A wonderful season, 1948

Notes by the Editor

Hubert Preston

In every way the season of 1947 bears favourable comparison with any year within living memory. This eulogistic remark applies equally to the cricket itself, personal performances in style and technique, quite apart from remarkable individual records. Attendances which rose beyond those known in the past, with obvious appreciation by ever-increasing multitudes, clearly demonstrated the great hold the game takes on spectators once they are aware that both sides and every individual mean to expend all their energies striving for a definite result. The fine weather enjoyed, notably in August, might have meant that with batsmen supreme, drawn games would have predominated, but actually about three-quarters of the County Championship matches were won outright.

Similar happy remarks apply to the South Africans on their first visit since 1935, as well as to the counties. Alan Melville, of Oxford and Sussex fame in English cricket, and all his team enjoyed the summer game under something approaching their own home conditions when the weather threw off a temporary recurrence of wintry temperatures. If not meeting with special success on the field of play, our Test match opponents gave indication of real ability at all points of the game. Very little more experience is necessary to make them really powerful rivals for any country in contests of international character. Their doings are covered at length in the season's cricket, and here it is merely a pleasure to congratulate all concerned on the help they gave to our second season of real cricket after the loss of six war-time summers; but mention must be made of the remarkable batting of Melville and Bruce Mitchell, who each scored two separate hundreds in a Test, the captain actually making his fourth century in consecutive Test innings including his 103 at Durban in 1939, when the final meeting with England was left drawn after ten days.

County Honours Come South

Middlesex, in carrying off chief county honours in succession to Yorkshire, just as happened after the first world war, found many means of bringing fresh light on the way to carry on real fighting cricket in the best sporting spirit. To R. W. V. Robins came the supreme satisfaction of gaining this reward, just as Sir Pelham Warner concluded his county cricket with a similar climax nearly thirty years ago.

To Middlesex belonged the further distinction of beating The Rest by nine wickets in the last match of the season at The Oval. Previously this honour was held exclusively by Yorkshire, twice successful in the corresponding event--in 1905 and 1935, after which the fixture lapsed until its present renewal.

In this final match of the season the two great batsmen maintained their form to the very end. Denis Compton, already in front of Hayward's figures, actually hit up 246, his highest score in English cricket, despite knee trouble which compelled him to retire on the Saturday with 55 to his credit. Edrich, getting 180, went to second place in aggregate records, and as a grand finale he appropriately made the winning hit and finished not out 13, with a season's total of 3,539, while Compton's was 3,816.

Denis Compton also set up a record in Test cricket by scoring a century in his first match against South Africa, as he did on his initial appearance for England against Australia in 1938--a double feat accomplished by no other player.

That Yorkshire should suffer something of an eclipse was perhaps inevitable, seeing that several veterans retired in 1946 when flushed with honours of the same hard-earned kind which were theirs in seven of the nine contests immediately before the world upset. Yet some distinction for them seemed sure to come, and Hutton supplied this with the highest score of the season, 270 not out. Yorkshire can afford to rest on their laurels while their immediate future is in the capable hands of Mr. T. L. Taylor, Cambridge Blue in the three years completing the last century, the new President in succession to the late Sir Stanley Jackson of high renown, and with Norman Yardley, taking over the captaincy in place of Brian Sellers, who writes of Yorkshire reconstruction in this book.


Bowlers of Many Types

Gloucestershire, one of several counties under new leadership-- B. O. Allen, Cambridge Blue in 1933, replacing W. R. Hammond--gave Middlesex a very close run; Goddard, at the age of 46, predominated in a splendid fielding side and headed the season's bowling averages with 238 wickets at 17.30 each. J. A. Young, twelve years junior to Goddard, fared very well for Middlesex with 159 wickets at a fractionally higher cost, and proved himself a slow left-hand bowler able to open the attack when W. J. Edrich, in his first season as an amateur, was compelled to rest his strained right arm and restrict his efforts to batting and fielding at slip. Howorth, the Worcestershire left-hander, afforded further evidence of the value attached to slow bowling, no matter on what sort of pitch its exponents have to perform--his 164 wickets also costing less than eighteen runs apiece. Yet we find the comparatively modern fashion still in vogue for the fastest bowlers to be called upon in pairs, to open the attack and resume directly a new ball can be brought into use after fifty-five overs. Batsmen are helped to play themselves in by these seam bowlers, so called in quite recent years, just as if previously bowlers, whether fast or slow, did not grip the seam in order to impart the spin which often meant swerve as well as break either way from the turf. Accurate length with spin that may give off-break or leg twist, with the aim always directed at the stumps, causes much more trouble to batsmen, who must play the straight ball, than do the in-swingers or out-swingers, which often can be left alone if looking dangerous for scoring strokes. Vivid recollections of George Lohmann (Surrey), Johnny Briggs (Lancashire), and Bobby Peel (Yorkshire), all of great genius for England in the 'nineties, as I recall from close observation, gave of their best whether with new or wearing ball, and earned due reward for skill, no matter what the state of the pitch. Men of high speed, such as Lockwood, Tom Richardson and J. T. Hearne, fast-medium, were in the same category of real practical bowlers void of such theories as those on which most present-day pace bowlers base their reputations. Reference to the article by C. J. Kortright endorses these expressions, written before I saw the Essex fast bowler's strong remarks.


Batsmen Excel

These criticisms of bowlers are not intended in any way to detract from the marvellous doings of Denis Compton and W. J. Edrich, who set up new batting records of the type that almost leave one bewildered when looking back at their prodigious efforts. These are dealt with specially by R. C. Robertson-Glasgow, but I would refer to the highest placed batsman, Tom Hayward, with 3,518 runs for the 1906 season, and Jack Hobbs, with sixteen centuries in 1925, prior to the amazing glut of runs that came from the bats of the two Middlesex men. A clear memory of such bowlers as George Hirst, Schofield Haigh and Rhodes of Yorkshire, Hallam and Wass of Nottinghamshire, George Dennett, Gloucestershire, Colin Blythe and Fielder, Kent, gives me courage to assert that Tom Hayward invariably met a strong and varied attack, and the next best aggregate to his 3,518 was 2,385 by Hirst, whereas Robertson, with 2,760, followed the 3,816 by Compton and 3,539 by Edrich--a total of 10,115, and Brown, the other opening batsmen, with 2,078, raised the aggregate for the first four Middlesex men to 12,193. Frequently the bowlers were worn down before Edrich and Compton went to the crease, whereas Hayward was number one in the Surrey batting order. Hobbs, also opening batsman, achieved his triumph under the disconcerting fire of another failure by Hobbs every time he did not put up a century when approaching the 126 three-figure innings played by W. G. Grace; and this reminds me that M.C.C. will celebrate the centenary of Grace's birth on the occasion of Gentlemen v. Players at Lord's fixed for July 14.

In strong contrast to the many batting triumphs, such as 706 for four wickets by Surrey at Trent Bridge and 662 for eight by Nottinghamshire in their home match with Essex, were the 25 for which Somerset were dismissed at Bristol, and the victory of Derbyshire over Somerset--all out for 38 in their second innings--at Chesterfield on June 11. This was the first County Championship match completed in one day since 1925, when Somerset fell before Lancashire on May 21 after rain prevented play on the Wednesday. Beyond question, the contrasts in these scores could be attributed to the favourable condition of the pitches for batsmen at Trent Bridge, whereas the turf at Bristol, after special application in the desire to reduce the run-getting, helped bowlers to attain the upper hand.


Close Finishes

Exciting struggles and bare margins in results began with the first Middlesex match at Lord's, where the volatile and unreliable Somerset won by one wicket, a victory they repeated at Taunton in July by 24 runs. Often did a close fight remain open until the last wicket fell or the winning hit was made, and twice did the tally of runs remain even when the last batsman found refuge in the pavilion from the plaudits of excited supporters. Essex tied with Northamptonshire at Ilford on May 20, as they did with Somerset at Chelmsford in 1926; and the most recent example of a level finish was at Kidderminster in 1939, when Worcestershire and Somerset were concerned. The second instance last season occurred at Bournemouth on August 29, when Lancashire, batting one short owing to Roberts being injured, failed to get the single required in the last over for victory, Barlow being run out in making a hazardous effort off the fourth ball. Lancashire also engaged in a great struggle at Buxton in June, Derbyshire losing by three runs. The home side appeared sure of victory, but their last three wickets fell for three runs. Copson, after one of his best pieces of bowling, supplied the final disaster by being run out.


