Who was the first woman to be an official scorer in a Test match, and who was the youngest person to do this? asked Dennis Clarke from England
This is quite a big subject, so this week I'll just address this one question, but with a longer than usual answer. The identity of the official scorers in Tests and other internationals has not always been well documented, and there are some big gaps in our knowledge despite the best efforts of cricket statisticians. The following is the best we know at the moment - but there might just be earlier examples lurking somewhere!
Until recently it was thought that the first woman to be one of the official scorers in a Test match was the Queenslander Shirley Crouch (née Wilson), who had the good fortune to be keeping the book during the first Tied Test, between Australia and West Indies in Brisbane in 1960-61.
However, more recently Charles Davis, the indefatigable Melbourne statistician, spotted an entry in the scorebook for New Zealand's maiden Test series, against England in 1929-30, kept by the famous scorer/baggage master Bill Ferguson, who "made 43 tours over 52 years and never lost a bag", according to Wisden. In the space set aside for the names of the scorers for the fourth Test in Auckland, "Fergie" had written "WF [himself] and Miss A. Hall".
Francis Payne, the scarcely less fatigable New Zealander who edits their cricket annual, confirmed this was Alison Margaret Hall (born October 15, 1910; she died in 2004). Hall later married Paul Whitelaw, who appeared in two Tests for New Zealand against England in 1932-33, and played for the Parnell club in Auckland, where she did the scoring.
Hall was described as "A Lady Enthusiast" in Tom Reese's New Zealand Cricket history: "Miss A. Hall, who holds a unique record… She became interested in cricket in 1924, when she played for Auckland Diocesan College... She scored for Auckland against North Auckland, Easter 1927, and has been scoring continually for Parnell Senior XI since 1927… scored beside the famous Ferguson in the Test match, New Zealand v MCC, in Auckland in 1930… helped to compile the records for the Auckland Roll of Honour on the walls of Eden Park's cricket pavilion… keeps for the Auckland selectors the club cricket scores of all players selected for practice for Auckland representative teams." The Auckland Star added that she was "as accurate as the master clock at Greenwich".
The third Test of that 1929-30 tour had also been played in Auckland, but was ruined by rain, which washed out the first two days of what was only a three-day match. An additional Test was quickly added to the schedule, in place of a game between Auckland and the tourists. The scorer for the third Test was a TSC Haig: it's possible that Hall was already due to act as Auckland's scorer for the match that turned into a Test, or possibly Haig was unavailable for that one. Whatever the reason, in February 1930 Hall was one of the official scorers in the fourth Test, aged only 19.
Moving on to the second part of the question, my first thought was that she was probably the youngest Test scorer of either sex, as the books were usually kept by elderly gentlemen, often former players. But Francis Payne was able to put that one right, too.
He pointed out that Mark Kerly, who died last year, was one of the official scorers for New Zealand's third Test against England in 1977-78, also in Auckland. Kerly was born in October 1961, and so was just 16 at the time - in fact he had to get special permission from his school, Westlake Boys' HS, to take the time off to score in the Test, which lasted six days. A long innings from Clive Radley - and two patient hundreds from New Zealand's Geoff Howarth - meant that even six days wasn't enough, and the match (and series) was left drawn.
Sreeram Iyer from India, another learned contributor to the Ask Steven page on Facebook, tracked down a county game in 1939 that featured a lady scorer, believed to be the first in a first-class match in England. Margaret Platts, a 19-year-old who lived opposite the ground, was pressed into service during Essex's match against Worcestershire in Chelmsford after some of the visiting players were involved in a car crash. One of them, batsman Charlie Bull, was killed, and wicketkeeper Syd Buller (later a famous umpire) was badly injured. Rather surprisingly perhaps, the match continued: Worcestershire's reserve wicketkeeper Hugo Yarnold had been doing the scoring, but was allowed to play, and Platts took over the book. Although she was a regular visitor to the ground, she had only ever scored a few women's games before, and never did another first-class match. Yarnold later became an umpire himself - and was killed in a road accident in 1974, while driving home after a county game.
We should also give an honourable mention to Grace Morgan, who was the reserve wicketkeeper in the first England women's touring team, to Australasia in 1934-35. She wasn't required for the four Tests played on the trip - three in Australia and one in New Zealand - and instead did the scoring in all of them. She did eventually make two Test appearances, after the Second World War.
Many thanks to Charles Davis, Francis Payne, Sreeram Iyer and the other Facebook irregulars for their contributions. and to Bryan Haggitt and Ruth Thielke of Parnell CC who sourced the photograph of Alison Hall
Steven Lynch is the editor of the updated edition of Wisden on the Ashes