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250 Years Ago

By Stephen Saunders

Tuesday 23 June 1772 was market day in Hambledon, Hampshire and on that day the first designated first-class match was due to take place in the village at Broadhalfpenny Down.

The official classification of a first-class match is one that is scheduled for three days or more duration between two sides of eleven players each with the opportunity to have two innings each.

The origin of the term “first-class match” is unknown but it acquired official status, though limited to Great Britain, in 1895 following a meeting of the leading English clubs and the MCC in May 1894. It was not until 1947 that the term was formally defined by the Imperial Cricket Conference and it was specifically stated then that the definition “will not have retrospective effect”.

So how have matches prior to 1895 been classified as first-class?

As there is no official definition applicable to this period it has been left to statisticians to come up with the criteria. So the classification is a statistical one, not an official one. As one would expect, in any group of experts, few statisticians agreed.

In Playfair Cricket Records Roy Webber says matches should be classified as first-class from 1864, (the introduction of Wisden Cricketer’s Almanac). Bill Frindall in his Wisden Cricket Records says 1815. The Association of Cricket Statisticians said that it should be from the first Gentlemen v Players match in 1806. Stumpsite always maintained that it should be 1772 and that, of course, ties in with the founding of the Hambledon Club. It is this date that has been accepted and acknowledged by cricket historians and statisticians.

Cricket matches had been played before this date by many of the players in this match, but 1772 is the first year for which scorecards have survived and this match is the first one of three in that year.

There is general confusion as to whether the team playing in this match was Hambledon or Hampshire and even the eminent writers on the history of the game cannot agree. Hampshire is recorded as playing matches before the formation of the Hambledon Club in May 1772. Further on June 2, 1772 a match is recorded at the Artillery Ground, London between five of Kent and five of Hampshire. The five of Hampshire were also all playing in the Broadhalfpenny match. Evidence does, therefore, lead to the team being Hampshire.

The Hampshire team had two given men in John Edmeads and William Yalden from Chertsey. Both these gentlemen later played in matches for Hampshire.

The team was captained by Richard Nyren, known as “The General”, who was the landlord of the Bat and Ball, Hambledon (previously known as the Hut). His first reported match was in 1759 and his last in 1784. The team contained the following regular Hampshire/Hambledon players:

  • Thomas Brett said to be the fastest and straightest bowler of his generation;

  • John Small generally regarded as the greatest batsman of the 18th century and as such was included in John Woodcock’s “100 Greatest Cricketers of All Time in 1997. He went on to the score the first first-class century in 1775 against Surrey and played his last match in 1798 at the age of 61;

  • Tom Sueter who was the team’s wicket-keeper and a proficient left-handed bat;

  • George Leer whose speciality was fielding at long-stop behind the wicket-keeper, especially to the bowling of Thomas Brett;

  • Peter Stewart (also known as “Buck” as he was a natty dresser) was a good batsman, especially on the off side and had a wicked sense of humour;

  • Edward Aburrow a decent batsman and useful change bowler. He played for All-England against Kent in 1744;

  • William Hogsflesh known as a medium pace bowler;

  • William Barber was a fast round-arm bowler with a high delivery and a free hitter. He took over the Bat and Ball, after Richard Nyren, which he ran for twelve years, being also the groundsman on Broadhalfpenny Down.

A formidable team, even without the given men. Their opponents were England (sometimes referred to as Kent, Middlesex and Surrey). From Kent were:

  • John Frame. A bowler of great renown who played for Surrey at the age of sixteen in 1749. He played for Kent in the five-a-side match along with May (Richard), Miller and Minshull. Nyren wrote that “he was an unusually stout man for a bowler”. He subsequently played two matches for Hampshire in 1773.

  • James Fuggles. A batsman who played in the three first-class matches in 1772 and a further one in 1773. His name does appear several times in the press recording matches in the 1760’s.

  • Richard May and his brother Thomas May. The brothers played a lot of matches together. Richard was a noted bowler, who later played one match for Hampshire in 1776. He was a yeoman and gamekeeper at Bourne Park who died in a drunken fit. Thomas was a batsman who is known to have played for Kent in the 1760’s and 1780’s.

