When thoughts turn to Cricket

With the days looking a little brighter the summer sound of willow on leather warms any cricket fans heart.  I thought I would just tell you about a couple of local cricket tales neither of which I am old enough to remember!  A little change from my usual weather reporting but Cricket is of great interest to me.

The first “tale” goes back to 1861 and I refer to my prized possession “The History Of Walsall Cricket Club 1833 to 1909” for the detail.

Between June 17 and 19 of 1861 Walsall Cricket club took on an All England Eleven.  To “even up” the match Walsall were allowed to include two professionals and have 22 batsmen.  Walsall played their matches at a ground in Chuckery before moving in 1909 to their new ground (Gorway).

The All England Eleven included one of the most famous batsmen of the time, Richard Daft.

Richard Daft - Cricketer

Richard Daft – Cricketer

Martin Williamson at Cricinfo profiles Daft as follows:

Richard Daft quickly establishing a reputation one of the finest batsmen of his day and from his debut in 1858 was a regular member of the Nottinghamshire side for more than two decades, captaining them between 1871 and 1880.  He was at his best in the 1860s and first half of the 1870s, utilising every inch of his height, and being very strong on the back foot.  “Like nearly all the batsmen of his time, he learnt most of his cricket against fast bowling, and was, perhaps, never seen to better advantage than when facing such bowlers as Willsher, Emmett, and George Freeman,” wrote Wisden. “The finest innings he ever played in his young days was 118 at Lord’s for North against South in 1862, and the highest of his whole career in first-class matches was 161 for Nottinghamshire against Yorkshire at Trent Bridge in 1873. His best performance in Gentlemen and Players matches was at Lord’s, in 1872, when, against the bowling of Appleby, Powys, and David Buchanan, he scored 102. Scores were far smaller all round in his day than they are now, and grounds by no means so true, and, allowing for these facts, his records were wonderfully good.”  Although initially a professional, he reverted to amateur status towards the end of his career.  He continued to play in local cricket after retiring, scoring prodigiously and in 1891 he made so many runs that he was recalled to the Nottinghamshire side against Surrey at The Oval.  In 1899 his health deteriorated rapidly and he died the following summer.

England batted first and made 305 with Daft scoring 114 before being caught by Brown off the bowling of Hodgson.

At 3 pm on the second day the England innings concluded and Walsall came to the wicket, however, wickets quickly fell and they were all out in the first innings for a mere 50 runs.  Walsall opener W. H More top scoring with 13 runs.  By 7 pm on the Tuesday evening a further six, second innings, Walsall wickets had fallen.  (Although not stated they must have been invited to follow on).

The first two days had been played out before a large crowd and brilliant summer weather but overnight on the Tuesday some rain fell.  This was, however, not sufficient to save Walsall CC from defeat as Wednesday was once again a fine day.

The second innings for Walsall recovered a little and the 22 were eventually all out for 78.  This time J. Brown top scored with 17 runs.  For England Finlay took 27 wickets for 87 runs in the match whilst Haywood took 19 wickets for a mere 33 runs.  England won the match by an innings and 117 runs.

This match was one of a small number of games that Walsall played against England during a 10 year period with a game in 1863 being a very close affair.  The eleven of England, in the later match, eventually turning out as victors by only 11 runs.

My second “tale” goes back to 1956 when Australia played England at Old Trafford.

Jim Laker

Jim Laker

Cricket fans will know that this was the match that the Surrey spinner, Jim Laker took all 10 Australian wickets in an innings and a total of 19 wickets in the match.  Laker’s match bowling statistics were  9-37 in the first innings and 10 – 53 in the second innings. (Lock was the only other England bowler to take a wicket).

Only Anil Kumble of India has equalled the 10 wickets in an innings when he took 10 for 74 in the 1998-99 season v Pakisatan.

So what does this have to do with our area I hear you ask?  Well, after the match Laker was driving back from Manchester to his home in Surrey when he decided to stop off for a beer and a cheese sandwich at a pub in Lichfield.

In his book “Over to me” Laker describes listening to the regulars marvelling at his match winning (and world record performance) but none of them realised that he was sitting right there amongst them!

There is no further details of the Lichfield pub but, guessing at his route, one would suspect that he would have made his way down from Manchester via the potteries and came in to Lichfield via Rugeley and the A51  before picking up the London road (A38).  I can only believe that any of the pubs along that route would be amongst the “suspects” of missing a chat with a legend.





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