65 years ago, Denis Compton and Bill Edrich reached the apex of their dream summer, in a lavish spread of run making that saw 633 scored in a day. Arunabha Sengupta relives the rollicking run feast at Leicester the like of which has seldom been witnessed ever since.
July 14, 1947
It was a summer when a glorious sun shone over England and runs sparkled as they flowed on the cricket pitches. For a country still trying to close the gashes and wounds of war, no sight did as much to uplift sore, worn spirits than Denis Compton at the height of his powers.
“The strain of long years of anxiety and affliction passed from all hearts and shoulders at the sight of Compton in full sail, sending the ball here, there and everywhere, each stroke a delight, a propulsion of happy, sane, healthy life,” wrote Neville Cardus.
Compton, who later wrote an autobiography titled In Sun and Shadow, experienced the former in consummate glory this year, when true wickets were laid on which many good men made merry. Len Hutton and Cyril Washbrook scored 11 First-class centuries each, Jack Robertson and Bill Edrich 12 apiece, but at the end of it all, this was Compton’s annus mirabilis. He strode over all the giants of English batting like a carefree colossus, amassing 3816 runs at an average of 90.85 with 18 hundreds. These were indeed remarkable figures for a man for whom batting was all daring and adventure, frequently embarking on reckless explorations beyond the maps and manuals of coaching and commonsense, often collaborating with the bowler to plot his own demise.
His Middlesex comrade-in-arms, Edrich, did not fare too badly either. The determined, fighting Edrich ended the season second only to Compton, with 3539 runs at 80.43.
By the time the county side travelled to Leicester for the away encounter, both batsmen had hit mid-season form. Having bowled Leicester out for 309, Middlesex had moved to 163 without loss at the end of the first day. SM Brown had retired hurt and Edrich, the skipper of Middlesex, was in the middle of a substantial stand with Jack Robertson – named a Wisden Cricketer in the following year.
Soon after play resumed on July 14, Robertson was dismissed by the Australian bowler Jack Walsh who bowled the Chinaman. With the scoreboard showing 185 for one, this brought together the two close friends who, during the next couple of hours and a bit, would hold the crowd rapt through an audacious period of run making.
Compton forever had sound enough technique that never quite chained him to the artisan’s shop floor as it would a man with less imaginative genius. He never ceased to venture out, of crease and caution, looking for challenges that would tickle his creativity, committing himself to strokes and often managing to change attitude and direction at the last moment, the intended runs coming with the same breathtaking prowess. On this day he was effortless, light-hearted, often beyond the limits of science although always within the delightful frame of art.
At the other end, Edrich scored at a brisk rate, yet remained ever watchful; head studiously down looking closely even as he pummelled the hapless Leicestershire men all over the ground. The hearts of the two men always beat to a merry rhythm of camaraderie, but the batting styles could not have been more different.
When finally the forever light-footed Compton skipped characteristically out of crease before Walsh was even halfway into his run, and missed the ball to be stumped, he had 151 glorious runs to show for his conquest at the crease. The pair had put on 277 in 131 minutes, and the score stood at 462 for two.
The misery did not end there for the hosts. As for the spectators, the radiance perhaps departed, but not the relentless run making. Edrich carried on, adding 77 with AW Thomspon to pile up a career-best 257. Middlesex closed their innings at 637 for four.
If the 328-run deficit called for a quiet period at the wicket, the home side thought otherwise. As if intoxicated by the heady spirit of the Middlesex duo, captain Les Berry launched into the bowling along with Maurice Tompkin, ending the second day at 130 for two. This brought the cumulative score on this blessed of cricketing days to a staggering 633.
The drama did not end there. On the third and final day, Leicestershire were all out for 393, Compton picking up five wickets with his brand of left-handed wrist spin. This left Middlesex 66 to get in 25 minutes, and out came the heroic partners of the first innings yet again. Edrich scored 29 while Compton cantered to 33, and they got there in seven overs, with four minutes to spare.
(Arunabha Sengupta is trained from Indian Statistical Institute as a Statistician. He works as a Process Consultant, but purifies the soul through writing and cricket, often mixing the two into a cleansing cocktail. The author of three novels, he currently resides in the incredibly beautiful, but sadly cricket-ignorant, country of Switzerland. You can know more about him from his author site, his cricket blogs and by following him on Twitter)