Cricket at Lord’s in 1865 © Getty Images (representational photo)
Cricket at Lord’s in 1865 © Getty Images (representational photo)

Frederick Buckle was not an outstanding player, but he remains a cricket fan’s delight for his performance in a match that started on July 12, 1869. Abhishek Mukherjee explains why.

Frederick Buckle was, to put it politely, an ordinary cricketer. He played only 15 First-Class matches, all for Surrey, across six seasons, and didn’t exactly set the world on fire during any of these. He never went past 31 with bat and took 6 wickets in all — though his profile does bear an apologetic “occasional wicketkeeper” tag.

Middlesex were based at Lillie Bridge Grounds, West Brompton at that time. They would stay at Lillee Bridge till 1872 before moving on to Prince’s Cricket Ground, Chelsea. They would finally turn to Lord’s, in 1877.

But they needed a ground to host Surrey. Lillie Bridge was far from being one. So poor was the turf that it would host only two First-Class matches in its history, both in May 1871.

Instead of opting for Cattle Market Ground, Islington, where they had played their first ever match (in 1864) they chose Lord’s. Despite its rich history, Lord’s was far from being an excellent cricket ground: the terrible pitch would cost George Summers his life in 1870.

It was not the most auspicious day for Surrey in terms of players’ availability. Wisden reported that “[HH] Stephenson was too ill, [Thomas] Humphrey too lame, Mr. [Charles] Potter unavailable…,” which meant that replacements had to be summoned.

Buckle was one of these call-ups. Unfortunately, he could not make it to see Middlesex being bowled out for 96 in under two hours. James Southerton and James Street bowled unchanged to take 5 wickets each.

The Surrey men hoped their replacement to show on time, but he unfortunately buckled under the maze of the 19th-century London traffic. His teammates did not help his cause either, losing all 9 wickets in “about one hour” for a paltry 37 to Thomas Hearne and George Howitt.

They waited, but the poor teenager was nowhere to be seen. Umpires Frank Farrands and James Grundy marked him absent. While the official scorebook read an innocent absent hurt, the scorer’s book read

F Buckle not sent for in time 0

Buckle eventually did show up. He caught Hearne off Street as Middlesex reached 89. A target of 149 looked formidable, but Swainson Akroyd and William Mortlock took the score to 43 without loss by stumps.

But Howitt and Hearne struck again next morning, and Middlesex were bowled out for 105 after being 99 for 5. Once again they lost only 9 wickets — for despite fielding and taking a catch the previous day, the scorer had to jot down the following words:

F Buckle unwell 0

Brief scores:

Middlesex 96 (James Southerton 5 for 45, James Street 5 for 46) and 89 (James Southerton 4 for 37, George Griffith 5 for 23) beat Surrey 37 (George Howitt 3 for 21, Thomas Hearne 6 for 12) and 105 (George Howitt 6 for 54, Thomas Hearne 3 for 33) by 43 runs.