Third Man comes from a generation for whom Roy Webber and Arthur Wrigley were the great notchers; the principle scorers and statisticians of their age. For us Bill Frindall was an off-comer and, to be frank, a bit of an up-start whom we never could quite come to accept – altogether more obtrusive than either Roy or Arthur. They thought scorers should be neither seen nor heard.
TM is sure that most of his readers will be shocked by this opinion and criticism of the ‘The Bearded Wonder’. It is nothing personal (well it is really). It is not simply a function of familiarity and discomfort with change. The cult of the scorer, the primacy of statistics takes us away from the meaning of events.
The way such a reader may feel about Bill is the way TM felt about Roy, whose italic handwriting decorated our small black and white television screens. As a batsman made his way back to the hutch we waited for the ink to dry on his beautiful score card (literally) which was held up in rather shaky fashion to the camera probably with the aid of a collapsible music stand.
Roy was the invisible man in BBC television cricket coverage until his early and tragic death from a heart attack in 1962 when only 48. Among many publications he compiled two volumes of Test Cricket scores.
Over on the Third Programme Howard Marshall had selected (interesting term) Arthur Wrigley to assist him in his commentary on the England v Australia Test match at Old Trafford in 1934, the same year in which Arthur had been ‘invited’ (another interesting term) to join the playing staff of the Lancashire County Cricket Club.
On Roy’s death, Arthur took up one of Roy’s mantles when he produced The Book of Test Cricket published by the Epworth Press in 1965. For TM it could be said that Test cricket stopped at the Oval in 1964, which was chronologically the last scorecard in the book.
Where TM’s treasured 1961 copy of Wisden gave him all those glorious records from throughout cricket and the details of every first class match played the previous season, The Book of Test Cricket gave him the scorecards of every Test that had ever been played, a page for each, as if TM had bought them from the Print Room on each Test match ground. Reading the 62 mm thick tome was more hushed, more reverential.
Opening it now at random at page 174 instantly transports Third Man to Brisbane in November 1954 and the titanic 153 and 162 of Morris and Harvey in Australia’s 601 for 8 declared.
And what of that 1934 Old Trafford Test when Wrigley silently assisted Marshall? It is on page 142: Hendren 132 and Leyland 153 in England’s 627 for 9 declared. Match drawn when, with McCabe (he must have been good) scoring137, Australia made 491 to save the follow on.
But in his introduction to The Book of Test Cricket, Arthur reminds his readers that Neville Cardus, after watching an innings of Walter Hammond wrote, “The scoreboard can never tell you half the truth about a great batsman. I am prepared to argue that when a Trumper, Hutchings, J.T. Tyldesley or Maclaren is at the wicket the true lover of the game often forgets the existence of the scoreboard.” How lovely is the use of that ‘is’ stoutly refusing to give way to a ‘was’.
In that sentence we meet full square the imagination of the greater writer. It refuses to be contained by facts and figures. It desires to roam free. In fact that sentence can be seen as A Manifesto of the Imagination.