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Dudley and Sydney Rippon – the twins who opened the innings for Somerset

Steve and Mark Waugh are two of cricket's most illustrious twins © Getty Images
Steve and Mark Waugh are two of cricket’s most illustrious twins © Getty Images

Dudley Rippon and Sydney Rippon, born April 29, 1892, were identical twins who often opened the batting for Somerset on either side of the First World War. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the lives and careers of the two men who enjoyed reasonably successful First-Class careers and served with distinction in the Great War.

Seeing double: “It’s double the giggles and double the grins, and double the trouble if you’re blessed with twins” For Somerset, it turned out to be double the runs as well on either side of the First World War.

The Waughs — Steve and Mark — were the most successful twins to ever play Test cricket. The Bedsers; Eric and Alec, perhaps lay claim to the most celebrated identical twins of cricket.

Later, Hamish and James Marshall became the first identical twins to play in a Test match for men. In the women’s game, they had been preceded by another pair of New Zealanders – Rose and Liz Signal. Half a century earlier, Australian ladies Fernie and Irene Shevill both appeared in the first ever Women’s Test Series in 1934-35, but did not play in the same Test.

Then there is the curiosity of another pair of Bedsers, also named Alec and Eric, who hailed from East London and did fairly well in South African grade cricket. And one cannot help but mention in passing the Zimbabwean twins, Everton Zvikomberero Matambanadzo who played three Tests as an opening bowler and Darlington Matambanadzo who turned out for Mashonaland.

The Rippon twins, Dudley and Sydney, predated all such fraternal connections and opened the innings together for Somerset. And they were contemporaries of the Dentons – Billy and John – another identical pair, who opened the batting for Northamptonshire.

In the championship match at County Ground Northampton in 1914, the Dentons opened the innings against Somerset and put on 19. John fell for 12, but Billy batted on to score 74. The Rippon twins walked out in response to the 410 scored by the hosts, and managed just one run between the two. Following on, they did somewhat better, Dudley getting 11, Sydney 32. Northants won by an innings.

Having to keep track of identical batsmen in whites would have been difficult enough. Who knew whether an in-form brother surreptitiously changed ends after a mid-pitch conference between overs?

However, there was even more confusion in store for the officials. In the 1919 season, Sydney Rippon was working for the Inland Revenue and had not been given permission to play for Somerset. When Gloucestershire visited Taunton, he applied for sick leave and crept to the ground. In order to ensure that his employers did not find out, he batted under the name of his maternal grandmother – Trimnell. S Trimnell walked out at No 4 and made 92, which was the highest score of Sydney till then. The Times complicated issues further by referring to him as S Grinnell.

The local papers tried their best to unmask the real cricketer – claiming that although Trimnell was a new name, he was in no way new to county cricket. Western Daily Press was quite blunt in remarking that Trimnell “was far better known facially to Somerset cricketers and supporters than he is to the general public.”

By the time the 1920 edition of Wisden appeared, the cover had been busted, and the innings was recorded under the genuine name. The publication noted: “A. E. S. Rippon, who played under an assumed name, enjoyed by far his biggest success during the season.” Fortunately, Inland Revenue took the news in good spirit.

The year 1919 was also virtually the last season for Dudley Rippon. His war wounds would keep him from appearing for his county, and the only match he played in 1920 produced a duck against Surrey. However, he did have his moment of triumph in his final full season. Against Essex at Leyton, the twins put on 144 for the first wicket. Dudley went on to score 134, his highest in First-Class cricket.

Sydney played fairly regularly through the next decade, and also made a comeback at the age of 45 and represented the county again in 1937.

Two to tango: lbert Dudley Eric Rippon and  Arthur Ernest Sydney Rippon were born within a few minutes of each other on April 29, 1892 at Kensington, London. The family relocated to Radstock in Somerset, and the twins attended the King’s College, Taunton. The tales of the scholastic years were etched with runs, wickets and confusion due to their uncanny resemblance.

After leaving school, Dudley joined the Bath newspaper as a correspondent and played for a local team. Sydney turned out for the Knowle Cricket Club in Bristol and continued to pile up runs.

