 he replied "Oh, don't expect me to go into a long winded technical dissertation. I was as fit as a flea, I did what came naturally and I enjoyed myself." Yes, that is what I remember best, how I loved every minute of that season.

Lovable, laughing, harum scarum Denis, it was silly of me to expect any other kind of reaction than the one I got. I will endeavour to convey what a fantastic phenomenon this man was with a bat in his hand just after World War Two before that accursed soccer injury, and the weight problems which the approach of middle age brought with them, by trying to recall just one incident in the August of 1947. Doug Wright was bowling on a Lord's pitch which had dusted up and was taking spin. It was the last after-noon and Middlesex were trying to chase a target not far short of 100 runs an hour. I know Middlesex did not make it but Compton scored well over 150 before he holed out to Wright on the boundary. When Wright bowled the delivery previously mentioned Compton went out of his crease like a whippet, gambling on it being a leg break and shaping to drive through the offside field. Only it wasn't a leg break. When it pitched it was as beautifully a disguised wrong'un as the heart could wish for and I heard a voice behind me shout Compo's gone.

It seemed a case of stating the obvious for Compo checked, reared and fell on to his chest like a demolished building -- but as he did so his bat came round in a lightning sweep to send the ball, spitting in viciously from the off, to the leg side rails. That was the measure of Compton's greatness. He could do the right things superbly but when he broke all the rules the ball still ended up at the fence.

There is no better word picture of Compton than the one painted by John Arlott in his book Vintage Summer: 1947. "In technique, he was deficient in the straight, or near straight drive. But his control through the two wider arcs was such that he would tantalize a slow left arm bowler's cover field, or the leg side setting of an off spinner, with a degree of control few men have ever bettered. At need, he had all the strokes and, if his left foot often seemed further from the ball than the purists would approve, that gave him greater room to power his strokes, and his superb eye kept him out of such trouble as would have beset lesser cricketers who thus deviated from the text book... By 1947 he had thickened physically. Before the war he had been comparatively slight: in subsequent years he developed a tendency to inconvenient weight."

"In that great summer he had come to maximum power with unimpaired mobility; powerful of shoulder and trunk, muscular in arms and legs, yet with a lazy looseness of movement and, for all his negligent air, quick and balanced on his feet. No part of his equipment was more deceptive than his speed -- particularly in readjustment. He would move out to drive through the covers; the ball would, unexpectedly, move on to him and, with a mock-desperate wrench of body and arms, he would flick it down to long leg. Or, in impish mischief, he would rock on to his back foot and, with an immensely powerful twist of the forearms -- or, in even narrower space, of the wrists -- drive a ball coming into his leg stump through the covers. At need he could be decorous in defence; that was never any trouble, for the germ of orthodoxy was in him, even at his most unorthodox; or, when he had abandoned the anchors, his superb natural eye and balance would retrieve the situation for him. He was an instinctively perfect timer of the ball. But the facet of his cricket which went to the heart of the average club player who watched him was his improvisation, which rectified such errors as, in ordinary men, would have been fatal."

Compton ended May where he had spent it, at Lord's, playing for Middlesex against the South Africans. He had already taken 97 off them in the second innings of their game with M.C.C. and he went out to bat on June 2 facing a total of 424 of which centuries by Bruce Mitchell and Viljoen accounted for more than half. Robertson and Brown were soon disposed of, but Compton with Edrich added 147 and then a further 103 with his brother Leslie. He was eventually stumped jumping out at Athol Rowan after four hours of sheer delight for 154 in which he hit nineteen 4's Rowan bowled him for 34 in the second innings on a worn pitch but a not-out 133 by Edrich saw Middlesex save the match without too much difficulty.

Hampshire came next to Lord's to be beaten by an innings and 49 and Compton's contribution to a Middlesex total of 429 for six declared was a madcap 88 at two a minute. He lost his wicket to, of all people, Johnny Arnold, being stumped when running down the pitch and trying to hit the seventh bowler used by Hampshire, out of the ground.

