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Hyphenated bowlers and other cricketing trivia

Hyphenated bowlers and other cricketing trivia

🕔07.Aug 2017

Back in January I ventured a blog lamenting the paucity of Birmingham-born international England cricketers. Despite the clear local/regional focus, the editor gently mused about my possibly confusing the Chamberlain Files with The Cricketer, writes Chris Game. 

I suppose, then, particularly given the season, he may well do so again – in which case, my apologies in advance to him and any feeling likewise (given I’m currently listening to TMS covering the fourth Test in the background, I’m open to a cricketing cul-de-sac, Ed.).

However, the stats-fest produced by the recent England-South Africa Test Match at The Oval presented an opportunity, and a link to that previous blog, simply too tasty to pass up.

The link, as it happens, isn’t England’s only bearded hat-trickster, Birmingham-born Moeen Ali, but Middlesex quick bowler Toby Roland-Jones, whose almost dream international debut produced several striking statistics. This blog will suggest, though, that R-J’s most celebrated feat was not statistically his most remarkable.

The rightly proclaimed achievement was taking five wickets in an innings in his first Test Match – particularly laudable here, as all five victims were top batsmen and his opening spell on the Friday afternoon effectively shaped the course of the whole match.

So, definitely exceptional, but statistically not that rare. Over Test Match cricket’s 14 decades, it’s been done on average at least annually, and by two bowlers playing in this very match – England’s James Anderson and South Africa’s Vernon Philander.

For me, anyway, the stellar R-J stat was his reportedly being the first English cricketer with a double-barrelled or hyphenated surname to take even one Test Match wicket since well before the First World War. It sounded incredible, but was it?

Either way, I guess you’re nearly as amazed as I was, though in my case I should declare a double-barrelled interest – to go with the double-barrelled name that I’ll henceforth call hyphenated, lest ‘double-barrelled’ cricketers be mistaken for Moeenesque all-rounders.

The first is that I actually touched on issues related to cricketers’ nominal hyphenatedness in my January blog. The second is that I both live and work on an estate still or once owned by the family of arguably England’s most eminent hyphenated cricketer.

That earlier blog was prompted by the presence of both Moeen Ali and the also Birmingham-born Chris Woakes in England’s current international squad. It was and is a very exceptional double presence.

First, for its sheer rarity. The last time two Birmingham-born players appeared together in the same England Test team – like, allegedly, the last Test wicket taken by a hyphenated English bowler – was pre-WWI.

Ali and Woakes are only the 9th and 10th Birmingham-born players out of 679 selected for England’s nearly one thousand Test Matches over 140 years. Which, I suggested, for a city that for 120 years has been at the heart of a First-Class cricketing county with a Test Match-standard ground, smacks of a systemically either biased or blinkered selectorial process.

Secondly, neither of them, despite their entirely differing family backgrounds and life histories, tick any of the boxes that contribute to the apparent modern-day biases in the selection system – summed up recently by Matthew Engel, former editor of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, as “three well-trodden routes into the national team: through independent schools, existing cricketing families, and, all too often, South Africa.”

Neither Moeen’s Moseley School nor Woakes’ Walsall Mixed Secondary feature prominently on the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference of independent schools; neither went to university, and neither, as you may have noted, is South African.

And, while the extended Ali family is certainly today something of a Kashmiri cricketing tribe, with Moeen’s brothers and (male) cousins having played at least minor counties cricket, it’s one that his generation has created, rather than benefited from.

By contrast, last week’s Oval team included, by my reckoning, five players from independent/public schools (including R-J) – down from eight just two years ago – five from prominent cricketing families, and two South Africans. Plus the one hyphen.

In today’s world, hyphenated surnames can signify almost anything. But traditionally in Britain they’ve been overwhelmingly about inheritance, the preservation of family wealth and estates, general upper-classness, and therefore the greatly enhanced likelihood of sons attending cricket-playing public schools.

So, could it really be that in 107 years not one of the surely hundreds of these hyphenated posh boys had proved good enough to make the England XI and take an actual wicket?  Well, asserts the cliché, it depends what you mean by hyphenated.

For over 30 years I’ve lived and worked on what is or was the huge Edgbaston Calthorpe – or Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe family – Estate, whose past benefactions include the lands on which both Warwickshire County Cricket Club and the University of Birmingham now flourish.

True, it’s a very extended family. However, if you share even two-thirds of the hyphenated name, are a decent public school and Cambridge University cricketer, and your county plays in your family’s one-time back garden, you’ve a fair chance of getting at least the odd game for that county team.

The Hon. Frederick Somerset Gough-Calthorpe did far better, captaining the Warwickshire team throughout most of the 1920s. It wasn’t the Bears’ greatest decade and they rarely finished above 11th in a 17-county championship table, but the amateur skipper obviously liked the idea of mucking in with the professionals – at least to the extent of being known as ‘Freddie’ and dropping the family hyphen.

And this, I suggest, is where the confusion arises, in what was the already confused winter of 1929-30, when England agreed to undertake two extended and coinciding overseas tours to New Zealand and the West Indies, both of which were keen to play their first international matches against the ‘mother country’.

The four-month West Indies tour (main pic) was shorter than the apparently prioritised six-month NZ one, but, whatever the reason, the captaincy of the WI touring party – whose average age incidentally was 38 – was given to the Hon FS Gough-Calthorpe, despite his never having previously played a Test Match.

Not surprisingly, he selected himself for all four Tests on the tour, two being drawn, one won comfortably, and one lost even more comfortably. Moreover, in the drawn match in Barbados he took a wicket. And furthermore, it’s clear – to me anyway – that the powers-that-be, responsible for determining the on-tour selection panel, regarded him as the definitely hyphenated ‘Freddie Gough-Calthorpe (captain)’.

So, in case you’ve forgotten where this started, the hyphenated Roland-Jones’ wicket-taking was the first for a mere 88 years, not 107 – though, given England cricket selectors’ clear public school predilections, I personally find even that somewhat surprising.

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