In this week’s edition of In Search of West Indies Cricket, Roger Seymour examines the phenomenon elite batsmen experience, the euphoric sensation, where runs just seem to gush out of their bats for an extended period of time. It’s almost like being in a state of Nirvana. It’s 1929 and the MCC are on their way to the West Indies for the first official Test Series in the Caribbean.
“The Antique Roadshow” is a very popular British television programme in which experts go from town to town in the UK, and the residents bring their old treasures to be examined. These heirlooms are assessed for their condition, age and rarity. Sometimes a guest arrives with an item which has been sitting on the mantelpiece over the fireplace, or in the attic or basement out of harm’s way, for generations. It is only there for sentimental reasons because it belonged to grandpa’s brother or a long deceased relative, and the present guardian is anxious to discover its worth. Occasionally, it happens to be a rare item of great value, which had just been lost in the shuffle.
In the autumn of 1929, The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) had a unique problem on its hands. Most of the first choice amateurs and professionals were reluctant to make a winter tour as they wanted to be rested for the arrival of the Australians in April for the 1930 Ashes Series. The problem was further compounded by the fact that the MCC had agreed to conduct simultaneous tours of New Zealand and the West Indies, who had both been granted Test Status at the Imperial Cricket Conference in London, in May 1926.
Harold Gilligan, older brother of the incumbent England Captain, Arthur Gilligan (unavailable for health reasons), was chosen to lead the team to New Zealand, considered the weaker of the two opponents. Among this tour party was 42-year-old Frank Woolley and only four other players who represented England at Test level, albeit with only one cap each; K S Duleepsinhji, Ted Bowley, Fred Barratt and Geoffrey Legge. On September 27, 1929, Gilligan’s side departed for New Zealand.
The eighth English team to visit the Caribbean was announced on November 29, 1929 and was veteran in every sense of the word. The side was under the captaincy of 39-year-old Fred Calthorpe, who like Harold Gilligan, had never been selected for England. Calthorpe was familiar with the territory, having led a team from the MCC on a visit during the 1925/26 season. The selectees included 52-year-old Wilfred Rhodes, whose first England cap was earned back in 1899, and aside from a brief appearance in the 1926 Ashes Series had not represented England since 1921. George Gunn, in his 51st year, hadn’t worn an English sweater since 1912, and 42-year-old Nigel Haig, likewise, since 1921. Thirty-two-year-old Jack O’Connor had made his Test debut in 1928, Ewart Astill (41) had five caps, Major Ronald Stanyforth (38) had four Tests under his belt, and 39-year-old Andy Sandham’s last of ten Tests, had been in February 1925. Forty-year-old Patsy Hendren was still an England regular who had played in all five Tests in England’s 4-1 Ashes triumph Down Under in 1928/29.
The youngsters in the team, ie those under 30 included 29-year-old Greville Stevens (8 Tests), 28-year-old Bob Wyatt (7), and Leslie Townsend (0) who had celebrated 26 birthdays. The toddlers were the 24-year-old wicketkeeper Les Ames who had participated in a single Test and the uncapped 20-year-old Bill Voce who would later gain notoriety in the Bodyline Series.
Among those sitting at home in England were Jack Hobbs, 47, who had resisted the pleadings of a delegation from Jamaica in July 1929 and his opening partner Herbert Sutcliffe. Other regulars lying in wait for the Australians included Percy Chapman, the Great Wally Hammond, George Duckworth, Douglas Jardine, Harold Larwood, Maurice Leyland, Phil Mead, Jack White, Maurice Tate and George Geary. So there it was, one team, the cream of the crop, at home and two abroad, problem solved.
Calthorpe’s team celebrated Christmas dinner aboard The S S Carare, two days before docking in Bridgetown, Barbados. New Year’s Day 1930, saw the start of the first of two matches against Barbados at the Kensington Oval. Barbados, electing to bat first after winning the toss, were reduced to 182 for 7, but recovered to 345, due in the main, to an even century from Derek Sealy, his first at this level. The MCC were 173 for 3 at the end of the third day, with Hendren on 25 and Ames on 4. On the final day, ‘the Patsy Hendren Roadshow’ began. He was 223 not out, as the MCC plundered the Bajan attack for 513 runs. It was the final game for the great George Challenor, who opened the batting and made 51, before being bowled by Voce.
Hendren was an outstanding Middlesex middle order batsman and a survivor of active duty in World War I. He was a fearless hooker and puller of the ball and a brilliant out-fielder. A talented mimic, he had developed a reputation for entertaining the crowds when the action was slow in the field.
