Wisden 1920-1929

The Wisdener (the newsletter of the Wisden Collectors’ Club) thought it might be of interest to members to put together an outline of Wisden content and information. We are very grateful to John Pratt, who emigrated to Australia as a £10 Pom back in 1963, but who shouts louder than most at the fall of an Aussie wicket, for the following article…thank you John.



How would English people have viewed the twenties? It must have been with tremendous relief that they left the war behind. Yet their problems with Ireland were still simmering and unemployment was to become a nightmare.
There was the General Strike in 1926, the year Germany joined The League of Nations. Hitler had emerged and was busy in prison, for the most part, writing Mein Kempf. The Russian civil war was bubbling along; Stalin was expelling anyone who stood in his way. Germany was writhing under the oppression of the Treaty of Versailles. Then in 1929, Wall Street collapsed, an event which ignited the Great Depression. No, the world could hardly have been a happy place.

From a more positive perspective it is possible to see progress. Technology was stirring. In 1920 the first radio station went on air in the U.S.A. and in 1922 the B.B.C. made its first broadcast. The same year production of the Austin 7 commenced in Oxford and by 1927 there was a transatlantic telephone service between London and New York. Television was being demonstrated and in 1929 London unveiled The Great West Aerodrome later to be named Heathrow.

In the arts George Gershwin dreamed up Rhapsody in Blue, Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front and the Italians privately published D.H. Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. It was to take 42 years, and a famous court case before the English were able to do likewise.

So what of cricket and Wisden in this quagmire? It was a mixed bag as usual. On the bright side there was the emergence of Walter Hammond, Maurice Tate, Harold Larwood and Douglas Jardine and for the Australians Don Bradman, but Wisden suffered a savage blow with the sudden passing of Sydney H. Pardon in November 1925. His association with the almanack dated back to 1887 and his editorship to 1891. One of Mr Pardon’s associates, Mr Charles Stewart Caine, a charming gentleman by all accounts, was on hand to take over the editing role.

The Wisdens for the post war era up until the end of Mr. Pardon’s stewardship were highly accurate, missing none of the regular features or data for which the almanack had become renowned. Indeed his indefatigable work on sections in the obituaries, the much respected 5 cricketers of the year and his contribution to the match reports all received his painstaking attention, along with the preface and the editor’s notes. One cannot, however, escape noticing a subtle decline in the bible’s vitality during this short period. There is sadness in the almanack and the merest suggestion that his great vocation was perhaps becoming a touch laborious to him. Independent articles all but disappear and in the 1920 issue there is not surprisingly both an air of exhaustion and relief.

He seems to have become increasingly disappointed about things happening in the first class game. The counties two day match experiment, fielding standards, pad play, the Australian request for 8 ball overs, all receive the hard edge of his tongue and were barely balanced by his enthusiasm for other more amiable events. Could it be he was feeling his age? or was he already suffering ill health? We shall never know. Certainly his editorial standards did not diminish, although, of course, the war had taken its toll, including a large number of his friends and associates. Sydney Pardon took Wisden from being one of a number of cricket journals available to the public in the nineteenth century to a pre-eminent position in the games reporting and history. It became renowned and respected the world over. Its 348 pages in 1887 had mounted to just over a thousand pages; by the time he passed on it had become “The Cricketers’ Bible” and a journalistic icon in every respect.

In the 1920 Wisden we find the counties wandering back to the Championship like brown cows. The number of matches played by each side varied considerably. Yorkshire 26; Lancashire 24; Surrey and Sussex 20 each; Essex 18; Hampshire and Gloucestershire 16 each; Kent, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Middlesex and Warwickshire each played 14, Somerset and Northamptonshire both played 12 and Worcestershire did not participate playing only a handful of friendly fixtures. However, they did meet their promise to return to the Championship the following year. This first post war year of cricket was the season of the two day match experiment, it proved unpopular although crowd attendances, perhaps, because people had been deprived of cricket for so long, were described as excellent. The match at Taunton between Somerset and Sussex must have excited a few locals, it ended in a tie. Jack Hobbs made a guest appearance at the head of the national bowling averages taking 17 wickets at 11.82!