Compton's next task was as far removed from this kind of frolicking as it could possibly be. At Trent Bridge, England in the face South Africa's first innings 533 collapsed for 208 of which Compton made 65. Following on 325 behind on a still beautiful batting wicket England lost four wickets for 170 so that when Norman Yardley joined Compton 155 were needed to save the innings defeat and apart from Godfrey Evans there was no real batting to come. Compton and Yardley added 108 in the last hundred minutes of the day and on the final morning Yardley called for an hour's concentrated net practice from the surviving batsmen.

Yardley should have gone after adding only six to his overnight score but he was badly missed at first slip by Mitchell and he and Compton went on to a partnership of 237. When Compton gave Mitchell a slip catch off Tufty Mann, he had made 163 and held up South Africa for nearly five hours. It was an innings which underlined Arlott's statement that he could be decorous. Compton's critics tried to blow up to larger than life size the playboy side of his character but this was as great an innings for side as opposed to self as has yet been played in the cause of England. The tail, inspired by his example and able to take advantage of the toll in sharpness and calm that Compton's defiance had extracted, took England's score to 551. It left South Africa less than two and a half hours to get 227 to win and although Alan Melville made his second century of the match they never really attempted the task.

If they could have seen what lay ahead for them they might have been tempted to stake everything on winning this Test for they were to win none of the remaining four. Compton's next appearance for Middlesex was against Yorkshire where the potential champions had to be content with first-innings points after seven consecutive victories. Middlesex, in their only innings, declared at 350 for two when Compton was 50 not out.

Then it was Lord's Test time with the weather perfect and thousands having to be turned away on the first day after South Africa's surprising opposition at Nottingham. This time they lost the toss and the match was decided by a mammoth third-wicket stand of 370 between Edrich and Compton. Edrich made 189 and Compton 208, his second highest score of 1947. England had a long tail and when Hutton and Washbrook went with less than a hundred on the board the responsibility for a match-winning total lay heavily upon Edrich and Compton. They faced a determined attack, splendidly supported in the field, and for a considerable time the struggle was tense. Then the Middlesex pair mastered their tormentors and Wisden used a phrase it has kept in cold storage these many years -- "a sparkling exhibition of fluent stroke play." Compton used everything in his complete and considerable repertoire.

Still living in the memory are his brilliant sweeping of slow bowling and his powerful lofted pulled-drive. Not until twenty minutes after lunch on the second day did South Africa part the pair the popular dailies inevitably dubbed The Terrible Twins Edrich fell 11 short of a double century but Compton went on to 208 and was not dismissed until England's score had reached 515. He had batted ten minutes short of six hours and made his runs out of just over 400. Once again Compton had proved completely that while the stories of his forgetfulness and irresponsibility off the field grew and were not denied, when out in the middle it was very much a case of the professional soldier's belief in on parade, on parade.

England declared at 554 for eight and although Alan Melville made 117, his fourth successive Test century against England, South Africa could do no better than reach 327. They had to follow on 227 behind and with 15 scored in their second innings play was held up for twenty minutes while the players were presented to the King and Queen and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. Whether such a representative gathering of royalty intimidated the South Africans or inspired Edrich will probably always remain a matter for opinion, but on the resumption Edrich flattened Melville's middle stump with his second ball.

Two overs later he picked Viljoen's stump clean out of the ground. South Africa were clearly on the way to defeat which 80 by Mitchell and 58 by Nourse could only delay. Eventually, they made 252 which left Hutton and Washbrook the formality of going to the crease to score 26 for victory by ten wickets.

Compton rejoined Middlesex at Leeds for Bill Bowes's benefit match. The big fast bowler won the toss for Yorkshire and put Middlesex in. Compton failed twice on a pitch which retained a lot of moisture after being saturated on the Friday, the ball frequently rising alarmingly. He was caught by Hutton off Coxon for 4 and caught Coxon bowled Wardle for 15 in the second innings. Bowes's gamble backfired for although Middlesex were put out for 124 Yorkshire collapsed for 85 and Middlesex were batting again after tea on the first day. Edrich made 102 on the second day and the task of making 274 to win on a damaged surface was 88 runs out of Yorkshire's reach. It was all over in two days but it was anything but a financial failure. Over 41,000 paid around £3,000 to see two dramatic days of cricket and the popular Bowes ended the season with a benefit that topped £8,000. Compton, having failed with the bat, made a major contribution with his left arm mixture returning four for 23 and three for 28. He took the last wicket through a catch in the deep by his brother Leslie, Fred Price keeping wicket.

