Oxford vs Cambridge at Lord’s © Getty Images (representational photo)
Oxford vs Cambridge at Lord’s © Getty Images (representational photo)

In the Varsity match of 1882, a curious incident took place on June 26 at Lord’s. Abhishek Mukherjee relives a most unusual path adopted by a batsman.

William Drummond Hamilton of Dublin was not a great cricketer. His First-Class career amounted to 9 matches, he neither bowled nor kept wickets, and his 310 runs came at 20.67. However, he did have one great moment: he played the Varsity match, in 1882.

However, William turned out to be the most accomplished cricketer of his family. Younger brother Lowry played for Cheshire in the Minor Counties Championship and never made it to First-Class cricket. And Blayney, younger to Lowry, made a solitary First-Class appearance, for Ireland.

An introduction of Varsity matches may not be out of place here. Oxford and Cambridge have clashed in cricket since 1827. The fixture was a brainchild of Charles Wordsworth, who would also introduce the more glamorous annual Boat Race between the universities two years later. The most famous of these, Frank Cobden’s match, was played in 1870.

Cambridge was dominated by the Studd brothers (all of whom were known by their initials) those days. So strong were Cambridge at that point that they comfortably beat the touring Australians earlier that season. JEK, GB, and CT — the elder three — were all dominant cricketers of the era (GB, and more importantly, CT, played Test cricket). All three played in the match.

There was nothing unusual about the match per se. Cambridge won easily by 7 wickets. Two Studd brothers prevailed: CT took 7 for 54 and 2 for 48 and scored a second-innings 69, whileGB’sfirst-innings 120 was the only hundred of the match (he also led Cambridge); JEK, however, failed.

Our story involves Hamilton. Oxford were reduced to 42 for 3 before a 58-run partnership. However, another collapse followed, and they were soon 116 for 6.

At this point Hamilton walked out to face CT. This was not the Studd of August that year, wrapped in a blanket and awaiting his turn as The Oval would wait in bated breath for history. This was a rampant Studd, brimming in confidence.

And making your Varsity debut against CT Studd, that too when your side was under pressure, was not the most nerve-soothing of scenarios.Poor Hamilton was nervous, perhaps visibly so.

Hamilton still managed to put bat on ball. That should ideally have soothed the nerves, but he was probably a tad too anxious. He set off for a single — eagerly, perhaps too eagerly.

In fact, so eager was Hamilton that he ran through the slip cordon.

He was obviously not given run out (he did not exactly break a law), but as Gerald Brodribb later wrote in Next Man In, it was “not a method [of running between the wickets] not to be recommended.”

Brief scores:

Oxford University 165 (Edward Shaw 63; CT Studd 7 for 54) and 257 (Manley Kemp 82) lost to Cambridge University 275 (GB Studd 120, Perceval Henery 61; Edward Peake 5 for 81) and 148 for 3 (CT Studd 69) by 7 wickets.