Significant obituaries during the decade included William Caffyn, D.W. Gregory, E. Wainwright and Gregor MacGregor in the 1920 Wisden the latter receiving a tribute by D.H.A. Jephson who himself passed away in 1926. John Shuter of Surrey left us in the 1921 almanack and in the 1922 issue W. Gunn, S. Haigh and A. Mold all slipped away. The 1923 book records the last of C.G. Lyttelton- Lord Cobham, F.S. Crawford who fell to pneumonia aged 43 “The war having left him with a much impaired constitution”, and R.D. Walker of the famous Middlesex Southgate family. In 1924 Mr Pardon paid tribute to A.P. Lucas as he
did A.C. Bannerman and J.H.Broad in the 1925 almanack. In fact he even managed to write four more obituaries in the 1926 Wisden before his own demise, one of whom was Captain Robert St. Leger Fowler M.C. 34 years of age and the hero of the 1910 Eton v Harrow match. F.R. Spofforth received a tribute from Lord Harris in the 1926 issue. The following year it was the turn of The eighth Earl of Darnley the Hon. I.F.W. Bligh, W. Attewell, G. Giffin and JJ. Lyon. Finally in 1928 the Sussex wicket keeper and first class umpire, H.R. Butt. Yorkshire’s Roy Kilner aged 37, and S.P. Kinnier of Warwickshire all met their end.

There are but two names to add to this list, left until now because they were the inspiration of the famous lines of Francis Thompson:

“The field is full of shades as I near the shadowy coast.

And a ghostly batsman plays to the bowling of a ghost.

And I look through my tears at a soundless-clapping host.

As the run-stealers flicker to and fro

To and fro,

Oh my Hornsby and my Barlow long ago!”

According to Wisden R.G. Barlow departed this world in 1919 and Mr Hornsby followed him in 1926.   

The Championship moved back to three day matches in 1920. P.F. Warner captained Middlesex to the head of the table in his triumphant last season of first class cricket. A talented seventeen year old Walter Hammond made his debut for Gloucestershire. The Australian Imperial Forces Team took over the domestic fixtures declined by The Australian test team; they didn’t play the test matches but fulfilled the domestic games against the counties with enjoyment and a good share of success. Late in the season, playing at Northampton P.G.H Fender, bespectacled and wearing but one batting glove, as was his habit, made history plundering the fastest century in first class cricket bringing up his hundred in 35 minutes. Wisden’s contribution to its edition was a whopping price increase from two and sixpence to five shillings! In addition it published an article on “Modern Batting and the law of Ibw” by The Hon. R.H. Lyttelton, a pen picture of P.F. Warner by the editor and
a statistical analysis of “Tom Hayward in the field” by Major R.O. Edwards.

Glamorgan joined The Championship in 1921. No fewer than five bowlers took all ten wickets in an innings and M.C.C. passed a rule to enable Australia to play cricket using the eight ball over. The 1922 Wisden contains a further article on Modern Batting, this time by C. Toppin and Major R.O. Edwards continued his statistical theme with “George Hirst in the cricket field”.

In the early years of the twentieth century when issues of players’ registration and qualification occurred M.C.C. and Kent C.C.C. came to the fore. Presiding over these two institutions was cricket’s foremost autocrat, Lord Harris. In Walter Hammond floundered against his Lordship’s intransigence over his right to play first class cricket for Gloucestershire. Hammond had been born in Dover but had left England with his family as a small child. He returned years later to complete his education in Cirencester. Over a three year period, from the ages of 17 to 19 he had played 10 matches for Gloucestershire at a batting average of 7.80! His Lordship upon learning Walter had declined an invitation to play for Kent had the boy suspended for most of the 1922 season. Surprisingly Wisden failed to comment on this sordid affair and Stuart Caine is very careful when he does refer to it in the 1928 issue with the pen picture of Hammond as one of the five cricketers of the year. It appears the cricket power of Lord Harris reached far beyond the portals of Lords. Although to be fair to
Sydney Pardon, Hammond was relatively unknown at the time. On a brighter  note this was the season that a struggling slow bowler in Sussex took the advice of a mentor and changed his bowling delivery to become one of the few truly great medium fast bowlers of the game. By so doing Maurice Tate also transformed his cricket career. There was also a remarkable encounter between Warwickshire and Hampshire in the Championship that season.

Hampshire having been bowled out for 15 in their first innings made 521 in the second, George Brown scoring 172 and Walter Livsey 110. Hampshire won the match by 155 runs having been led on the first innings by 208 runs. C.G. Macartney reminded us the Australians were in town with an innings of 345 in a day at Trent Bridge against Nottingham, a record which stood for 72 years. Wisden published a bibliography of cricket by AJ. Gaston; an article entitled “Umpires Decision” by Lord Harris; Major R.O. Edwards added J.T. Tyledesley and D. Denton to his statistical theme “In the Field” and there was a piece
entitled “Hendren at Lords since the war”.

The 1923 season saw 12 all rounders achieve the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets, Maurice Tate did so for the first time. He must have been a bit weary though, by the end of the season he had completed 1,608 overs and taker 219 wickets. Harold Larwood and Douglas Jardine made their debuts for Nottinghamshire and Surrey respectively. Patsy Hendren scored 3010 runs at 77.17 and 28 bowlers took over 100 wickets. Sixty batsmen exceeded 1,000 runs, it must have been a wonderful summer. Although the editor was not happy, feeling that some change was needed to the LBW law to re-create an
acceptable balance between bat and ball.

