Simon Wilde continues charting the progress of the highest score in cricket ...

At the start of August 1886, AE Stoddart had yet truly to make his name in the cricket world. On the verge of making a place secure for himself in the Middlesex XI, he was actually considering giving up his amateur life in England to set out for America to join his brother in Colorado.
Perhaps it was the remarkable ten days that followed which changed his mind, and made Stoddart realise that he could not do without his sporting life - or that it could not do without him. At any rate, to the great good fortune of English cricket, he dropped his plans to leave for America. The ten days that may have swayed Stoddart saw him play four innings: the first, in a club match for Hampstead, set a new world record, and was made in one day; the second, also for Hampstead, was 207; the third was 98 for Middlesex against Gloucestershire; and the fourth, 116, his maiden first-class century, against Kent. Stoddart"s name had suddenly shot to the fore and his reputation as a cricketer was established, to match that already made as a rugby international.

'Stoddy" achieved his world record in characteristic fashion. He was playing for Hampstead against Stoics in a one-day fixture on the large Hampstead ground, and his match preparation left something to be desired. David Frith, in his book My Dear Victorious Stod, has described how Stoddart and his companions spent the night before the game:

... on Tuesday night Stoddart and some of his friends went dancing and afterwards got to playing poker 'just for half an hour". It was after midnight when they commenced, and when the well-dressed young stockbroker (now sometimes called 'The Masher" for his elegance) found himself winning an appreciable amount of money he played irresistibly on, mesmerised perhaps by the pattern of play, reluctant to leave the table with his friends' losses. He gave them generous time to recover: one round of jackpots followed another and his play grew wilder each hand, but he kept winning. As dawn broke they decided stumps ought to be drawn!

There was hardly any point in going to bed this fine summer morning, so it was warm baths all round then a cab to the swimming baths to freshen up ... and this great day, after a hearty meal, it was a case of ambling straight down to the ground, where the wicket was pitched in the centre of the expanse.

Stoddart and his partner, Marshall, went out to open the Hampstead innings at 11.30. After Marshall was bowled for 6, Besche came out and together with Stoddart set about the bowling. The score was 150 for one after an hour; and when Besche was caught for 98 the total was 242. Another wicket soon fell but Swift was quickly into the thick of the attack along with Stoddart. The luncheon interval arrived, mercifully for the bowlers and fielders, when Hampstead were 370 for 3. That was after 2½ hours' play. Even Stoddart - 230 not out - probably needed a breather by then.

Three o' clock and they were out on the field again. Stoddart and Swift, enjoying themselves immensely, took up where they left off; the ferocity continued unabated. Their adversaries toiled under the mid-day sun but stuck manfully to their work. (It was said that this game at Hampstead led the Stoics, formerly a wandering club called The Revellers, to alter their name!) Stoddart and Swift remained together for well on three hours; the total passed 400, passed 500, passed 600; passed 650 before one of Swift's blows located a fielder, dismissing him eight short of his hundred.

Hampstead v Stoics


Wednesday, August 4, 1886

By now the 23-year-old Stoddart was but a few runs from the world record of 419 not out made by J. S. Carrick the previous year. Curiously Carrick, like Stoddart, was to play both rugby and cricket for his county.¹ Stoddart gave his only chance upon passing the record; at 421 he drove very hard to mid-on, who dropped the ball and no doubt consoled himself with the happy thought that this game was nearly over. Stoddart raced on past 450 and was urged to go for his 500 - although the close was approaching. At 485 he miscued the ball high to leg, swirling in the wind as it came down, and Stoddart gave 100-1 against anyone holding it; but the ball fell into the hands of Kelly at deep point. Five minutes and two runs later the innings ended for 813, the last man being absent. Like the West of Scotland the year before, Hampstead had batted on for the whole of the match, Stoddart creating a record for one batsman and the side a record for a total in a one-day match.

Stoddart's scoring strokes were an eight (four from an overthrow), three fives, 63 fours, 20 threes, 36 twos and 78 singles. He had batted for six hours ten minutes, throughout which the bowling was good and accurate; there was one wide bowled and no no-balls. His personal rate of scoring was 78 runs per hour.²

All in a day's work for Stoddart, one might suppose, but it was not over yet. Frith records:

It was once suggested that this must have left him feeling very anxious to get some sleep, to which he replied, 'Well, perhaps I was, but we had a lawn tennis match, a four, on that evening, so I had to play that. Then I had another tub, and had to hurry too, because we had a box at the theatre and a supper party afterwards. But after that I got to bed all right, and it wasn't nearly three!"

Truly, as one man said at the time, one of the most tireless men who ever lived.


  • With the possible exception of W. N. Roe, each of the holders of the record - and W. G. Grace at the time that he made his score of 400 not out - was to some degree an allround sportsman. This includes AEJ Collins, who beat Stoddart's score in 1899, and who played other sports for his school besides cricket. A very high level of physical fitness is a requisite for any potential record-breaking batsman.

  • 2.

  • This was a faster rate of scoring than any of his predecessors achieved: Tylecote (67 runs per hour), Roe (75), Carrick (37). Collins during his 628 not out in 1899 scored at 93 runs per hour. By comparison, the fastest quadruple-century scored in first-class cricket is Bradman"s 452 not out, made at a rate of 65 runs per hour.

  • This article first appeared in the July 1982 edition of Wisden Cricket Monthly