Compton's Triple Century remembered (3 December 1998)

3 December 1998

Compton's Triple Century remembered

Trevor Chesterfield

In Centurion

A plaque commemorating the 50th anniversary of one the most famous batting performances in South African history is to be unveiled at Willowmoore Park in on Sunday.

Although Denis Compton's 300 against North-Eastern Transvaal, scored in what is still a world record 181 minutes, was put together on the afternoon of December 3 and the following morning 50 summers ago during the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) 1948/49 tour, the Easterns Cricket Union decided to record the event during the lunch break of Sunday's Standard Bank League game against Griqualand West.

Ronnie Edwards, the captain, and Ken Funston, a member of that North-Easterns (now Northerns) side, are to attend the unveiling along with Johnny Waite.

Brian Compton, one of Compton's sons, now living in Johannesburg clarifies.

One of the myths about the innings is that when he was made a freeman of the town after the event he would, when in South Africa, phone the Benoni town clerk to tell him he was "in town" and would like to see the mayor. Which was not, he confirmed two years ago, strictly accurate. He did it a couple of times out of fun. But as he said, in 1996 when opening the Denis Compton Oval at the MCC's country seat in Hertfordshire, the last time he called, sometime in the late 1960s, the mayor's office asked him to call back. He had the impression that no one at the Benoni municipal offices knew who he was or why he was made a freeman of the town.

The triple century took place during two sessions of play: there were five sixes and 42 fours; the first hundred taking 66 minutes ("I was getting a sight of the bowling", he said), the second hundred was spread over 78 minutes, which included the end of the first day and the start of the second ("I had to play myself in again") and the third lasted 37 minutes and as he recalled was against "respectable bowling, somewhere between that provided by Somerset, Northants and Essex. But they could not hold their catches". Reg Simpson was dropped three times and Compton once in the slips before he had reached 20.

According to a contemporary report in the (London) Daily Express:

Compton was never one for technical expertise and there were occasions in this innings where he outraged every canon of the game. He pulled from outside the off stump and hit the ball for six over square leg; he retreated and cut from outside the leg stump. Just the sort of innings we now expect from a limited-overs batsman which suggests he was years ahead of his time. Compton was already a household name in South Africa before he came with that 1948/49 MCC team. In 1947, during the South Africa tour of England, he scored a record 3,816 runs at 90.85 and hitting 18 centuries. It is still referred to by John Arlott as the last "golden summer". Compton's run-scoring records of that year have never been equalled and his amazing triple century over the two December days 50 years ago are part of the testimony of his batting magic and charm.

Source :: Trevor Chesterfield, Pretoria News