  • Joseph Miller. Miller’s first name is confusing as records refer to him both as Richard and Joseph. He was one of the best batsmen in the 18th century and played against Hampshire in the two other first-class matches in 1772. Nyren stated him to be “firm and as steady as the Pyramids”, adding, “he and Minshull were the only two batters the Hambledon men were afraid of.”

  • John Minshull (sometimes referred to as John Minchin). He was employed by the Duke of Dorset as a gardener and playing for the Duke’s XI in August 1769 scored 107 against Wrotham. This is first definitely known century in any class of cricket. He also played in the other two matches in 1772. Nyren described him as “a capital hitter and a sure guard of his wicket” although his style was “both awkward and uncouth”.

  • Surrey provided:

  • William Palmer. He was a noted batsman who played for Coulsdon Cricket Club in Surrey who were Chertsey’s great rivals. Most of his career was in the 1760’s and 1770’s before statistical records began. He continued to play till 1776.

  • Childs. Little is known about Childs not even his initials. This is his first known recorded match and he played four first-class matches for Surrey in 1773. That same year, in August he returned to Broadhalfpenny Down, along with Palmer, White and Stevens, to play for Surrey against Hambledon Town and in September against Hampshire. The Surrey men then played on the Down again in 1774 for England v Hampshire, but Stevens was playing for Hampshire in this match.

  • Thomas White. He was a genuine all-rounder being successful as a batsman and change bowler. Like most of the others he started playing in 1760’s but he is best known playing in a match for Chertsey against Hambledon in 1771 when he appeared at the crease with a bat that was as wide as the wicket. Naturally the bowler, Thomas Brett, objected and a formal protest was made leading to a change in the laws to set the maximum width at four and a quarter inches.

  • The England team were also allowed a given man from Chertsey, Edward (Lumpy) Stevens. Stevens was recognised as probably the best bowler of his era. In 1775 playing John Small in a single wicket match he beat Small three times with the ball going straight through the stumps. This led to the introduction of a third stump.

  • This leaves one player by the name of Gill. This is his only recorded first-class match. He was previously recorded as playing two matches for All-England against Dartford in 1759 and described as a wicketkeeper from Buckinghamshire. Unfortunately Middlesex does not have any records from this period, so it cannot be established that he was from that county.

The match was played for a stake of 500 guineas. There were four balls per over and no extras were recorded. The bowlers and the forms of dismissal were not recorded nor was there any report on the match, so all that we have are the individual scores and totals


T Brett 11 2

W Yalden 5 9

J Small 78 34

T Sueter 2 9

R Nyren 9 4

G Leer 1 0

J Edmeads 0 6

P Stewart 12 11

E Aburrow 27 0

W Hogsflesh 0 4

W Barber 1 0

___ ___

146 79

___ ___


T White 35 6

J Fuggles 5 12

J Minshull 16 1

J Miller 11 0

Gill 5 2

W Palmer 13 8

T May 15 18

Childs 2 0

J Frame 2 4

E Stevens 5 7

R May 0 5

___ ___

109 63

___ ___

Hampshire scored 146 in their first innings, thanks to John Small who made 78, over half the runs. England were all out for 109; their highest individual score being 35 by Thomas White. In their second innings Hampshire scored 79, again mainly due to John Small who made 34. They then got England out for 63, winning by 53 runs.

Later that month, on June 30th, the first fully documented meeting of the Hambledon Club took place in the Broadhalfpenny Hut. The other two matches of the season for which records survive were also Hampshire versus England. The first was in July that year played at Guildford Basin, in Surrey which Hampshire won by 62 runs. The second was the following month at Bourne Paddock in Kent when England achieved their first victory by two wickets.

It is planned to celebrate the anniversary by enabling as many different forms of cricket and as many teams as possible to play on the Down during the season.

To mark the 250th weekend, preparations are in hand for an Old England XI vs a Hampshire All Stars XI on Friday 24 June, an Old England Women’s side vs a Hampshire Women’s side on Saturday 25 June and a local derby of Hambledon vs the Broadhalfpenny Brigands on Sunday 26 June.

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