Reginald Albert Sinfield
December 24, 1900, Benington, Stevenage, Hertfordshire
March 17, 1988, Ham Green, Bristol, (aged 87y 84d)
Right hand Bat
Right arm Slow
SINFIELD, REGINALD ALBERT, was born on December 24, 1900, and died on March 17, 1988. At the time of his death he was England's oldest surviving Test cricketer, a distinction which then fell to R. E. S. Wyatt. His single appearance for England at Trent Bridge in the First Test of 1938 was the climax to a career which extended from 1921 to 1939 and was a fitting reward for years of loyal service to Gloucestershire. Sinfield was the epitome of the old type of English professional cricketer. In him were combined all those qualities which contributed so much to the development of the game at a time when its leadership was very much under the control of the amateur.
His first appearances in cricket of any importance were for Hertfordshire, when he must have learnt much about the art of batting from watching C. H. Titchmarsh, a prolific scorer in the Minor Counties Championship. In 1921 he joined the groundstaff at Lord's, where he was to experience a torrid time in his first three first-class matches, which were for MCC against the two Universities. He managed just 3 runs in six innings including a pair. However, his serene temperament helped him to survive these early setbacks, and others of a similar kind, after he had started playing for Gloucestershire in 1924. Among his early experiences of Championship cricket were a brace of pairs at the hands of Fred Root and George Macaulay. While all this was happening to him in his struggle to establish himself as batsman, he was being allowed a few overs without any conspicuous success. Many young professionals would not have had the resolution to pursue cricket as a career after such a discouraging start, but Sinfield went steadily about the business of acquiring the skills of his trade. He was soon an automatic choice for the county, and his willingness to fit in and adapt his play to the needs of the occasion were an invaluable asset to a succession of captains.
Sinfield played throughout his career alongside Walter Hammond, and if Hammond held the centre of the stage, Sinfield was the ideal stage-manager. As opening batsman, he would arrange the props and set the scene for the great man to play the leading role; when batting in the middle order he would be a model member of the supporting cast.
By 1926, with 885 runs and 48 wickets to his credit, Sinfield was developing into a useful all-rounder. His first first-class century, an innings of 101 against Somerset at Taunton, was quickly followed by 112 not out at Trent Bridge, which earned him his county cap. Wisden says of him at this time that he had most of the strokes, but seldom used them. Concentration and tenacity were his hallmarks, and whether he batted at No. 2 with Alfred Dipper, and later with Charles Barnett, or in various positions lower down the order, these methods brought him his thousand runs in ten out of the eleven seasons from 1927 to 1937. He just squeezed past the 1,000 mark when achieving his second double in 1937 and reached a peak of 1,740 runs in 1935 with an average of 35.51. In this season he registered his highest score of 209 not out against Glamorgan at Cardiff, when he and Barnett put on 250 for the first wicket, at the time a Gloucestershire record. In the same match he took nine wickets.
The amount of bowling he was called on to do depended for many years on the effectiveness of Charles Parker, Tom Goddard and, for a season or two, Percy Mills. When the slow left-hander's powers began to decline in the mid-thirties, Sinfield really came into his own as a stock bowler and got through a tremendous amount of work. In 1936 he bowled 1,501 overs for 161 wickets, a performance which put him in line for selection for the MCC tour of Australia. He was not a true off-spinner but, according to E. W. Swanton, he cut the ball both ways off the seam, wobbled it in the air and generally bowled very straight at a little below medium pace. His method may be compared in more recent times with that of Basil D'Oliveira. Invariably bowling with his cap on, and with his shirt-sleeves buttoned at the wrist, he achieved his first double in 1934 with 122 wickets in a dry summer and in all he passed the 100 mark four times. Among his numerous triumphs, his feat of twice sharing nineteen wickets out of twenty in a match with Goddard must rank above most; on each occasion the opposition were beaten by an innings. He often reserved his best performances for touring sides, and his overall figures in these matches bear eloquent testimony to his sterling qualities. In 23 innings he made 809 runs at an average of 36.77 and he took 58 wickets at 20.98 apiece in 436.3 overs. By the time he played in his only Test match in 1938 he had already bowled more than 470 overs for 52 wickets before the end of the first week in June, with eight for 65 against the Australians at Bristol as the pièce de résistance. His dismissal of Bradman in Australia's first innings at Trent Bridge was highly unusual, the batsman being both caught behind by Ames and stumped on appeal to the square-leg umpire.
In the years before the war, Goddard and Sinfield, as an attacking pair, if not quite as much feared as Laker and Lock some twenty years later, at least commanded immense respect. Goddard continued to play for Gloucestershire for a season or two after the war, but Sinfield took up an appointment as coach at Clifton College, where he stayed for twenty years before offering his services to Colston's School. He continued to coach until the end of 1987 and maintained a link with the modern Test scene in his championship of Chris Broad as a future prospect. What a man of his integrity and sporting instincts would have thought of his protégé's behaviour on the field in Paksitan and Australia is not difficult to imagine. Sinfield's career record for 430 first-class matches was 15,674 runs at an average of 25.69, including sixteen centuries, and 1,173 wickets at 24.49 apiece. His best single-innings analysis was nine for 111 against Middlesex at Lord's in 1936.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
Batting & Fielding