Skip to main content

Cricket - My first Love

'I was very afraid of the dark, and playing cricket under the bedclothes at night was a great comfort!'

My brother Philip and I found our way into every second hand bookshop we could find, searching for cricket books, and we had over 300 between us. I remember buying W G Grace's book for three pence and Ranjitsinhji's book for four pence.

We played cricket in the garden all summer long, pretending to be the great players of the past. Dad, a doctor, joined us when he could. Seeing that garden years later, I was amazed to see how small it was.

I was very afraid of the dark, and playing cricket under the bedclothes at night was a great comfort!

My first heroes were cricketers. Head of a long list were Victor Trumper of Australia and Jack Hobbs of England, both renowned for their sportsmanship as well as their batting.

Moreover, when Hobbs' wife became mentally ill, he looked after her with devotion and took her with him to meet people without embarrassment.

Dad took me to Lords' cricket ground in 1938. England was playing Australia. It rained all day and I think there was half an hour's cricket. But it did not seem to matter. I was actually there!

Later, I played there quite often and it became one of my favourite thinking places.

No wonder cricket became my first love!

When I was playing a big match - cricket or rugby - Dad would rise at 6 in the morning, and cut the hedge in the garden, whether it needed cutting or not. He was more nervous than I was!

Whenever I meet with my old school and sporting friend, John Wimperis, we say 'How lucky we were' - lucky to have been coached by the great maestro and teacher, P F Saunders, lucky to have played for years on the glorious cricket ground at Uppingham, the 'Upper', lucky altogether.

Lucky on the rugby field too, to have been coached by A M Smallwood who played for Leicester and England in the early 1920s.

Luck continued at Oxford with the chance to play for four summers in the lovely Parks.

My first match was against Yorkshire. Opening the innings with Murray Hofmeyr, I received first ball from Fred Trueman, then in his first season for Yorkshire. In the second innings I was struggling to stay there and showing much frustration, when Norman Yardley, the Yorkshire captain, fielding at short leg, said quietly, 'Don't worry, you're doing alright.'

We put on 55 for the first wicket and so helped Oxford, in a low scoring match, to beat Yorkshire for the first time since 1896!

But Yardley's word is what I remember most.

Of course, there is no logic to all this. Cricket is often slow, boring, impossible to explain to people, and there may be no result in the end. It is hard to see cricket, with its slower tempo, holding its own in a world that cannot stop going faster. But it just may, because people who love the game love it passionately.

Like me!

Here is a different pace of life.

And the ball hitting the right part of the bat on a green field, freshly mown, and blackbirds singing, is a good picture of heaven!


Article language


Article year