The second match began on January 6, with Barbados winning the toss and taking first knock. At the close of play Barbados were 246 all out with Sealy again leading the way with 77. When England resumed batting on the third day on 322 for 6, Hendren (51) and Townsend (31) were at the crease. In the previous match, Hendren had occupied the fourth spot in the line-up, now he batted in the seventh slot. The pair had added 323 for the seventh wicket when Townsend was dismissed for 97. Hendren remained undefeated on 211. Sandham, 103 and Wyatt 81 were the other main scorers in the MCC total of 560 for 7 declared. The Barbadian opening pair of Teddy Hoad (147) and Phil Tarilton (105) replied with a 26- run partnership, as Barbados reached 378 for 6. It was Tarilton’s farewell innings. The Challenor/Tarilton era in Barbados cricket had come to an end.
The West Indies Cricket Board had selection problems too. Due to financial constraints, the plan was to utilise a small unit of players as the core of the team and each colony would select the rest of the players from their own pool, one of whom would be appointed the captain. One of the core players was the young Jamaican, George Headley, who had to endure a fiery net session from Learie Constantine and Herman Griffith, the West Indies pacemen prior to the first Test.
First Test Match, 11 – 16 January, 1930; Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados
Teams: England: Gunn, Sandham, Stevens, Hendren, O’Connor, Ames, Haig, Astill, Calthorpe*, Rhodes, Voce*
West Indies: Roach, Hoad (Capt.), Headley*, de Caires*, Sealy*, Constantine, C R Browne, Walcott*, E L St Hill*, Griffith, Hunte* ( *Test debut)
Hoad won the toss, elected to bat first and the hosts compiled 369. Roach 122, de Caires 80, and the 17-year-old Derek Sealy 58, were the leading run scorers. England replied with 467, with Sandham (152) and Hendren 80, posting 168 for the third wicket. Headley responded with 176, ably supported by Roach (77) and de Caires (70), as WI accumulated 384. Only two and three-quarter hours were available to score 287 and the MCC were 167 for 3 at the close, as Ames (44) and Hendren (36) batted out the time. It was the first Test century for Roach, Sandham and Headley, with Roach’s being the first by a West Indian in Test cricket.
The first game versus Trinidad began on January 22, with a colony side winning the toss for the consecutive third time and electing to bat. Trinidad were bundled out for 150 with Rhodes taking 4 wickets for 30 runs. The MCC could only muster 167 in reply as Puss Achong grabbed 4 for 43. Hendren batting first wicket down contributed 40. Wilton St Hill’s 102 led Trinidad to 333, as Rhodes grabbed 5 more wickets, leaving the MCC a target of 317. Despite Hendren’s defiant 96, topscorer for the fourth consecutive innings against a colony side, the MCC lost by 102 runs.
The second match at Queen’s Park Oval, 27 – 29 January, was a low scoring affair won by the visitors by 22 runs. Scores: MCC 142 & 118; Trinidad 108 & 130.
Hendren batting at four topscored with 30 in the first innings, and made 12 in the second innings. Voce captured 12 wickets for 110.
Second Test Match, 1 – 6 February, 1930; Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad
Teams: England: Gunn, Sandham, Stevens, Hendren, O’Connor, Ames, Haig, Astill, Calthorpe, Rhodes, Voce.
West Indies: Roach, Hunte, St Hill, Headley, de Caires, Grell*, Small, Constantine, Betancourt(Capt.)*, Griffith, Achong*.
Calthorpe won the toss and elected to bat on the coir matting wicket. England recovered from 12 for 3, to a total of 208, thanks to Hendren (77) and Ames (42).
Griffith took 5 for 63. Fifties from Hunte and Constantine ensured a 46-run first inning lead for the home team. Achong twisted his ankle whilst fielding, and the weakened bowling attack was put to the sword by Hendren on February 4. By the close, England were 339 for 4, with Hendren (155) and Stevens (18) at the wicket. During the day, Ames (105) and Hendren added 237 for the 4th wicket in 225 minutes, as they became the first English players to score centuries on the Oval’s matting wicket.
Hendren duly completed his third undefeated double century of the Tour, 205, on his 41st birthday as Calthorpe declared at 425 for 8. His innings was seven minutes short of seven hours and contained 26 fours, 4 threes, 14 twos and 61 singles, as he rode the four chances provided by drop catches. Chasing 380 for victory, WI were dismissed for 212, with de Caires (45) and Headley (39), trying to stave off the inevitable defeat. Voce had match figures of 11 for 149. A collection was taken in appreciation of the batting displays by Hendren and Ames, and cheques of £50 and £25 were presented, respectively.