The public schools review fell to H.S. Altham, cricket’s noted historian andHampshire cricketer. He fulfilled this responsibility for the next four years. The 1925 Almanack reported Maurice Tate’s test debut during the 1924 season and Jack Hobbs passing W.G’s 126 centuries with two of his own at Taunton. An article entitled “The Googly” by B.J.T. Bosanquet first published in The Morning Post and one by the editor headed “A Bygone Phase of Cricket” both appeared in this same issue, the latter piece being a short essay on the importance of the matches between The All England and The United All
England elevens during the 19th century.

The season itself was a wet one, so wet M.C.C. encouraged counties to cover their wickets prior to the commencement of play; there was a disagreeable encounter between Yorkshire and Middlesex at Sheffield which prompted Middlesex to suggest they would not play the fixture in 1925. A decision they later withdrew. This issue proved to be the final Almanack edited by Sydney Pardon.

Thus in 1926 Wisden emerged with a new editor, C. Stuart Caine. His notes included comment on the new ruling to allow for the covering of wickets prior to the commencement of play and a dissertation on the sharp practice of ball tampering. H.S. Altham in his public school review tells of a long hot summer and the effects of drought on grass wickets and in particular practice strips. There is also a tribute to Jack Hobbs headed “Hobbs and his hundreds” which usurped the annual cricketers of the year section.

The 1927 Wisden reports F.E. Lacey’s retirement from the position of secretary M.C.C. an event which induced comments from the almanack’s editor reflecting the style and achievements of Mr Lacey with those of his predecessors in the role. Harold Larwood made his Test debut and Walter Hammond missed the entire season suffering from illness and injuries
sustained on a tour of the West Indies. There is an article from J.W. Trumble entitled “Cricket Reform” and the editor’s notes include comment on the need to extend the playing hours in test matches, the rules for the qualification of overseas players, marled wickets get another dose of invective and he dismisses the call for a smaller ball saying “Once authorities start tinkering with the implements of the game there is no telling where reforms will end”.

The weather is a feature in the editor’s notes of the 1927 season, he also debates the pros and cons of captaincy by amateur or professional players and he comments on the extraordinary batting performances of W.H. Ponsford in Australian domestic cricket. There is an article entitled Oxford Memories by Lord Harris. Walter Hammond was the leading run maker for the season with 2,969 runs at 69.04 this included over a thousand runs in May; it did not secure him top rank in the national batting averages, however, D.R. Jardine with 91.09 preceded him as did C. Hallows, C.P. Mead and E. Hendren, all in the 70’s. It did, none the less, procure for him a tour of South Africa in which he made his Test debut later in the year.

We come now to the last Wisden of the decade. England’s cricket has recovered from the war; we have seen the elevation of Tate, Larwood and Hammond to the test ranks. In 1928 D.R. Jardine also made his debut in Test cricket. C. Hallows of Lancashire scored over 1,000 runs in May but it was the diminutive A.P.(Tich) Freeman of Kent who stunned everybody taking 304 wickets for the season completing 1,976 overs in doing so, he was ably assisted by the 23 year old Lesley Ames, who in his first season of county cricket achieved the wicket keepers’ double including 52 stumpings, mostly off Freeman’s bowling. Ames went on to complete the double again in 1929. Mr Podmore succeeded H.S. Altham producing the public school review. There is an article headed “My years at Cambridge” by G.H. Longman and the editor in his notes laments the use of the leg as a second line of defence, takes another swipe at marled wickets and talks through changes in the Championship which will allow for each competing team to play 28 matches per season. Test matches are still three day events. Don Bradman just squeezes into this decade with his first class debut recorded in December 1927, in the words of Wisden “Bradman joined the select group of cricketers who have scored a century in their first Sheffield Shield match”.

During the decade Middlesex won 2 Championships, Lancashire 3 and Yorkshire 5. There was no competition for the Sheffield Shield in 1918-19, however, after this N.S.W. and Victoria won 4 each with South Australia winning one. In South Africa the Currie Cup was contested 6 times Transvaal winning 4 and Western Province 2. New Zealand introduced the Plunket Shield
with Wellington prevailing twice and Auckland once. There were 51 test matches played, England won 18, there were 16 draws Australia won 14 and South Africa 3. West Indies played their first Test series against England without success. Wisden reported sundry tours by M.C.C. and others to and from Denmark, South America, West Indies, India and Canada in
which no test matches were played. Australia and New Zealand also visited each others’ shores without playing tests.

My Wisden for the decade would be the 1924 with its coverage of what must have been a magnificent cricketing summer in 1923.