Arthur Fagg signing autographs © Getty Images
Arthur Fagg signing autographs © Getty Images

On July 15, 1938 Arthur Fagg followed his 244 in the first innings with 202 not out against Essex at Colchester. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at the only occasion when a batsman scored two double-hundreds in the same First-Class match.

Arthur Fagg’s career had never lived up to its complete potential mostly due to a serious bout of rheumatic fever that had basically immobilised him during the 1936-37 Ashes; he had never completely recovered and ultimately finished with only five Tests despite being considered as the partner to Len Hutton after Herbert Sutcliffe and Bob Wyatt had bowed out.

Fagg was an aggressive batsman by instinct, thriving mostly on his favourite hook; he dominated fast bowlers over several seasons and went on to score 27,291 runs mostly for Kent at 36.05 with 58 hundreds. He was also a more than capable wicketkeeper in the absence of Les Ames and Hopper Levett and finished with 432 dismissals (425 catches and 7 stumpings). Not only that, Fagg went on to umpire in 18 Tests and 7 ODIs.

His claim to fame, however, came in the 1938 season in the match against Essex at Colchester. Fagg had missed the entire 1937 Championship due to rheumatic fever, but was in sublime form in 1938. He had already scored 134 against Worcestershire at Dudley, 129 against Hampshire at Southampton, 125 against Lancashire at Old Trafford, and 190 against Worcestershire at Tonbridge in the season. He was now up against Essex.

Day One: Fagg demolishes Essex attack

The Essex seamers struck early after Gerry Chalk won the toss and decided to bat on what looked like a featherbed; Kent were 28 for two when Less Todd joined Fagg.

Fagg, however, looked unperturbed at the other end and decided to put Essex to the sword. He looked ominous from the very onset and reached his fifty in 42 minutes. Then, with Todd providing him company, he smashed his way to a 94-minute hundred before lunch on Day One.

The carnage continued after lunch; Fagg lost Todd and Kent were soon reduced to 195 for four when Chalk walked out. There were a few anxious moments, but Chalk soon settled down. Fagg, having slowed down a bit due to the wickets, brought up his 6,000th Championship run when he reached 148 and then brought up his 150 in 190 minutes.

Fagg accelerated once he reached his 150 and brought up his fourth fifty in 40 minutes. A hapless Tom Pearce turned to his left-arm spinner Reginald Taylor as his eighth bowler. Fagg was eventually trapped leg-before by Taylor for a 295-minute 244 with 31 boundaries. Taylor then ran through the tail and finished with 4 for 41 as Kent were bowled out for 429. There was still time left in the day for Essex to reach 12 without loss.

Day Two: Pearce responds, but Fagg goes one up

The belligerent Laurie Eastman began well for Essex the next morning. However, the 23-year-old Doug Wright, using all his guile and variation that would make him a threat in world cricket later on, kept on pegging at the wickets and Essex were reduced to 207 for 8 despite Jack O’Connor’s gutsy 63. They were still 73 short of saving the follow-on.

It was then that Pearce decided to take control. Ray Smith, the number ten batsman, was a more than capable batsman (he eventually finished his career with 8 hundreds) and he showed immense character in supporting Pearce. Pearce was became involved in an engaging duel with Wright, and eventually the Essex captain emerged on top.

The two added 131 runs for the ninth wicket before Wright eventually had Smith caught by Fagg. The follow-on had been evaded. Wright eventually finished off things and ended with 7 for 107, picking up his 300th Championship wicket in the process; Pearce was left stranded on a 185-minute 137 with 16 fours as Essex were bowled out for 350, only 79 runs behind.

With quick runs being the need of the hour Fagg set about clobbering the bowlers in the same fashion as he had done in the first innings. Peter Sunnucks hung around after his failure in the first innings, and finding capable support at the other end, Fagg went about in pursuit of runs.

Fagg reached his fifty in 35 minutes — 7 minutes less than the time he had taken in the first innings. He reached 7,000 runs in First-Class cricket when he reached 69, and then brought up his hundred in just 69 minutes of batting minutes before close. It was an amazing display of merciless hitting: he finished the day with 104 off 80 minutes, leaving Sunnucks behind on 35. Kent ended Day Two at 142 without loss with an emphatic lead of 221.

Day Three: Fagg’s encore

Pearce had intimated his openers about the early declaration — and the batsmen set off in the fourth gear right from the word go after he saw off the initial overs. Once again Fagg dominated the proceedings, with Sunnucks providing him company. Then, when Kent reached 197 without loss, Tom Wade conceded his first bye of the match after a display of flawless wicket-keeping for 626 runs.

Fagg carried on meanwhile, reaching 150 in 119 minutes; unlike in the first innings there was no restriction on his scoring, and with the focus now on scoring quickly, he cut loose. He lost Sunnucks — run out for 82 after a 283-run partnership — but that did not deter his scoring.

Meanwhile, Chalk had promoted his slogging fast bowler Alan Watt at first-down, and he hoicked the Essex bowlers for some quick runs. Fagg eventually brought up his 200 in only 165 minutes, and Chalk declared shortly with the score on 313 for 1, 392 runs ahead. Fagg remained not out on 202 in 170 minutes with 27 fours, and had scored 98 runs in 90 minutes before lunch.

Essex lost two quick wickets for eight when rain stopped play for good.

What followed?

- Kent finished ninth on the points table that season but Fagg shone with the bat: he eventually scored 2,297 runs in the Championship that season at 54.69 with 9 hundreds; he scored only 5 runs less than John Langridge and finished second on the runs tally. The 9 hundreds were next to only Wally Hammond’s 13.

- Fagg scored 2,456 runs in all that season at 52.25. It remained the most prolific season of his career. The performance earned him a recall next season against West Indies at Old Trafford which turned out to be his last Test. He played on for Kent till 1957, though.

Brief scores:

Kent 429 (Arthur Fagg 244, Gerry Chalk 61; Reginald Taylor 4 for 41) and 313 for 1 decl. (Arthur Fagg 202*, Peter Sunnucks 82) drew with Essex 350 (Tom Pearce 137*, Jack O’Connor 63, Laurie Eastman 44; Doug Wright 7 for 107) and 8 for 2.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ovshake and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42.)