Alan Davidson had a full-course meal against Wairarapa, with 157 not out and all 10 wickets in an innings    Getty Images
Alan Davidson had a full-course meal against Wairarapa, with 157 not out and all 10 wickets in an innings Getty Images

A recent casual browse through the archives of old newspapers in the hope of unearthing some interesting cricket news led to the discovery of this interesting gem from the distant past:

AUCKLAND STAR, VOLUME XLIV, ISSUE 75, 29 MARCH 1913

I (it may well have been J the print is somewhat hazy) Davidson, playing for Williamstown against Fitzroy in the Victorian Scottish Cricket Competition, secured the whole ten wickets for no score. The Fitzroy team were dismissed without scoring.

Unfortunately, the scorecard for this path-breaking cricketing feat could not be found, even after a diligent search, a sad loss for connoisseurs of cricketing history and statistics.

The mention of the name Drake in an English context brings to mind the illustration in the history books of a long-past childhood of Francis Drake kneeling before his grateful monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, on the deck of his flagship The Pelican (later renamed the Golden Hind), and arising as Sir Francis Drake.

However, that was long ago, in 1581, during an adventurous and buccaneering phase of English history. Sir Francis had the reputation of being a sporting man, and, as the (perhaps apocryphal) story goes, had been engaged in a game of bowls when he had received news of the sighting of the Spanish Armada in the Channel. He had supposedly preferred to finish the game before tackling the Spanish issue.

We speak now of another Drake, Alonzo by name, practitioner of an entirely different ball game, if not actually a privateer, definitely a force to reckon with in Yorkshire cricket early in the 20th century.

Alonzo Drake was born April 16, 1884 at Parkgate, Rotherham, Yorkshire. He was a left-handed batsman and a left-arm slow-medium bowler. He played 157 First-Class matches between 1909 and 1914, picking up 480 wickets. Let us cast our minds back to a phase in his last year in First-Class cricket, 1914, highlighted by Andrew Ward in his remarkable book, Cricket s Strangest Matches. READ: Alonzo Drake bowls unchanged throughout the match to finish with figures of 15 for 51

This was an unsettled timewith the prospect of the imminent breaking out of a World War looming large. There had been much disruption in the County Championship, many young cricketers having answered the patriotic call to arms, and several games having been cancelled or otherwise affected. During the second half of the season, Yorkshire, under the leadership of George Hirst, had made a tour of the West Country, and had played against Gloucestershire and Somerset.

The game against Gloucestershire at Bristol started on August 24, Yorkshire winning by 227 runs. For Yorkshire, Major Booth (Major was his Christian name and not a military rank), and Drake had bowled unchanged in both Gloucestershire innings and had taken all the wickets: Booth 6 for 48 and 6 for 41, and Drake 4 for 41 and 4 for 40 in totals of 94 and 84. Yorkshire had responded with out, skipper Roy Kilner contributing 169 in 205 minutes with 28 fours. This was the first time in 4 seasons that Yorkshire had relied on only the same two bowlers in both innings of a match.

There was further mayhem against Somerset later in the week, at Weston-super- Mare, because this game was also completed in two days. Hirst won the toss and Yorkshire batted first, and put up 162 with half-centuries by David Lucky Denton (52) and Drake (51). The 28-year old Percy Holmes batted at No. 8 in this innings and scored 7.

Somerset were scuttled for 44 in just about an hour s play in the 1st innings, Booth (5 for 27) and Drake (5 for 16), the only bowlers used, sharing the wickets. Yorkshire scored 112 in the 2nd knock, Ernest Robson (5 for 38) and James Bridges (4 for 54) doing the damage for Somerset.

Somerset began their 2nd innings requiring 231 for a win. Alas, they capitulated to be 90 to lose the match by 140 runs. It was Booth and Drake doing all the bowling for Yorkshire again, the 4th time in the week that they had done this, but there was a catch.

Despite the loss, the Somerset duo of Philip Hope (19) and John Harcombe (26) deserve some credit for their 9 th wicket stand of 37 runs, Harcombe being particularly severe on Drake to the extent of taking 11 runs off a single over of the bowler. The honours, however, were firmly with Drake in this innings: he became the first bowler from Yorkshire to take all 10 wickets in a First-Class innings, with figures of 10 for 35 from 8.5 overs, reaching a personal landmark of 150 First-Class wickets in this match. The last 4 lines of the match report make interesting reading and speak of Drake s dominance over the batsmen, as follows:

10 wickets in 42 balls

9 wickets in 38 balls

8 wickets in 23 balls

7 wickets in 20 balls

In the evening of his career and at the last lap of the season, this was to be Drake s crowning glory for Yorkshire.

We turn our attention now to another Davidson, Alan Keith, nicknamed The Claw for his prehensile close-in fielding, all-rounder par excellence of the great Australian team of Richie Benaud. We speak now of his all-round skills.

Davo was a wonderfully skilled left-hand bat and left-arm fast-medium bowler, who scored 6,804 runs with a highest of 129 and took 672 wickets in his 193 First-Class matches, played over a span of 1949-50 to 1062-63. His best figures during this period were 7 for 31.

All these figures, however, refer to his First-Class career. As everyone knows, however, there is cricket beyond the First-Class format, and we now reflect on an amazing performance by this champion all-rounder in a Second-Class game played in March 1950.

It was a 2-day game played in March, during the Australian tour of New Zealand 1949-50. In a side game against Wairarapa at Park Oval, Masterton, the home team could only put up 70 in 26.3 overs, one Edwin Masters top-scoring with 22 runs.

The Australians used only 2 bowlers in this innings, the right-arm fast-medium bowler Len Johnson (0 for 34) and the one and only Davidson, 10 for 29. This was the only time in his 226 cricket matches across all formats, that Davo had taken all 10 wickets in an innings.

The Australians declared on a vigorous 603 for 7, scored in 319 minutes and 104 overs. The stumps score on Day 1 read: Australian 349 for 5 (captain Bill Brown on 83 and Davidson on 70).

Well, the Australians scored 254 runs in 100 minutes on Day 2 before declaring their innings. There were 3 individual centuries in the total: Brown, with 123, Davidson, with 157 not out, and the aforementioned Johnson, 108 not out.

The Australians then made short work of the home team in their 2nd innings, dismissing them for 67. Davo bowled only 5 overs this time, and did not take a wicket. The Australians won the match by a small matter of an innings and 466 runs.

Here are the only 2 instances of a player taking all 10 wickets in a First-Class innings AND scoring in excess of 150 in an innings of the same match:

EM Grace: 192* (carrying the bat) and 10 for 69 for Gentlemen of MCC vs Gentlemen of Kent, at Canterbury, August 1862

– Frank Tarrant: 182 not out and 10 for 90 for Maharaja of Cooch-Behar s XI vs Lord Willingdon s XI, at Poona, August 1918

Keeping in mind the fact that over 57,000 First-Class matches have been played till date, it is easy to understand how rare an achievement this is. Davidson did not, of course, perform this feat in a First-Class game, as stated above, but purely as deeds go, it was a remarkable effort.

(Pradip Dhole is a retired medical doctor with a life-long interest in cricket history and statistics)