The history of cricket in its initial years is replete with intriguing stories and events. The game was largely confined to the amateurs of England, before gradually it began to spread to other countries. Here’s a look at some interesting happenings from cricket’s early years:-
One Legged Eleven vs One Arm Eleven
Believe it or not, but such a game actually did take place in 1848. The venue for this stirring contest was the Priory Ground at Lewisham. The players from both teams were navy men who had been injured in service and now lived at the Royal Hospital. For the record, The One Arm XI made 50 in their first innings. The One Legged XI replied with 32, before the One Arm XI extended their lead with 41, leaving the One Legged XI 60 to win. They were dismissed for 44. As many as 73 extras were conceded between both the teams.
A story goes that a batsman’s wooden leg came off as he was running between the wickets. Relying on his good leg, he hopped on. A One Arm player swooped on the wooden leg and used to it to throw down the stumps. The batsman was declared out! When the match ended, the gallant men were marched back, headed by an excellent band who had been engaged throughout the match. Another such game was believed to have played in 1867.
Smokers vs Non-Smokers
This was yet another out-of-the-box idea of the years gone by. Two such games were played, in 1884 and 1887 respectively. Both the games were given first-class status. Both the teams consisted of a combination of English and Australian cricketers. In the first game at Lord’s, the Non-Smokers, led by the legendary Englishman W.G Grace, easily beat the Smokers by nine wickets. The second game at Melbourne three years later was drawn. In this game, the Non-Smokers scored 803 in their first innings, which was then a world record. Interestingly, the English Test player Billy Gunn played for the Smokers in 1884 but for the Non-Smokers in 1887!
15 all out. But still a victory
Today a team can hardly hope to even save a game after being bowled out for 15 in their first innings, let alone win it. But in the 1922 County Championship, Hampshire did just that against Warwickshire in Birmingham. Warwickshire made 223 after batting first, before Hampshire collapsed sensationally to 5 for 5, then 10 for 8 and eventually 15 all out. Any team would have subsided meekly after this, but Hampshire came back so strongly in their second innings while following-on, that they made 521. Needing 314 to win, Warwickshire were dismissed for 158 on the final day leaving Hampshire winners by 155 runs in one of the most amazing comebacks ever.
M.E Pavri’s unique feat
This one is not from English cricket. In 1889, Dr. Mehallasha Pavri of the Parsis, acknowledged as India’s first great cricketer and fast bowler, decided in advance that teammates would be superfluous. He single-handedly took on a team of eleven from the hill station of Matheran and scored 52 not out. It was agreed that the home side could not score from byes or leg-byes. Dr. Pavri then went on to dismiss them, without the help of fielders, for 38. Indeed, a one-man show in the truest sense.
Origin of over-arm bowling
When cricket originated all bowlers delivered the ball under-arm where the bowler’s hand is below waist height. However way back in the early 1800’s John Willes, a Kent cricketer, became the first bowler to use a “round-arm” technique. It is said that he developed the style after practising with his sister Christina Willes, who had used the technique as she was unable to bowl under-arm due to her wide and huge skirt impeding her delivery of the ball! This new type of delivery was initially frowned upon, but was soon legalized while under-arm bowling was consigned to history.
The ill-fated tale of Albert Trott
Albert Trott was one of the few men who played Tests for two nations – he did so for both England and Australia. A talented all-rounder, Trott had a long first-class career for Middlesex and was given a benefit match against Somerset at Lord’s in 1907. This was a vital chance to earn a pension for later years in those far-off days without social security. So good weather, big crowds and a match that went down to the last ball would have been perfect.
As it happened, he took an amazing double hat trick (four wickets in four balls), and then followed up with a second hat trick later in the innings. However, the early end to the match meant that it did not raise as much money for him as it might have done, and he is said to have remarked that he had “bowled himself into the poorhouse”. In 1914, Trott wrote his will on the back of a laundry ticket, leaving his wardrobe and a sum of £4 to his landlady. Shortly afterwards, he tragically shot himself.