Great Crowds

The popularity of cricket as a recreation for the general public found proof in the attendances, computed to approach three millions, as announced by Colonel Rait Kerr at the meeting of the County Secretaries. South Africa took home a well-earned five-figure share of the gates. Yorkshire, with 278,236 people visiting their four chief grounds, and Kent, with 182,452, reported figures exceeding any of their known records, those of the southern county being 56,841 above the 1946 total. County Club membership also showed gratifying advances, Lancashire's rising to 5,000, and that of Kent to 3,310 from 3,166 before the war. Of the many benefits which became due at the same time after the long break in county cricket, those for W. E. Bowes, the Yorkshire and England bowler, F. S. Lee, Somerset, James Langridge, the Sussex left-hander, and L. J. Todd, the Kent all-rounder, produced exceptionally large sums. That for Bowes reached an almost fabulous figure, over £8,000, about twice the previous record of £4,016 for Roy Kilner, and nearly as much as £8,233 subscribed for the Verity Memorial Fund--all Yorkshire records. For Todd, twelve collections at Kent home matches realised £1,347. The total awards for these and eight other professionals concerned awaited the receipt of collections. In this connection one may add that a fund opened by Herbert Sutcliffe, the famous Yorkshire and England batsman, for Leonard Braund and C. P. Mead realised about £7,000. The Somerset all-rounder lost both his legs by amputation, and the Hampshire batsman became completely blind in 1946.


A Call for Strict Cricket

After what I wrote in 1946 Wisden about the strict observance of the Laws of the Game, the remarks of Mr. W. Findlay, at the annual meeting of the Lancashire County Club in December, gave me special pleasure. Now Lancashire President, a Trustee of M.C.C., and a member of several Kent committees, William Findlay, following his captaincy of Eton and Oxford, kept wicket for Lancashire. Then, in turn, he became Secretary of Surrey and M.C.C., a post he held from 1926 to 1936; therefore he can claim a very intimate connection with cricket of importance for fifty years. Experience gained in this long period as player and legislator gives extreme importance to Mr. Findlay's appeal to batsmen to stop the growing practices of playing the ball twice or handling it in order to return it to the bowler. What would be the position if a fieldsman appealed? The umpire would have no option but to give the batsman out. This might lead to ill-feeling, said Mr. Findlay. And I may add that that was the atmosphere created when umpire Fowler gave G. O. Allen out at Lord's on June 30, 1945, in the match between South of England and an Australian Services eleven.


Reward for Frank Chester

Regarded as the best umpire for very many years, Frank Chester has been spoken of frequently as worthy of a benefit match, and now comes the far preferable proposal that he should receive a testimonial to which cricket countries throughout the Empire could subscribe. Such a world-wide appreciation will convey adequately the high esteem in which Chester is held everywhere. At this time, after the second World War, we may recall that young Frank Chester played first for Worcestershire in 1912; next season he made three centuries, the highest being 148 not out at Lord's against Middlesex, and in 1914 he surpassed that effort with 178 not out against Essex at Worcester. In the war that followed he lost his right arm--a catastrophe not only for his county, but for his country, because already Frank Chester was in the category of coming Test match players for England. It was written of him in 1914 Wisden: Very few players in the history of cricket have shown such form at the age of seventeen and a half. Playing with a beautifully straight bat, he depended to a large extent on his watchfulness in defence. He bowls with a high, easy action, and, commanding an accurate length, can get plenty of spin on the ball. M.C.C. sponsor the testimonial and ask the support of all counties.


Was Shuter Captain?

When commenting last year on the appearance of four Yorkshiremen in the England eleven against India at Lord's, and mentioning that five Surrey men played in the Test match against Australia in 1888, I overlooked a similar honour that came to Yorkshire in 1938, when they were champion county for the second consecutive year, and they, like Surrey on the previous occasion at The Oval, supplied five men to the England eleven-- Hutton, Leyland, Bowes, Verity and Arthur Wood. Two of them, Hutton, with the record score of 364, and Bowes, seven wickets for 74 runs, were chief contributors to England's colossal victory by an innings and 579 runs. Walter Read, Robert Abel, George Lohmann and Harry Wood were the Surrey heroes with their county captain, but I cannot find any definite support for my statement that John Shuter captained England. Reports written at the time contain no mention of this important fact about many of the representative sides; but A. G. Steel was captain at Lord's, and, to quote Wisden: "England made three changes, Wood keeping wicket instead of Sherwin, Mr. Shuter playing for Mr. Steel, and Sugg replacing Mr. O'Brien." My inference was that the Surrey captain led England to the great victory by an innings and 137 runs. But now I find E. H. D. Sewell, in his posthumously published book Well Hit, Sir, making this remark: "W. G. soon found his bowlers in the second innings," as he recalled his first experience of watching cricket at The Oval in that 1888 match. He mentioned a further incident that marked W. G. Grace as captain. A definite statement about the captains in each Test would be valuable.


