1926 And All That

As the cricketing world waits for the start of the 2nd Test in Adelaide tomorrow night, Third Man has taken his Mark III time machine back to a very wet Trent Bridge in June 1926 – one month on from the General Strike, one year on from Britain’s disastrous return to the Gold Standard, eight years on from the end of the Great War.

That day’s action (and others in that summer) were captured by Pathe News. A 14 minute compendium of their news reels can be viewed here.

A crowd of 20,000 had turned up to watch the first day’s play.  Their numbers contained those who only days before had been striking and those who only those same days before had been volunteering to keep services running. 

However, these were the men who a decade before had fought together side by side, making the best of unimaginable circumstances.  They would not be divided for long.  Now they stood together again, making the best of the delay in the start of play caused by incessant rain.

These, who had witnessed the horrors of that war, who had lost comrades and some of the best years of their lives, who still had nightmares that kept their memories sharp, were determined to enjoy their cricketing heroes in their encounters with their erstwhile comrades in arms, the Australians.

England had last won a series against them in 1912 – it could have been a hundred years ago for all that they had experienced in the intervening years.  They would lose themselves in the cricketing feast before them, but they understood its proper proportion in the scheme of things.

In 1921 the Australian fast bowlers had been dominant, but in 1926 only Gregory remained.  The England openers, Hobbs and Sutcliffe,  never failed to better 50 runs in their six completed partnerships.  In a rain affected series they scored 486 (av 81) and 472 (av 78.66) respectively.  For Australia, ‘The Governor General’ and survivor of the 1909 tour, Charles Macartney  whose fortieth birthday would fall on the rest day of the Lord’s Test made 473  (av 96.60).

On the opening day of the series the start of play was delayed by rain.  When, in gloomy conditions, the players did manage to get onto the field at 12.15, England scored just 32 runs before further rain drove them off for good.

Gregory was quick but at the other end Collins used the slow left arm of Macartney, bowling negatively from over the wicket on a leg stump line to a field with three short legs.

To remind us of the playing conditions operating in those days, the film shows the wicket fully covered while everyone waited for play to begin but, then, just two short covers over the creases after play had begun.  It rained heavily again on Monday and Tuesday and no further ball was bowled in the match.

When the ending of the General Strike had been announced some employers wished to turn the surrender into a rout.  They and the Baldwin Government were not able to do so because, on the hint of this, the many former soldiers among the volunteers made it clear that they would have no part in such a campaign.

They were all off to the cricket, together, no matter the weather.

Tomorrow we follow the crowds to Lord’s.

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