Denis had four days break after this match before resuming his massacre of South Africa's bowlers at Old Trafford. The Third Test was played in dull, cold thoroughly unpleasant weather. On the Saturday a bitterly cold north westerly wind blew straight down the pitch, and when I say blew, I mean strongly enough to topple one of the sight screens as well as frequently lift the bails from their grooves. South Africa had every reason to feel proud of a total of 339 in one of Manchester's most unattractive moods. They were a good side, those 1947 South Africans. Not so well equipped with all round ability as those of the sixties but very little behind. That cannot be stressed too much or too often for it puts the feats of Compton and his partner Edrich into true perspective. Nine of England's men contributed no more than 162 when their turn to bat came, but the total was 478 -- 191 from Edrich and 115 from Compton, his third century in three Tests. Thus four of his first six hundreds had been taken off the Touring side and all four in succession.

Despite their lead of 139 England were a long way from victory Nourse made a grand century when South Africa batted a second time and rain lopped three hours from the third day. In the end England had to get 129 in two and a half hours and they made them for the loss of three wickets, one of whom was Compton who, trying to keep out a nasty left arm leg break from Tufty Mann hit his wicket after scoring only 6.

Compton's seventh century came at Grace Road, Leicester, in a match which Middlesex won by ten wickets. An easy one-sided affair for a great team on their way to the championship, you might assume. It was in truth a titanic achievement by Middlesex and by Compton and Edrich especially. The home side were put in to bat by Edrich, who was captaining Middlesex for the first time, and made, 309, the Australian, Vic Jackson, scoring 117. Middlesex replied with 637 for four -- Edrich 257, Compton 151. The two were in partnership for two hours ten minutes in which they scored 277 runs. Needing 328 to avoid an innings defeat Leicestershire refused to die gracefully. Les Berry hit 154, Maurice Tompkin 76, there was a forty here, thirties there and when the last wicket fell they were only seven short of 400.

At lunch time on the last day Leicestershire led by 17 and had six wickets standing with only eighty minutes left for play. Middlesex dropped those six wickets for 48 in thirty-five minutes and Compton did it, being easily the most successful bowler with five for 108, the last man falling to the first ball of his thirtieth over.

This left Middlesex just twenty-five minutes in which to score 66 runs. Edrich took Compton in with him and they got them in twenty-one minutes off seven overs. On the second day of the match 663 runs were scored.

Compton's next match was Gentlemen v. Players, a fixture which could still draw 15,000 to Lord's in indifferent weather for a day's play. It fizzled out into a hopeless draw and in his only knock Compton was caught at the wicket by the present secretary of the M.C.C., Billy Griffith, off the bowling of Trevor Bailey for 11. He stayed at Lord's for the visit of Essex who gave Middlesex a good scrap for three days before losing by 102 runs. Scores: Middlesex 389 for seven declared and 356 for five declared; Essex 350 and 293. Highest individual score of a fine match was Compton's 129 in the first Middlesex innings which ended when he gave Peter Smith a return catch. He was at the crease a fraction under two hours. There was just time before the fourth Test at Leeds for Edrich and Compton to help Middlesex win at Northampton by eight wickets. Middlesex declared at 464 for five after their numbers 3 and 4 had put on 211 for the third wicket. When Compton was bowled by Partridge for 110, Edrich went on to the highest score of his career, 267 not out.

For once the Middlesex terrors played modest supporting roles to Hutton and Washbrook at Headingley. Hutton got 100 and Washbrook 75 compared with 43 by Edrich and 30 from Compton, but South Africa's batting failed twice for the first time in the series and England won by ten wickets in three days.

So Compton came to August and unknown to the world and himself nine centuries still lay ahead. He hit the first of them in Jim Langridge's benefit match at Hove which Middlesex won by nine wickets. Walter Robins declared at 401 for four as soon as Denis completed three figures for the tenth time that season. After hitting thirteen fours Denis and his Chinamen played the main part in putting out Sussex for 195 and making them follow on. His haul was four for 90 in 21 overs.

