By Bryan Burns
We drew the cricket season to a close with just the Annual General Meeting and Annual Dinner left in the 2022 Brigands calendar. The dinner was, as usual, a great success and we were able to say a fond farewell to our outgoing Chairman, Nick Harris. He and his committee have done a fine job, particularly in this special year, and at the AGM, the following day, their successors were voted in to begin their time in office. They have a hard act to follow, but I am sure are up to the task and have the benefit of a Club in fine fettle.
I also attended the Hambledon Club at the Bat and Ball in late October. This is open to anyone who wishes to join and holds an annual lunch with a speaker from the cricket world, this year Mark Curtin, the Chief Executive of the Lord’s Taverners. By coincidence, I sat with Robin Brodhurst, the grandson of Harry Altham, of whom I have written of previously.
Harry was the key player in returning cricket to Broadhalfpenny Down and persuading the Navy at HMS MERCURY to take over the ground which led to the formation of the Brigands.
Also coincidentally, I ran the last two Brigands v Taverners matches in 1972 and 73, and, talking to Mark Curtin after lunch it was evident that he was keen for the Taverners to return to our historic ground, possibly in 2024. However, that year is the 60th anniversary of the first Rioteers match against the Brigands (which we know they wish to celebrate) and I think it may be the centenary of Winchester College taking ownership of the ground. It could be quite a year!
But back to Harry Altham, who was not only a master at Winchester, cricket historian, and first-class player himself (Surrey and Hampshire), but Treasurer of MCC, later becoming its President, and also Chairman of the Imperial Cricket Conference (now the International Cricket Council). He was also Chairman of selectors in the 1950s and chose the team to Australia in 1954/55 which comprehensively won the Ashes. However, this was the era of “throw and drag” - bowlers with bent arms being regularly no-balled by umpires and the back foot no-ball law which was impossible for umpires to adjudicate and often resulted in tall fast bowlers releasing the ball from about 19 yards!
Harry’s grandson Robin has produced a little book about this era centred on the correspondence between Harry, and Sir Don Bradman in Australia, as they tried to resolve disagreements between the then two major Test countries about how the laws should be adapted, for at one stage the heated debate threatened the cancellation of the Ashes series in England in 1961. As we now know the front foot law was introduced in 1963 but little changed for some years on the subject of throwing. It was only with high-speed camera technology and Muralitharan being no-balled for throwing 7 times in 3 overs by Darrell Hair in the Boxing Day Test of 1995 in Australia that the subject again caused controversy. This time ICC took action, introduced filmed assessments of bowlers, and various degrees of elbow extension until in 2005 15 degrees was agreed for all bowlers.
I cannot sign off without saying a very big thank you to Clive Barnett for producing the regular newsletter for several years, for which the final edition has been published; I hope members find the website equally rewarding and informative.
Season’s greetings to you all as we look forward to another year of great cricket in 2023.
Harry Altham on display in the Lord's pavilion