Hendren had now scored 1,010 first-class runs at an average of 168.20. Comparisons were being drawn to Wally Hammond on the 1928/29 tour of Australia, where, after 10 innings, he had accumulated 1,149 runs. Two of Hammond’s three double centuries, were scored in successive innings in Test Matches. Hendren’s 112th first class hundred had been made on a matting wicket, against two of the world’s fastest bowlers, Constantine and Griffith.
Next stop, British Guiana. The admission prices at Bourda were: Flagstaff – 90 reserved seats for all three games at $6 each; South Stand – $4 tickets for all three games, 3 shillings daily for the colony games, 4 shillings daily for the Test Match; North/North-West Stand – 1 shilling 6 pence daily for the colony games, 2 shillings daily for the Test Match; Rails – 12 cents daily for each colony match, 16 cents daily for the Test Match. Passes for the Ladies’ Pavilion were available at $4 each for the Series, but applicants had to be referred by a member of the Georgetown Cricket Club.
On February 11, the second day of the first colony match, Hendren, for the second time on the Tour, compiled a successive undefeated double-century, 254. He began the day on 52, which he had painstakingly accumulated on the previous day. Maurice Fernandes kept switching his bowlers around, in an attempt to curb Hendren, who scored 202 in 225 minutes, by Tea. His onslaught included 6 sixes and 25 fours. No bowler was spared his wrath, as C R Browne was deposited in New Garden Street and Fernandes was struck for 3 sixes in one over. Hendren’s 254 had eclipsed the recent record score on the ground, L S Birkett’s 253 for Trinidad against BG in October, 1929. The MCC’s total of 605 for 5 declared, was the highest total conceded by British Guiana, at home, in First Class Cricket. The 4th wicket partnership of 203, between Hendren and Townsend (60) was a new record for MCC in the WI. Sandham (112) and O’Connor (67) also had excellent contributions. Despite decent scores of 307 and 288, British Guiana duly lost by an innings and 10 runs.
The script was repeated in the next BG match, with the only change being BG batting first and scoring 264. The MCC replied with 555 for 7 declared. BG were dismissed for 184 and lost by an innings and 107 runs. Hendren plundered 147 not out on the second day, on the way to a final score of 171. Hendren and Ames (107) added 278 for the 4th wicket.
Third Test Match, 21 – 26 February, 1930; Bourda, Georgetown, British Guiana
Teams: England: Gunn, Sandham, Wyatt, Hendren, Ames, Townsend*, Haig, Astill, Calthorpe, Rhodes, Voce.
West Indies: Roach, Hunte, Headley, MP Fernandes (Capt), Sealey, CV Wight, Constantine, CR Browne, CEL Jones*, Francis and EL St Hill.
Fernandes won the toss and elected to bat. It will be remembered as the Clifford Roach day. Roach hammered 209, only to be dismissed at the close of play, with WI in the very strong position of 336 for 2. His innings had included 23 fours and 3 sixes. His opening partnership with Hunte (53) had yielded 144 runs and along with Headley, 60 not out, he had added 192 for the 2nd wicket.
The Fourth Test between England and New Zealand also commenced on February 21, at Eden Park, Auckland. The time difference meant that the last session of play on the first day in BG coincided with the start of play on the second day in New Zealand. Thus, two English Test teams were in action simultaneously, for less than 2 hours. (Sunday, February 23, was the rest day in BG, which was Monday in Auckland, the third and final day of the Series.)
On the second day, WI collapsed from 400 for 2, to 471 all out, with Headley being run out for 114. England were routed for 145 as Constantine and Francis grabbed 4 wickets each. As expected, the only resistance came from Hendren, with 56, batting in the fourth spot for the fifth successive match. Fernandes decided to forego the follow-on and bat again. Headley (112) became the first West Indian to score a century in each innings of a Test Match. Barbados born, BG resident, Browne, batting at number 9, made 70 not out as the WI scored 290. Set a target of 617 runs for victory, England finished the 4th day at 102 for 3, with Hendren on 17 and Ames on 3. England played for time and tried to save the match. At 181 for 7, Hendren found a worthwhile partner in Calthorpe. They took the score to 269 before Calthorpe was caught by Jones off of Roach for 49. Hendren was 9th out, lbw to St. Hill for 123, which included 21 fours. He had top scored in both innings, for the second successive Test, and for the third occasion on the Tour. It was the seventh instance in nine matches that he had made the highest score for his side.
