There have been batsmen through the ages who have earned reputations for being poor runners, although Denis Compton and Inzamam-ul-Haq must rate as two of the worst. However, what happened at The Oval in late June 1922 would have left even those two bemused.
A fortnight before the Varsity match, Oxford University batted first against a weakened Surrey and had reached 221 for 8 when Tom Raikes joined RC Robertson-Glasgow in the middle late in the day. Raikes, 19, was in his first year after leaving Winchester; Robertson-Glasgow, a year older, in the third of his four seasons in the Oxford XI.
The pair had added four when Robertson-Glasgow drove the ball to long-on, fielding in front of the Pavilion, and set off for an easy single. Despite having taken the first one rather slowly, the pair decided to come back for a second. Raikes, running back to the danger end, was less convinced but after hesitating, set off. "Then," Robertson-Glasgow later recalled, "strange things happened".
The two of them crossed mid-pitch, at which point Robertson-Glasgow (according to the Times) or Raikes (according to Robertson-Glasgow) had a change of mind and direction and the pair ran side by side towards the Pavilion End.
After a few yards Raikes realised that this was a recipe for trouble and turned round to try to get back to the safety of the Vauxhall End. At the same moment, Robertson-Glasgow did exactly the same, so both were again heading in the same direction. "I followed him," Robertson-Glasgow wrote, "but, thinking the crease was overcrowded, I set out for the other end."
To the amusement of what the Times described as a "now thoroughly interested house", the hapless pair turned almost simultaneously for a third time and resumed their side-by-side pursuit for safety. "The Old Carthusian beat the Old Wykehamist by a short head," noted the newspaper dryly.
The situation was allowed to reach a near-comic state by the dreadful fielding of the Surrey side, who were "driven temporarily insane by the goings-on". The initial return from long-on was poor and was then fumbled by mid-on. As he picked up the ball he was confronted with loud shouts from both bowler and wicketkeeper to throw the ball to their end. Confused, he dropped the ball for a second time before returning it to the bowler, who took the bails off, only to see both Robertson-Glasgow and Raikes standing in their ground, albeit exhausted. He duly threw the ball to wicketkeeper Herbert Strudwick, who whipped off the bails.
"The whole thing was much more ludicrous than anything rehearsed and played on the same ground in bygone days by the late Dan Leno," the Times said.
The farce was not quite over. While there was no question that someone had been run out, nobody seemed sure who, as both Robertson-Glasgow and Raikes were safe at the Pavilion End.
The umpires were as clueless as anyone. "They stood impotent with laughter and doubt." One story says that the batsmen agreed to toss a coin to decide who would go, Robertson-Glasgow recounted that it was Raikes who pre-empted any decision by striding off.
Bill Hitch, the old Surrey pro, grinned and stage whispered to Robertson-Glasgow: "You know who was really out, don't you!" But the reality was that nobody had a clue.
"It was a cricket record on a point of hopeless confusion and indecision," the Times concluded. "The two batsmen seemed able only to agree on the one thing and that was to do the wrong thing."
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46 Not Out by RC Robertson-Glasgow (Sportsman's Book Club 1954)