Alonzo Drake. Photo courtesy: H Natarajan.
Alonzo Drake. Photo courtesy: H Natarajan.

On August 28, 1914, Alonzo Drake finished with figures of 10 for 35 for Yorkshire against Somerset. He bowled unchanged throughout the game and ensured Yorkshire won the contest by 140 runs. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks back at that day and what transpired in the backdrop.

In 1914, the dark clouds of war loomed over Europe. In such a scenario, with bigger challenges facing humanity, cricket took a backseat in England. Yet, in the north, there were two Yorkshiremen, dominating the batsmen with their skill and craft. Alonzo Drake and Major William Booth were a force to reckon with for Yorkshire and bamboozled the batsmen in the county circuit. In tandem, they could bowl the opposition out and there were times when they needed no assistance from the other bowlers. While Booth was the England player and was the more established veteran, Drake too had made his name. On August 28, 1914, he bowled unchanged to take 10 wickets in an innings that shot out Somerset at Clarence Park, Weston-super-Mare. If one considers his fifer in the first essay, then he had bowled unchanged throughout the match to finish with figures of 15 for 51.

Drake made his First-Class debut in 1909, but it took him time to become a regular in the Yorkshire side. It was only during his third season i.e. in 1911 that he became a vital cog in the Yorkshire setup. In the 1913 season, he picked up 116 wickets at 16.93. Thus, by the time the 1914 season commenced, Drake was a formidable campaigner with his left-arm slow-medium.

If the previous season was a memorable one, 1914 beckoned greater things. In a game against Derbyshire earlier in July, he took four wickets off four consecutive deliveries. In the process, he also completed 400 First-Class wickets. Heading into the game against Somerset on August 27, Drake had already taken 139 wickets in 29 matches.

Yorkshire won the toss and elected to bat first on Day One (August 27). David Denton’s 52 and Drake’s 51 took Yorkshire to 162 as they were bowled inside 50 overs. James Bridges was the main destroyer with 5 for 59. Somerset commenced their innings with an eye on Yorkshire’s relatively low score. What followed was utter carnage! Drake and Booth shared the spoils and bowled Somerset out in 15 overs for only 44. Bowling unchanged, both ended up with five wickets apiece and gave Yorkshire a good 118-run lead. Yorkshire finished Day One on 59 for 4 with the great Wilfred Rhodes in the centre.

The next day (August 28), Yorkshire were bowled out for only 112 with Bridges (4 for 54) and Ernest Robson (5 for 38) doing the damage. Somerset had to chase down 230 — a tough task given the low-scoring trend in the game. If Drake had scalped 5 in the first, he was to double it this time.

Booth started off proceedings with the new ball, but Drake took centre-stage. The run-scoring was fast when compared to the standards in those days. In an innings that spanned 17.5 overs, Somerset scored 90. Drake ran through them and struck at regular intervals. He skittled Somerset in 8.3 overs with 10 for 35. Out of those 10 scalps, four were bowled and two stumped. But, what was remarkable was that he bowled unchanged throughout the game and ended up with a match tally of 15 wickets. Somerset did not have any chance of coming close to 230, let alone surpassing it.

Interestingly, Booth also bowled unchanged throughout the game and was a silent spectator in the second essay as wickets fell at the other end. In the previous game as well (against Gloucestershire), the duo had bowled unchanged. On that occasion, Booth finished with 12 wickets and Drake recorded eight. It certainly was one of the most feared bowling combinations in county cricket.

What followed?

– The outbreak of the World War I ended the county season early.

– Drake only played one more First-Class match and picked four wickets. He finished the 1914 season with 158 wickets at an average of 15.30. In a total of 157 First-Class matches, he had taken 480 wickets at an average of 18.03. He was also handy with the bat as he scored 4,816 runs at 21.69 with 3 tons.

– Drake couldn’t join the army during the War as they rejected him and he died of poor health in 1919 at the young age of 34.

– Unlike Drake, Booth did join the armed forces and was killed in action during the World War. That ensured that the great pair were never seen bowling again.

Brief scores:

Yorkshire 162 (David Denton 52, Alonzo Drake 51; James Bridges 5 for 59) and 112 (Wilfred Rhodes 25; Ernest Robson 5 for 38, James Bridges 4 for 54) beat Somerset 44 (Ernest Robson 19; Alonzo Drake 5 for 16, Major William Booth 5 for 27) and 90 (John Harcombe 26; Alonzo Drake 10 for 35) by 140 runs.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)