When Voce was lbw to Francis for 2, with only a quarter of an hour remaining, England had been dismissed for 327. WI had achieved their first ever Test victory, in only their sixth Test Match, by 289 runs. Constantine took 5 wickets for 87 runs in the 2nd innings and had Match figures of 9 for 122. The Series was now tied 1-1.
Hendren’s form stumbled once the MCC arrived in Jamaica. In a two-day match against the Jamaica Colts, on March 19 & 20, at Sabina Park, batting at sixth, he was bowled for 1 in a drawn game. In the first match against Jamaica, at Melbourne Park, March 22 – 26, he could only muster 10 runs in the first innings, batting in the number four spot. In the second innings, he arrived at the crease following the Sandham (155) and Gunn (178) opening partnership of 322, and contributed 25 in the drawn game. He was finally rested for the second Jamaica game which was also drawn. Sandham (125) and Ames 142 not out were the leading scorers for the MCC whilst C C Passailaigue 183, led the hosts’ reply.
Fourth Test Match, April 3 – 12, 1930; Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica
Teams: England: Gunn, Sandham, Wyatt, Hendren, Ames, O’Connor, Calthorpe, Haig, Astill, Rhodes, Voce.
West Indies: Nunes (Capt), Roach, Headley, Martin, de Caires, Passailaigue*, Barrow*, DaCosta*, Scott, Griffith and Gladstone*.
As the Series was tied, it had been agreed that the Match would be played to a finish. England batted first and accumulated a mammoth 849. Sandham (325), Ames (149), Gunn (85), Hendren (61), Wyatt (58), O’Connor (51) feasted on the placid West Indies attack. The weary home side were dismissed for 286 in their reply, with only Nunes (66) passing 50. Calthorpe decided not to enforce the follow-on and England crawled to 272 for 9. Hendren, batting in his favourite position in the lineup, led the scorers with 55. WI had to score 836 to win the Match. At one stage, they were 271 for 1, with Nunes and Headley giving chase. At the close of play on April 10, they were 408 for 5, having slipped from 397 for 3. Headley, in a magnificent display of fighting spirit and batsmanship had scored 223. Nunes (92) had enjoyed a second wicket partnership of 237 with his fellow Jamaican. Play was washed out on April 11 and 12, and the sides agreed to a draw as the tourists’ boat was scheduled to depart the next day.
The oldest touring side in Test history had acquitted themselves well beyond most expectations. The average age of the team on April 12, 1930 was 37 years 188 days. The four oldest Test sides of all time had appeared in the four matches in the Caribbean in 1935. Sandham’s 325 was the highest score in Tests, until Bradman made 334 in the Ashes Series that summer. Sandham had accumulated 1,231 runs, including 6 centuries. Rhodes, the oldest Test cricketer, at 52 yrs and 165 days, had topped the bowling averages. Sandham, Gunn, O’Connor, Calthorpe, Haig, Astill and Rhodes never played Test cricket again.
The WI, despite a hopeless selection process, which resulted in 27 players appearing in four Tests still managed to draw their first Home Series. Headley, not yet 21, had set a new record of 703 runs, in a debut Series.
Hendren had scored a phenomenal 1,773 runs in 13 matches. His average in the Test Matches was a remarkable 115.50.
Australia won the Ashes 2-1 that summer.
Elias Henry ‘Patsy’ Hendren is well remembered for appearing in 1933, at Lord’s versus the West Indies, wearing the first ‘helmet’, to face Constantine and Martindale. In 1934, at the age of 45, he scored a magnificent 132 at Old Trafford, in an Ashes Test Match. His final Test Series in 1935, was quite appropriately in the WI, the scene of his best Test Innings, 205 not out at Queen’s Park Oval. In 51 Test Matches, he averaged 47.63 per innings.
Whenever cricket experts are discussing England’s best batsmen, the following names are often mentioned – Sir Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond, Phil Mead, Herbert Sutcliffe, Frank Woolley, Sir Len Hutton, Denis Compton, Tom Graveney and Colin Cowdrey. Hendren, 57,611 runs (a total exceeded only by Hobbs and Woolley) at an average of 50.80, including 170 centuries (a total surpassed only by Hobbs), seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle.
Vijay Merchant, the late Indian cricketer, liked to quote Hendren, “One should retire when he’s good enough to play on.”
Trivia Question: Has any visitor to the Caribbean ever scored four double centuries in a single tour since Hendren?