Wessex Cricket – Past and Future

In his comment here two days ago Chunter asked, “Zaheer Abbas, Itchen Abbas … Where will it end?” 

Composition VII - Three Grace by Theo van Doesgurg. Its companion piece Composition VIII - Five Abbases is missing. We can only speculate.

Indeed in the 1860s the Abbas family were strong enough to take on the Graces and the Pococks.  Among others from the family they could count on the very fine opener Milton Abbas, the controversially straight playing Melbury Abbas, the left arm lob bowler Cerne Abbas, whose rugged style seemed carved out of rock,  the inclement Winterbourne Abbas and of course Sherton Abbas, whose steepling catch that day was immortalized by Thomas Hardy in Far From the Maddening Crowd.

The fierce borderlands where it is difficult for the lone horseman to know whether he is in Dorset or Somerset or Wiltshire have always produced their share of celebrated cricketers.

Third Man still has vivid dreams of the time when the Squire took we rustics cricketers by “char-à-banc” to play a game of London cricket at Nether Bockhampton –  he and the gentlemen of our band insisting on the extra stumps and other unfamiliar ‘laws’ of the metropolitan form of the game.

Setting off! The by then Old Squire's char-à-banc still in use at the turn of the century ignites so many memories of journies to and from distant cricketing challenges

The side we encountered, led by the All England player, Tarrant Crawford, included Melcombe Bingham; Alton Pancras; the very quick round arm blacksmith, Toller Fratrum; the wicket keeper Caundle Marsh whose great grandson went on to keep for the Antipodeans; the poet and aesthete Hazelbury Bryan; Bradford Peverell; the suitably nicknamed Beer Hackett; the newspaper correspondents Sandford Orcas and Preston Plucknett – the later with an action suspected by many; Lychett Matravers recently returned from the East Indies; the philosopher Kingston Russell and their notcher, none other than Winfrith Newburgh.

If certain Radicals have their way at the ECB and five cricketing regions are created, Wessex cricket may yet have its best days before it.

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