Cricket in South Africa    Getty Images (representational photo)
Cricket in South Africa Getty Images (representational photo)

According to Nick Kingsley in his blog entitled Landed Families of Britain and Ireland, the Anguish family boast of a long and distinguished history, tracing their ancestry to one Richard Anguish of Alderford, of such antiquity that his dates of birth and death are lost to posterity. It is known, however, that he had married a lady by the name of Cecily. The union had been blessed by the birth of a son, Thomas (1511-1554).The youngest son Thomas and his wife Anne was also named Thomas (1538-1617). A prominent member of the local society of the times, Thomas Anguish became Mayor of Norwich in 1611 and had endowed a charitable children s hospital in his will. A tale is told of the unfortunate deaths of 33 persons during his Mayoral Investiture in a stampede following a fireworks display and the subsequent breakout of a ravaging fire.

Passing lightly over the various generations of celebrated landowners and members of the Holy Orders gracing to the family, we find, among the 12th generation down from the patriarch Richard Anguish, mention of one Thomas Anguish of Hanwell (1724-1785). This Thomas had married Sarah, daughter of Henry Host Henley, on January 19, 1758 at Garboldisham (Norfolk). The couple had eight children, the seventh being their third son Charles, often known, for some mysterious reason, as Charles Clarke, of the thirteenth generation of the patriarch.

Charles Anguish was born on February 13, 1769 at Bloomsbury, Middlesex, and was baptised on March 15. He was educated at Eton. While no documented evidence of his ever playing for Eton survives to this day (he is known to have played 2 First-Class games for Old Etonians, however), his earliest presence in a documented scorecard is to be found in a game of historical importance. The newly formed MCC were about to play their first official game against the White Conduit Club, at Thomas Lord s Old Ground in a one-day game on June 27, 1788.

Students of cricket history will remember that members of the White Conduit Club had relocated from their original ground at Islington to Thomas Lord s newly leased cricket ground at Marylebone, London. They had regrouped to form a new cricket club, known to posterity as MCC, in 1787.

In 1788, MCC had laid down a Code of the Laws of the game, largely a rewording of the Code of 1778, one of the most important and long-lasting tenets being the prescribed length of the pitch, which was stipulated as being 1 chain (22 yards). It should be added, however, that there are old manuscripts that indicate that this measure of 1 chain for the length of the pitch had probably been in force from as far back as 1700.

And it was in the game mentioned above that members of the newly-formed MCC had first played a cricket game under their new colours, their opponents being members of their erstwhile avatar, the White Conduit Club. Turning out for the White Conduit Club had been the 19-year old Charles Anguish, rubbing shoulders with such luminaries of contemporary cricket as George Finch, the 9th Earl of Winchilsea, who had also played in the game. MCC had won their inaugural cricket game by 83 runs and young Charles had scored 11 and 4.

The archives show Anguish playing 12 Second-Class games between 1788 and 1795, mostly for MCC, he being one of the early members of the august club. He is seen to have made his First-Class debut playing for MCC against Essex at Lord s in 1789. Essex had won the game quite comprehensively by 102 runs. It was a low-scoring affair, the highest individual score of the match being 39 by Carr in the Essex second innings. There were a total of only three individual scores in the 30s. Essex all-rounder James Boorman had easily been the star of the match with scores of 28 and 23 and capturing 5 and 7 wickets in the two innings. Anguish was one of 6 debutants in the game, scoring 0* and 3, batting at No. 10 in both innings.

The archives show Charles Anguish (or Clarke) to have been a man of modest cricketing talents, playing in 32 First-Class games between 1789 and 1795. He had aggregated a somewhat self-effacing 367 runs. His highest score is seen to have been 29 and he had averaged a lowly 6.79. Alas, there were 17 ducks in his career, and he had once remained unconquered on 0 as mentioned above. With such an indifferent batting career, one would have expected him to have done something by way of bowling, but there is no mention of his ever having bowled in a First-Class game. The fact that he is chronicled to have taken only 1 catch in his career seems to indicate that he had not been a livewire in the field either.

So what was it about this cricketer of such humble cricketing credentials that could possibly have made cricket historians interested in him?

The book Empire & Cricket: The South African Experience 1884-1914, edited by Bruce Murray and Goolam Vahed, may have the answer to the question posed above. As has been seen again and again throughout history, the spread of the Gospel of cricket, primarily to the lands under British influence, has come about through the medium of warfare of some intensity or other and the harbingers of cricket to those territories bereft of a cricketing presence have often been members of the military or the auxiliary personnel.

History tells us that it was in 1884 that the London Convention was signed giving independence to the Transvaal, which went on to become the South African Republic. History also records how German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had issued a proclamation of a Protectorate over South West Africa in August 1884 as a challenge British imperial hegemony in these parts. While all these momentous events had been relevant to the gradual development of the southern part of the African continent from a political viewpoint, another innovation of sorts seems to have begun somewhat unobtrusively at a much earlier date.

Frederick Samuel Ashley-Cooper, writing in The Cricketer, had this to say about the silent revolution: If particulars of early play had been preserved, it would probably be found that Charles Anguish, an old Etonian, possessed strong claims to be regarded as the Father of South African cricket, for tradition asserts that he introduced the game there; a strong assertion from such an esteemed source, and not one to be taken lightly.

Anguish had landed at Table Bay on May 4, 1797 as part of the entourage of the Governor, Lord Macartney in the wake of the first British annexation of the Cape in 1795. He is strongly believed to have been the first man to have swung a cricket bat in the Cape.

For a man of such lowly pretensions to cricketing fame, Anguish certainly seems to have made a definitive mark in cricket history by the purely recreational act of indulging in the very British game of cricket in an alien land, as testified to by such an unimpeachable authority as Ashley-Cooper.

Anguish had been posted in the capacity of the Comptroller of Customs for the Cape region in 1797 upon arrival. Unfortunately, he had not been destined to witness the fructification of the seed he had supposedly sown on the southern part of the African continent, and would become one of the early unfortunate cricketers to die by their own hands. He had committed suicide on May 27, 1797.

His obituary in the Gentleman s Magazine had reported that he was a young man of abilities and of a good temper, but with so odd a cast of manners that he was perpetually on the brink of a quarrel, even with those who knew his intentions were quite harmless, and could make every allowance for his peculiarities.

For believers of cosmic signs and their effects on human destiny, perhaps the conjunction of Charles being of the 13th generation of the family and being born on the 13th of the month may have had something to do with his unfortunate fate.

A few years after the sad and untimely demise of Anguish, the first known written reference to a cricket match being played in South Africa was to appear in the form of an advertisement in the Supplement of the Cape Town Gazette of January 2, 1808. A grand cricket match was to be played on Tuesday, January 5 on the Camp Ground between the Officers of the Artillery (with Colonel Austin of the 60th Regiment) and the Officers of the Colony (with General Clavering). The wickets were to be pitched at 10 o clock and the match was to be played for 1,000 dollars a side. How Anguish would have enjoyed the encounter!