An Innings which “lasted three days”
In mid-Victorian times John Coker Egerton published a book ‘Sussex Folk and Sussex Ways’, with a series of interesting tales, including the one below.
“Cricket is our favourite summer game, though it rarely flourishes in any parish in which there is not some resident gentleman who gives it his personal encouragement.
It would seem that in times past our county produced players who were as giants to their degenerate successors. At one of our village matches, I happened to say that the man batting was having a good innings. This harmless remark was at once rebuked by a reference to days gone by. An old man said “It ain’t nothing to an inning I mind a man having when I used to be a carrier – he was in three days, and never out”.
I signified my admiration. “Yes,” added the man. “I know it was three days for I mind he was in when I went by with a broad wagon wheel to London [from Tunbridge Wells] and he was in when I came back.”
It was a single-wicket match it is true – so the man said … and this [story] has been verified to me. The match was between Mr Thomas Foster of Penshurst and Mr W Richardson of Leigh on the one side, and two well-known players Messrs Cooper and Driver on the other. It was played on Southborough Common sometime between 1816 and 1820. A nephew of Mr Foster, the hero of the three day innings, has kindly sent me this collaboration of the story which I casually heard on our cricket ground”.
I have consulted with John Knock and Nigel Shaw, the village’s two cricketing historians. They in turn have gone to some work done in the 1950s and 1960s by Tom Watson – a Leigh cricketer and historian. They have records of these early single wicket contests – much betted upon – and it seems that this particular game was played in 1820, although we do not know anything of W Richardson of Leigh.
(Chris Rowley: Nov 2010)