Not only because he was the first batsman to complete both 1,000 and 2,000 runs last season did John George Langridge catch the imagination of the cricket public; but that he accomplished this feat at the age of 39 in a batsman's summer caused him to be as widely discussed as any player in the country. A reason for this Sussex batsman's remarkable form is not perhaps so difficult to find if it is appreciated that Langridge's record in sixteen seasons of first-class cricket is by its remarkable consistency that of a very good player indeed.
He was born at Newick on February 10, 1910, and, being the younger of two sons of an enthusiastic cricketing father, he was allowed, as long ago as his memory takes him, to take part in any cricket of a family nature. His brother, James, has been throughout John's career the ideal big brother, and in him, of course, John could have no finer example both on and off the field.
He was a pupil at the Newick village school, and at the age of 12 was credited with two hundreds in matches in the Elementary Schools Cricket League--no mean feat, and one that was quickly appreciated by Mr. Baden-Powell, who lived, and owned the ground, in Newick. Mr. Baden-Powell ran his own eleven, for which both the Langridges played, and this great Sussex cricket enthusiast was later to have the major part in bringing to the notice of the county authorities the undoubted promise of young John. These were happy days for a young cricketer, working for his living on his father's fruit farm, and enjoying, not only the atmosphere of the lovely Newick ground, but considerable success with the bat--at the age of 14 he made 90 against the East Sussex police. It was at this time that John Langridge began to appreciate the Sussex scene generally and Sussex cricket in particular.
With Mr. Baden-Powell and Mr. Roger Green--another great Sussex cricket enthusiast--now behind him, and with brother James already establishing himself, it was in the natural course of events that John joined the Sussex County Cricket Club staff in April 1928.
The value of concentration he learned from Ted Bowley, and no player--other than, perhaps, Jack Hobbs--impressed John more in those early days. How well he learned to concentrate; and his touch of unorthodoxy, intense love of the game, and desire to serve his county well, arose from the inspiration received from that lovable character, Bowley, with whom in due course he opened the Sussex innings often and successfully.
Langridge played his first match for Sussex in 1928 against Essex at Leyton--it was the last Sussex match of that season--and he made 6 and 39. It is interesting to note that the Sussex captain saw fit to give him a bowl in this match. It was not, however, until 1931 that he found a regular place in the county side and began to build a reputation as an opening batsman as well as one of the best slip fielders in the country. It was in 1931, too, he made his first century in first-class cricket--161 against Glamorgan.
In 1932 Langridge slipped back, but this poor season, as was to happen again, was followed by three seasons of triumph. In '33,'34 and '35 he made over 2,000 runs and added twelve others to his solitary and initial century in first-class cricket. In 1933 he took part with Bowley in the highest ever opening partnership for Sussex--490 against Middlesex at Hove.
In 1936 came the biggest set-back of his career--he was dropped for some weeks from the county side; but during the closing weeks he returned to the side and scored 419 runs in seven innings in typically fighting manner. This season had the desired effect, and back he came in 1937, '38 and '39 with over 2,000 runs again in each year.
1937 was a truly wonderful year, with an aggregate of 2,514 runs, ten centuries, and some wonderful slip catches to remember.
During the war Langridge served in the National Fire Service for over five years, and saw service during most of the infamous blitzes on Southern England.
His return to county cricket in 1946 was inauspicious, but nothing was missing from the old determination to prove his indispensable value to a struggling Sussex team. In 1947 he again reached 2,000 runs, but he just failed to do so in 1948. Then came 1949, and if any seal needed to be set on a very distinguished county career, John Langridge certainly set it. Always a very fit man, he played during last summer with more freedom than ever before, and it was only an aggravating back injury which prevented him from achieving even more remarkable figures. His two-eyed stance at the wicket gave him ample time to deal effectively with the vast quantity of short-of-a-length, medium-paced, defensive-type bowling served him in a summer when wickets were exactly to his liking. Very strong in the forearms and using perhaps more right hand than the text-books might advise, he was even stronger on the on-side than ever. He played, too, on the off-side with a hitherto undreamed of confidence and certainty.
Starting the season in wonderful fashion with four consecutive centuries, Langridge completed his 1,000 runs on June 2 during a remarkable innings of 234 not out against Derbyshire--on this occasion he was at the wicket for only four hours. With hundreds against Middlesex, Hampshire (in two hours) and Derbyshire--a hundred in each innings in this match to make his aggregate for the season against this county in three innings 526--he completed 2,000 runs by July 11. With D. S. Sheppard, he knocked off the runs at Frome against Somerset when Sussex required 257 to win in two hours and twenty-five minutes, his share being 108 not out. Soon after this, however, his back began to worry him, and although he made 136 against Leicester and 92 against Surrey, he was, for the remainder of the season, always batting with difficulty. His record for the year is worth noting in full:
53 innings, 5 not out; 2,914 runs; 234 not out highest score; 60.70 average--a truly remarkable achievement which included twelve centuries, more than any other player has made for Sussex in a season.
Official recognition of John Langridge's achievements in 1949 was made by his selection for the first time for the Players.
He was selected to accompany the M.C.C. team under A. J. Holmes, which was to have toured India in the winter of 1939-40. These distinctions are the only ones which have been conferred upon Langridge during a career in which he has not only proved himself as one of the most consistently successful county batsmen, but has shown that he is a slip fielder with few equals. He is married, has a son, and lives near Brighton. His brother, James, was one of the Five Cricketers of the Year in 1932. -- S.C.G.