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Hamilton Hamilton, born May 28, 1853, was perhaps limited as a cricketer but his curious name made his appeal endless to the connoisseurs of cricketing trivia. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the life and career of the Cambridge University cricketer.
Richie Richardson’s strokemaking was uninhibited and electric, but when he stepped into the international arena his name alone did enough to capture the imagination of cricket fans. It echoed in one’s mind – largely through the built-in repetition – especially if one looked deep enough to discover the incredible Richard Benjamin Richardson in the team roster.
Similarly, the stuttering start of the run-up followed by hair-raising pace were fascinating enough, but the name Patrick Patterson added another dimension to the aura.
There have been others. Wading through the cluttered initials of Rangana Herath, one is hit with the full blast of Herath Mudiyanselage Rangana Keerthi Bandara Herath. Yes, although diluted by a veritable batting order of first, middle and last names, Herath went further than Richardson and Patterson – blessed with the exact same name appearing twice. Similarly we find Senanayeke appearing twice in another scorecard congesting spate of initials that adorn Senanayake Mudiyanselage Sachithra Madhushanka Senanayake.
Francis Alexander MacKinnon, the 35th MacKinnon of MacKinnon, did not actually possess repeating parts in his name, but the title and clan together saw this colourful early Test cricketer boast the same name three times during the period of his fullest glory. Besides, there have been curious near misses – as in the case of Brian Brain –which raise several suspicions about wicked sense of humour at work during the christening ceremonies.
All these names have special appeal. It is not for nothing that Joesph Heller made Major Major Major Major such a major character in Catch-22, and it was Humbert Humbert who courted Lolita in Vladimir Nabokov’s masterpiece. However, on the cricket field, no First-Class cricketer achieved such a name with more concise brevity and elegance as Hamilton Anne Hamilton – who played for Cambridge University in the mid-1870s.
Interestingly, Hamilton was born in Simla, where his father served in the 1850s. He returned to England for schooling, and gradually made his way to Cambridge University. In small scale cricket, he made his mark as a round arm fast bowler for Wellington College and a top order batsman to boot. In the encounter against Haileybury College in 1869 he took five wickets and struck 80 from No 3.
Down the years, the success was nowhere near so stark, but he put in useful performances for the Gentlemen of Sussex in the early 1870s. Ultimately, in 1873, he was selected for Cambridge University and made his debut against an England XI at Fenner’s. He was unsuccessful with the bat, but took four wickets with his brisk round-arm deliveries.
He took three more scalps against MCC a few days later, although when he walked in to bat he had his stumps spread-eagled by Alfred Shaw without troubling the scorers too much. He ended the season with disappointing personal performances in a thriller against Oxford University.
Curiously, although far more successful with the ball than with the bat in his first year, Hamilton never bowled again in First-Class cricket.The next two seasons saw him bending behind the wicket and proving to be a decent stumper. His feats with the willow remained limited, but he impressed with smart collection and quick hands, effecting smooth stumpings.
Hamilton Hamilton was not a good enough cricketer to progress beyond the matches for his University. The Oxford-Cambridge match of 1875, another thriller won by Oxford by six runs, was his last appearance on the First-Class stage. He carried out his role with due sharpnessin the match, affecting three stumpings. Strangely, he came in at No 11 in the first innings and opened in the second, with similar unimpressive results. In this match, his opposite number was Henry Gray Tylecote, younger brother of the England wicketkeeper Edward Tylecote. Hamilton, stumped in the first innings, was Tylecote’s only victim in the game.
Hamilton moved away from cricket and perhaps also realised that his splendid name had outlived its purpose as trivia-fodder. In October 1875, he changed itto Hamilton Anne Douglas-Hamilton, less compact but perhaps even more impressive with the hyphen.
He moved to the church and appeared just once more on the cricket field. In 1885, Hamilton Anne Douglas-Hamilton was a star bowler for the Clergy against the MCC in a one-day single innings game. He captured three wickets and remained unbeaten on 14 in the stalemate. Hamilton Hamilton passed away in Suffolk on August 22, 1929.
(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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