It was Dudley Rippon who first made it to the Somerset side of 1914, as a right-handed opening batsman and a right-arm medium pacer. Playing at The Oval against a Surrey side that included Jack Hobbs, he scored 32 and eight on debut and captured three first innings wickets. In his next game, he established himself by carrying his bat for 87 against a Kent attack boasting of Colin Blythe.

Sydney joined his brother in the Somerset team in the following match – as another right-handed opening batsman getting an occasional trundle. He scored two and a duck against Surrey on a dreadful wicket at the Recreational Ground, Bath. Dudley did somewhat better with 14 and 33. And in the next match, against Sussex, Dudley carried his bat again, scoring his first hundred, remaining unbeaten with 105 while batting most of the innings with a runner. The twins enjoyed their first fruitful stand at the top of the order, putting on 75.

Sydney did score 60 against Gloucestershire, but did not play for the rest of the season. Dudley continued to enjoy a fair amount of success. Against Yorkshire at Bramall Lane, he captured five wickets for 107 and top scored in both the innings. Although the Somerset side managed just 90 and 127, Dudley, with a limited extent, managed to hold his own against Wilfred Rhodes and the others, scoring 17 in the first innings and 30 in the second.

The War Years: When Britain joined the First World War in August 1914, Dudley was commissioned into the horse transport section of the Army Service Corps as a second lieutenant. Sydney was made second lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers, initially in its reserve third battalion.

Dudley joined the Gallipoli Campaign in November 1915 and was badly wounded in action. Due to his injuries, he was discharged with a Silver War Badge and the honorary rank of lieutenant.

Soon after that, in 1916, Sydney was transferred to one of the new service battalions being formed as part of ‘Kitchener’s Army’. He was one of the troops that entered the Western Front in France in May of that year. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1917. Wounded in a later operation, Sydney resigned his commission in January 1918 and was also issued with the Silver War Badge.

In October 1918 Dudley was back in the War effort as a second lieutenant, in the Administrative Branch of the fledgling Royal Air Force, operating from Edmonton, London. When the War ended, both the brothers carried injuries. Yet, both made their ways back to the Somerset side of 1919.

Post-War: After the War, Sydney joined the Inland Revenue and was later appointed an Inspector of Taxes. As mentioned, it was as an employee of Inland Revenue that he feigned sickness to turn out against Gloucestershire.

For Dudley, the 1919 season was moderately successful but there was every indication that his war wounds would not allow him to continue playing for long. After the solitary match in 1920, in which he could not participate in the second innings because of his old injuries, he called it a day. Dudley became a cricket correspondent first with the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and then for Daily Chronicle.

Sydney Rippon, however, continued to turn out for Somerset through the next ten years. He scored his first century against Sussex in 1920 and hit 118 against Glamorgan in 1921, adding 189 with Peter Randall Johnson for the first wicket.

After the 1921 season, he was not really a certainty in the side. But he played with fair amount of regularity till 1929, notching up four more hundreds. His highest innings was 133 against Worcestershire in 1927 at the Knowle ground. According to Wisden: “He wore down the attack … showed such patience in waiting for the right ball to hit that he did not give a chance.” He also had a minor taste of international cricket when he played for the Civil Service against New Zealand in 1927.

The following year, 1928, he opened the innings for the Gentlemen against the Players. He scored a duck in the only innings he batted during the rain interrupted match at The Oval.

Sydney Rippon made a comeback in 1937, after a gap of eight years, at the age of 45. However, he did not really blaze the turf, managing just 172 runs at 14.33 with a highest of 28.

Dudley Rippon had retired after 1043 runs from 31 matches at 20.05 with two hundreds. He had also picked up 37 wickets at 30.00 apiece. Seventeen years down the line, Sydney Rippon played his last match and walked away with 3823 runs from 104 games at 21.59 with six hundreds. He bowled a lot less than his brother, and picked up just three wickets.

While Dudley remained in touch with the game through his job as a cricket correspondent, Sydney worked in the civil services. After his retirement, he qualified as a barrister at the age of 60. After his First-Class days, he played his cricket for Hampton Wick in Middlesex.

Sydney’s son Geoffery Rippon later became a member of the UK Conservative Party and was a minister in the government of Edward Heath.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

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