Links with the Past

While publishing again the University Blues, the urgent restriction of space influenced me to delete the names of those who played for their Universities before 1880. As in the case of Births and Deaths, exceptions have been made with regard to well-known families and the most famous personalities. In this connection are the captains in the first University match which took place in 1827. Charles Wordsworth, Oxford, afterwards Bishop Wordsworth, died in 1892, aged 86, and Herbert Jenner, Cambridge, afterwards Herbert Jenner-Fust, passed on in 1904, aged 98. F. A. MacKinnon, chief of Clan Mackinnon, exceeded that length of life before leaving us in February 1947, but claimed nothing special as a University player, except taking part in the 1870 Cobden hat-trick match. Herbert Jenner remains more than a name in the cricket world.

A letter in The Times relating to the death in the war of three brothers Jenner-Fust, Lieut. Richard, R. N., Lieut. Thomas, 9th Lancers, and Lieut. Herbert, the Gloucestershire Regiment, sons of the late Rev. Denton Jenner-Fust, vicar of Hill, Gloucestershire, induced me to write for verification of my thought that they must be related to the Cambridge captain in the first University match. Mrs. Richard Jenner-Fust graciously replied that her husband and his brothers were great-grandsons of Herbert Jenner-Fust. All three brothers were good at games; and Richard, a good and very keen cricketer, left a son who may carry on the wonderful family tradition.


Oldest Test Player

The passing of F. A. MacKinnon raised a doubt as to who could be the oldest surviving Test player. Having heard in reply to a letter that Sir Timothy C. O'Brien was living in the Isle of Man, I found that his seniority for England was established by a matter of six days over that of Stanley Christopherson, born on November 11, 1861. But M. C. Kemp, born on September 7 of that same vintage year, seems to have become the oldest living University Blue. Actual seniority of all Test players belongs, however, to Australia, S. P. Jones, born on August 1, 1861, being strong and hearty, as my son, Norman Preston, when touring with the England team last winter, found him at Auckland, New Zealand. Sam Jones watched the cricket with keen zest, and told my son that he well remembered Charles, Sydney and Edgar Pardon. He came to England in 1882, 1886 and 1888, having first played for Australia in February 1882 at Sydney, when the England team, captained by Alfred Shaw, lost by five wickets. Talking to my son, Jones said he disliked modern batsmanship, even deploring the methods of Hobbs and Hammond compared with the old masters, Grace and Trumper. On his first visit to England he played in the historic Oval Test which Australia won by 7 runs. The sole survivor of that match, he remembers vividly how W. G. Grace, fielding point, ran him out. Of Grace, whom he described as a great sportsman and cricketer, he said, I never saw him leave alone any ball outside the off stump. He either cut or drove them. Jones went to Auckland in 1904 as coach to the Grammar School, and stayed there, making only one visit to Sydney some twenty-three years ago. He has never seen Bradman play.


No Ball

The remarkable film pictures showing how Ray Lindwall, the New South Wales fast bowler, brought his back foot almost up to the popping crease before delivering the ball indicates the necessity of a more drastic change in the laws than the deletion of the word grounded. To judge the position of the back foot, whether in the air or on the turf, as regards the crease, at the time of delivering the ball must be extremely difficult, if not impossible. The remedy required to remove all doubt as to the fair delivery of the ball seems to depend on the position of the front foot when the bowler lets the ball from his hand. I do not think that anyone could deliver the ball with his front foot in the air except by throwing. If the law insisted that the front foot must be grounded between the two creases the trouble would be removed. A third line, some twelve inches behind the popping crease, would simplify matters, the law being that the front foot must not be grounded beyond this line. That should suffice. Touching the line with the foot would not matter, and the umpire would be relieved of judging the slightest of margins. Chief importance attaches to the position of the front foot, because its encroachment can reduce the actual length the ball travels before getting within reach of the batsman's stroke. This point will exercise the minds of the astute M.C.C. Committee still considering the working of the laws as re-framed for use this year--1948.


© John Wisden & Co