Same heroes, different match. From left: Bill Ashdown, Les Ames, and Frank Woolley    Getty Images
Same heroes, different match. From left: Bill Ashdown, Les Ames, and Frank Woolley Getty Images

August 20, 1937. During a frantic chase engineered by two veterans, Frank Woolley received the strangest advice from Bill Ashdown. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the hilarious exchange.

Frank Woolley, the pride of Kent. He had just turned 50, and had been playing for the county for 32 years.

But, at Dover, playing against a Gloucestershire side with Wally Hammond in his prime, this old pro was still at his best. In the first innings, when Gloucestershire had batted, Woolley had got Hammond for 3, his old mate Bill Ashdown grabbing the catch. He had finished with 3 for 82, as the Gloucestershire side had coasted on a 210 by Grahame Parker to end with 434.

Following this, Ashdown, playing the last of his 18 seasons for the county before going over to Rugby to replace Arthur Fielder as coach, helped Woolley add 94 for the first wicket. Ashdown was caught in the slips by Hammond for 45. Woolley went on to hit exactly 100. But, in spite of that Kent trailed in first innings by 35.

The veteran Woolley did not bowl in the second innings. It was Alan Watt who did most of the damage. But the long arms of the aging man added two catches to his extraordinary tally. One of them was the prize one of Hammond, just about looking dangerous on the final morning when he snicked Doug Wright s leg-break at 52. The Gloucestershire innings folded at 182, but it left the hosts less than an hour and a quarter to get 218 for a win.

In walked Ashdown and Woolley, the former 39 the latter 50, embarking on a thrilling chase. And Woolley started using his long lithe limbs to strike the ball beautifully, dispatching both Charlie Barnett and Reggie Sinfield out of the ground.

In the process Ashdown got worried. The big hits also meant that the ball had to be retrieved. He hastened across the wicket after one such gigantic hit and blurted, Don t hit so many sixes, Frank. It wastes too much time.

Well, Woolley did not hit any more sixes but gave the innings a splendid initial momentum with his 44. And then, as Ashdown held one end down, Les Ames, promoted in the order, played a blinder amounting to 79. When the second wicket went down at 168, the hard-hitting Watt was promoted in the order. Ashdown and Watt knocked off the remaining runs with still a few minutes to spare. Kent won by 8 wickets, having posted 219 for 2 in just 23.2 overs.

Some of the credit of this remarkable win must go to the incredible advice of Ashdown.

Brief scores:

Gloucestershire 434 (Charlie Barnett 70, Grahame Parker 210, Reggie Sinfield 74; Alan Watt 6 for 129) and 182 (Wally Hammond 52; Alan Watt 4 for 69) lost to Kent 399 (Bill Ashdown 45, Frank Woolley 100, Tom Pearce 59, Tom Spencer 53, Reggie Sinfield 4 for 83) and 219 for 2 (Bill Ashdown 62*, Frank Woolley 44, Les Ames 70) by 8 wickets.