Scoring 1000 first-class runs before the end of May is one of the most sought-after batting records in English cricket and only eight batsmen have reached the milestone. The advent of one-day competitions, especially the Benson & Hedges Cup in 1972, meant a reduction in early-summer first-class matches and so the record became almost unobtainable.
Despite that, Graeme Hick
managed the feat in 1988, with almost half his runs coming in one innings at Taunton. Nick Compton - 715 runs at the time of writing with up to eight more innings available to him - is in with a real chance of joining the select group.
Almost inevitably Don Bradman
is on the list - twice. He first did it in 1930, at the start of a remarkable season in which he scored two hundreds and two double-hundreds against England. Eight years later he repeated the feat amid general indifference from the public. Such was his dominance that the headlines would have been greater had he failed. But 1938 was a special year, in that Bill Edrich
of Middlesex also passed the 1000-run mark.
Bradman started the season at Worcester, as was tradition for the Australians, on April 30, and made 254. Then, after resting against Leicestershire, 58 followed by 137 against the universities. At Lord's, in front of 32,000 spectators, he smashed 278 against a strong MCC side as the Australians amassed 502. With almost a fortnight in May remaining he had 727 runs to his name.
A failure at Northampton was followed by 143 at The Oval against Surrey, and from London the Australians travelled down to Southampton to face Hampshire. Drizzle meant Bradman did not get to the middle until the third day - May 27 - and with no result possible he settled down to wear down the attack. On a wet track he had to work hard and with his 130th run he reached the milestone. By doing so, on May 27, he set a new record of reaching the landmark on the earliest date (beating arch-rival Wally Hammond, who had done it 11 years earlier, by a day).
In a contrast with the insatiable media appetite of today, Bradman did not speak to reporters, leaving it to the team manager to say the Don was "very pleased".
While the Australian procession around southern England had dominated the newspapers, Edrich, a 22-year-old from Middlesex, was quietly and clinically accumulating runs while never straying from Lord's. Starting on the same day as Bradman, he scored 104 in a rain-affected match between MCC and Yorkshire and then 115, again for MCC, against Surrey. A big hundred against Gloucestershire and 245 against Nottinghamshire followed, to leave him 19 runs short of the 1000 with two matches in hand.
But the game with Worcestershire was a personal nightmare. On a drying track Edrich made a two-ball duck in Middlesex's only innings as they bowled out the visitors cheaply to win by an innings.
Hammond was also in the hunt with 894 runs but was ultimately frustrated by the weather. After making 57 in Hampshire's first innings against Warwickshire at Bristol he was forced to sit out the last day of May in the pavilion while the rain fell.
Edrich, meanwhile, had more luck in his last game against Bradman's Australians. The first day - Saturday, May 28 - was washed out, and when Middlesex batted on the second afternoon Edrich, needing 20 runs, was bowled by a googly from Tiger O'Reilly for 9. "It was this ball which whipped back to rob him of what appeared to be his last chance of completing his 1000," observed the Daily Telegraph.
The third day was equally unpleasant and was petering to a dull draw in less than cheery circumstances, cold and under leaden skies. Two afternoon rain breaks had left spectators frustrated, and they repeatedly jeered the Australian batsmen after a series of appeals against the light after tea. At one point, the Daily Mirror reported, Bradman refused to go on if Middlesex's fast bowlers were used.
But the jeers became cheers when unexpectedly Bradman declared Australia's second innings at 5.09pm. "See if you can get those 10, Bill," he smiled at Edrich. "It was a good and charming gesture," noted Neville Cardus in the Guardian. Middlesex had 11 minutes to bat before the close.
"His action gave me the confidence to knock up the runs," Edrich later recalled. "I felt I just could not let him down."
Edrich as usual opened, albeit with an unfamiliar partner in Denis Compton, and while the Australians rattled through the overs - they managed six - they bowled tightly and Bradman applied the pressure with a ring of close fielders. With five minutes to go, Edrich cut Mervyn Waite past second slip for four to reach the 1000 runs. A beaming Bradman was the first to congratulate him.
Edrich had taken 15 innings to reach the landmark, scoring 1010 runs at 84.16 - Bradman had taken only eight innings. Edrich had scored every run on his home pitch at Lord's.
However, in later years Bradman was slightly less charitable. "A slight question mark did hang over Bill's performance. It was a little contrived in that I closed the innings for the sole purpose of giving him the chance to complete the milestone. We tried our best to get him out… but the opportunity was a gift."
What happened next?
- Edrich was called in to the England side for the opening Ashes Test ten days later - his debut - but in six Test innings, he only managed 67 runs. Despite that he went to South Africa that winter but again was in wretched form, making 21 runs in five Test innings. However, in the final match - the famous Timeless Test - he broke through, making 219.
- Bradman scored 434 runs at 108.25 in the four Tests in 1938, finishing the summer with 2429 runs at 115.66
- Hammond made 3011 runs at 75.27 and finished the season captaining England to their record innings-and-579-run rout of Australia at The Oval
Is there an incident from the past you would like to know more about? Email in your comments and suggestions.
Bill Edrich by Alan Hill (Andre Deutsch, 1994)
Wisden's Cricketers' Almanack 1939
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa