When Warwickshire and Hampshire meet at Edgbaston in the Specsavers County Championship starting this Sunday, hopefully it will be a good game. Perhaps even a great one.
But it’s highly unlikely to top the tussle between the teams in Birmingham back in 1922. That remains, it is reasonable to assert, the most remarkable match ever played in the County Championship.
They won it rather convincingly in the end, in fact, by 155 runs with Hampshire captain The Hon Lionel Tennyson duly collecting £10 off his Warwickshire counterpart The Hon Freddie Calthorpe
It was a match with a lurch so spectacular it made England v Australia at Headingley in 1981 appear positively tame. Hampshire were all out for 15, rolled over in 40 minutes with eight ducks.
Humiliating, really. Yet they won the game!
They won it rather convincingly in the end, in fact, by 155 runs with Hampshire captain The Hon Lionel Tennyson duly collecting £10 off his Warwickshire counterpart The Hon Freddie Calthorpe. That tenner came from the bet which they struck when, in the aftermath of the 15 all out, The Hon Freddie suggested they have a game of golf on the scheduled third day of the cricket match.
For the first two sessions the game had advanced in orthodox fashion as Warwickshire amassed 223. That total appeared slightly below par on a good pitch – but it was not looking too bad after Calthorpe (4-3-4-4) and Harry Howell (4.5-2-7-6) eviscerated the visitors’ batting in 53 balls.
Former Wolverhampton Wanderers inside-right Howell began the procession by not just hitting but breaking Alex Bowell’s middle stump. With Howell bowling rapidly and Calthorpe swinging the ball, Hampshire fell in a heap. They were nought for three, nine for six, then 15 all out. Without four leg-sides byes, which wicketkeeper Tiger Smith should have prevented, it would have been really embarrassing.
On a good pitch, it was all to the bafflement of Phil Mead, who went in at number four and ended six not out. “Nobody bowled me anything I couldn’t play in the middle,” Mead reflected quizzically.
Tennyson had noted the trueness of the pitch, though. So when, with Hampshire 98 for three in their second innings at the end of the first day, the Hon Freddie suggested that the amateurs on both sides have a golf match on the scheduled third, the Hon Lionel laid a tenner on the table.
Calthorpe enthusiastically accepted – and started working out exactly how he might spend the tenner when Hampshire’s second innings hit 177 for six – still 32 behind.
Warwickshire faced a victory target of 314 and, with regard to the captains’ bet, it was game on.
But no cause was lost to the legendary George Brown. He dug in deep and found an equally resolute partner in number ten Walter Livsey. The ninth-wicket pair added 272.
By the time Brown fell for 172, Warwickshire’s bowlers had wilted and number 11 Stuart Boyes arrived to help Livsey add 70 for the last wickets.
Livsey ended with 110 not out in Hampshire’s 521 and Warwickshire’s first-innings bowling heroes had rather less attractive figures second time round: Calthorpe 49-8-154-3, Howell 63-10-156-3.
Warwickshire faced a victory target of 314 and, with regard to the captains’ bet, it was game on. The home side advanced solidly enough to 77 for one, then caved in to the swing of Alex Kennedy (four for 47) and the pace of Jack Newman (five for 53) and were all out for 158.
Hampshire won by 155 runs. It was Tennyson’s tenner. Has there ever been a more extraordinary game of first-class cricket?