Lord's, Trent Bridge, Old Trafford, Hove, noble grounds all, had been fitting stages for Compton to display his genius and now he added Canterbury. Five days play at the 1947 Canterbury Festival drew 46,756 paying spectators; over 13,000 of them were there on the Thursday and they saw Compton make 106 out of a Middlesex total of 225. When Middlesex followed on Compton was caught by Leslie Ames off Harding for only 4, but Robertson and Edrich struck hundreds and the prospective champions declared. They set Kent two hours to get 232 and dropped six of their wickets to come close to winning from a near hopeless position.

Next came The Oval and the defeat of Surrey by an innings and 11 runs. The gates were closed on Saturday and 54,000 saw the three days cricket in which Compton strode the world famous enclosure like the Colossus of cricket he was. When Middlesex declared at 537 for two he was 137 not out after adding 287 in 165 minutes with Edrich without being separated. Of the four men who batted Syd Brown's 98 was the lowest score. Surrey replied with 334 and 192 and the match did nothing for the reputations of no less than thirteen bowlers. The exception was the slow-left-arm, unorthodox-over-the-wicket Compton, whose work with the ball on this occasion outstripped his batting. He took six for 94 in the first innings and six for 80 in the second, sending down nearly 53 overs. This remember was the second week in August in a season in which Compton had been the key batsman for both England and the champion county, yet neither Compton nor Robins his captain saw any reason why at such an advanced stage of the campaign he should be nursed. It is, to me, at least, a grain of comfort that in our own post-war period there were still men of giant capacity in cricket. In that match Alf Gover, Alec Bedser, Stuart Surridge, Laurie Gray and Jack Young took just three wickets between them!

Back across Westminster Bridge went Middlesex to a defeat by 75 runs by Kent that would have been much heavier had not Compton scored a glorious 168 in the fourth innings on a dusting pitch, a knock I have already touched upon. And just to make certain Compton earned his corn Robbie made him bowl another 55 overs in the match which brought him four more wickets!

It was now time for the fifth Test at the Oval and South Africa after three resounding defeats ended the series as they began it by coming close to victory. After four days of wonderful, fluctuating cricket the Springboks were 28 runs short with three wickets left. Bruce Mitchell on his farewell Test appearance in England made the match his by scoring 120 in the first innings and 189 no out in the second but Compton put his stamp on the series in which great things had been done by the batsmen of both sides with innings of 53 and 113.

The series was over but a lot of cricket was left for Compton. He retraced the familiar route to Lord's for the games with Surrey and Northamptonshire which finally saw off the magnificent challenge made by Gloucestershire. Middlesex scored 462 for seven declared on the first day -- thirty-five minutes were lost because of bad light. After seeing Robertson, Brown and Edrich sent back for what in 1947 Middlesex considered low scores, Compton carefully shielded F. G. Mann through a shaky start. Then the pair cut loose and in three and a quarter hours put on 304. Compton's 178 was a bewitching mixture of orthodox strokes and his own inventions. It was as if by this time he had to amuse himself with improvisations on a well worn theme to keep his interest and concentration from going altogether. Jim Laker, who was to earn his own immortality some nine years later, got him in the end, one of two wickets which cost him 105 runs. Surrey put totals of 202 and 309 in the book, but the wicket was broken when Middlesex went in to score 50; Gover got Brown for 0 and Edrich for 2, and then Compton went in to hit off the runs with Jack Robertson -- after bowling 48 overs in the two Surrey innings.

Next, Northamptonshire were annihilated in two days by 355 runs, Compton playing innings of 60 and 85. This victory ensured Middlesex finishing top. The Championship secured, the season ended on a note of anti-climax for Middlesex with Lancashire coming to Lord's and winning, by 64 runs to finish third in the table for the second season running, but their win was overshadowed by Compton's feat of equalling Hobbs' 1925 record of sixteen centuries in a season. Spin and flight beat Compton early in the first innings, John Ikin bowling him for 17 but in the second, with Middlesex chasing nearly 400, Compton was at his greatest. Confined to defence for long periods against bowlers who had the sweet smell of victory over the Champions, Denis fought his way grimly to three figures after spending half an hour in the nineties.

