Pages 08 – 09 / 1942
Page 09 / Right
Short essay on cricket and the Old Trafford Ground.
Continued from Page 07
Guardian’ or the Lunchtime edition of the ‘Evening News’ or the ‘Evening Standard’, made into a convenient paper cocket-hat?
Just opposite us is the white wicket gate by which the teams enter and leave the pavilion. (I hear that the pavilion has suffered slightly from enemy action since I last saw Blighty – but, not being ‘jerry-built’, it was not Jerry destroyed). That’s the gate that Walter Brealey, the fast bowler used to jump on his way out to bat. I say ‘to bat’ but in point of fact his batting was [so] notoriously rotten, that – according to legend – the wise old horse kept in those days to draw the roller between each innings used to get up automatically and go and put itself between the shafts as soon as it saw Walter coming in with his bat.
The Old Trafford crowd is extremely critical – but not usually loudly so, and its praise or blame is founded on a sound knowledge of the game. They miss little or nothing. The late Peter Eckersley was a deservedly popular skipper of the XI for a number of years – but nobody had any illusions as to his capacity as a batsman (except on rare occasions), although his fielding was superb, and his Captaincy very sound. “Now, lads, a Duck or your Dinner”, was a common cry; and any advance on double figures was greeted with hilarious applause. Yet, strangely enough, Eckersley could play a fine inning on occasions. I have seen him trounce the bowling of ‘Tich’ Freeman, Wright and Todd to the tune of 85 in as many minutes; and on another occasion he took 95 from the Sussex bowlers in great style, in a last wicket partnership of over a 100.
Walter Hammond is not very lucky at Manchester – nor is Sutcliffe nowadays. In 1928 however, I saw Wally Hammond score over 250 at Old Trafford and remain unbeaten, nothing more vivid or memorable can have been seen on that ground for many years. He punished McDonald unmercifully – and McDonald at that time was one of the fastest bowlers ever. Hammond drove him straight for 4 time and time again with a bat which was often gloriously and unashamedly croked [sp]. When McDonald tried to ‘bump them short’, Hammond hooked him superbly into the Pavilion with a sound like the crack of a whip. Ernest Tyldesley was doing the same thing to Larwood and Voce on the same ground in 1932. They bowled to him with 5 or 6 short legs crouched eager for blood – and “our Ernie” forced them to retreat, one by one, forced A.W. Carr (of all fieldsmen) to retreat by full-blooded hooks which would have gone straight through the side of a house, or so it seemed.
Roll on the time when such happy times as those will return; the Lunch interval at Old Trafford during a Bank Holiday match, hundreds of bottles of beer, and thousands of meat pies going the way of all flesh – small boys emulating their particular cricketing heroes, with an empty lemonade bottle for a bat and a tennis ball on the grass verge of the pitch – leather lunged gentlemen in white coats and cloth caps selling scorecards and the lunchtime edition of the evening papers – the click of the turnstiles as a steady stream of new arrivals swell the ranks of the thousands already present – dogs escaping from their owners to take a brief gallop across the sacred turf of the wicket itself – the steady hum from thousands of greetings, conversations, arguments, speculations and criticisms, all conducted in a spirit of light good humor.
(Continued:- Page 25)