The season had brought out all the shining facets of his many sided cricket character and what could be more appropriate than that he should sign off at Lord's having made 139 and kept Lancashire from their prize for nearly three and a half hours when finally Price drew him out for Barlow to stump him. In this match watched by 60,000, he had bowled another 35 overs and added another five wickets for 95 runs to his considerable haul, but this last appearance of an unforgettable season for all connected with Lord's cast more than the first shadows of the approaching autumn.

On the first day he had to leave the field. A call to the dressing room from the press box brought the reassuring reply "Oh, it's nothing to worry about. Denis has got a spot of knee trouble and is having some manipulative treatment." Nothing -- except the first hole in the dyke.

Compton went to Hastings where on September 5 at the Central Ground the South Africans gained victory by nine wickets over the South of England, but as at Lord's few days before the performance of a team was forgotten because of the innings of a batsman in the losing team. Compton set a new all time individual record by scoring 101 -- his seventeenth century of the season. It was his twelfth hundred in 25 innings and when he reached it the game was held up for five minutes as crowd and players including his Middlesex colleagues, Edrich and Robins, went on to the field to congratulate him. It was a century to rank with the other sixteen, for the South Africans understandably were not going to give this man anything. He had already taken five centuries off them before this game and when he added another 30 in the second innings before Athol Rowan bowled him he had brought his season's aggregate against South Africa alone to 1,187 runs.

Without any comment I would like to add that over 20 years on in the enlightened era of the 1970's with its rockets orbiting to the Moon, its cannabis, its 7½ per cent bank rate, Graveney's aggregate for a whole season was 1,130 and Cowdrey's 1,093. As the man said -- I suppose you cannot have everything.

The late A. A. Thomson once said to me: "Of all the seasons I wished could go on forever 1947 was the one." It is not hard to understand how Tommy felt. At The Oval on September 13, 15, 16 and 17, 1947, for the first time in twelve years the Champion County played The Rest of England. For only the third time the champion county won it and for the first time a side other than Yorkshire, successful in 1905 and 1935, succeeded. Middlesex began badly, losing three wickets for 53; then Compton coming in at number five instead of his customary four, joined Edrich and they proceeded to take apart an attack comprising Harold Butler, Alec Bedser, Doug Wright, Tom Goddard, and Dick Howarth. Oddly enough, both Edrich and Compton were stumped by Godfrey Evans off Goddard, Edrich for 180, Compton for a season's best 246. In their innings both batsmen beat Tom Hayward's aggregate of 3,518 runs in a season which had stood since 1906.

It was also Compton's highest innings in this country, but even in this supreme hour which lifted Compton on a pedestal in company with such as Bradman, Grace and Hobbs, the gods gave a warning that they were soon to foreclose savagely. After he had helped Edrich to add 138 on the Saturday, Compton had to retire with a recurrence of knee trouble. He resumed his innings on Monday and as the runs cascaded from his bat even those who knew just how heavily strapped his knee was found it almost impossible to accept that his freedom of movement was already restricted and would never be quite the same again although he was to thumb his nose at pain and difficulty for another seventeen years. Middlesex declared at 543 for nine; bowled out The Rest for 246 and 317 and knocked off 21 for the loss of Robertson in the first hour of the fourth day. What is remarkable is not so much the result but that Compton ignoring the knee which had driven him from the field for the second time in just over a fortnight bowled 34 overs and 4 balls and took six wickets in the match for 141 runs -- the second most successful bowler in the contest!

It is among the more hackneyed phrases in sport that records are made to be broken but I wonder whether Compton's figures of 1947 will ever be surpassed. He played 50 innings, was not out in eight of them scored 3,816 runs, made 18 centuries and had an average of 90.85. He bowled 635.4 overs and took 73 wickets. He also held 31 catches, three in one innings, for example, when Gloucestershire, the runners up, came to Lord's.

When the time came for Wisden to pay tribute to Compton and Edrich in their 1948 edition they turned unerringly to Robertson-Glasgow. "Crusoe put them together in English cricket as Gilbert and Sullivan go together in English opera." Nor was the analogy a careless one for, as he pointed out, in the art of giving pleasure to an English audience, both pairs lacked rival. Crusoe of course did not give a damn for figures. He saw the great Mi

© John Wisden & Co