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Major RM Poore and Captain Teddy Wynyard : Incredible partnership of 411 in a little more than four hours. Picture Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

July 21, 1899. Captain Edward George Wynyard and Major Montagu Poore launched a full frontal attack on the Somerset bowlers, annihilating them in a spate of fireworks lasting just about four hours. Arunabha Sengupta remembers the thrilling counterattack executed by the two military men.

The Major and the Captain

They were a remarkable pair. Military men with a gift for wielding the willow. The ideal faces of the Empire, the archetypal images of Boys Own Hero, the embodiments of the ethos of Playing the Game and Muscular Christianity.

Captain Wynyard was a Carthusian, commissioned in 1883. He had served in Burma and had been mentioned in the dispatches twice before being awarded the DSO in 1887. Later he rescued a Swiss peasant from drowning and was awarded the Royal Humane Society s bronze medal.

Way back in 1881, Wynyard had played soccer in the FA Cup Final. In 1894 he had been Europe s top tobogganer. In 1896 he had represented England as a batsman in the Ashes triumph, batting alongside the likes of WG Grace, KS Ranjitsinhji, Stanley Jackson, Tom Hayward and Archie MacLaren.

He had not been able to spare time from the army to visit the Australian shores with Drewy Stoddart s team in 1897-98, but exactly ten years after that he would be offered captaincy for the tour to Australia in 1907-08. By then he would be 46, and hence refuse, the honours ultimately going to AO Jones and by proxy to Frederick Fane. By then, however, Wynyard would also have a South African cricket odyssey under his belt, with Plum Warner s men in 1905-06.

The captain was one of the first batsmen to play inside out, moving towards the leg and clouting the bowler over cover point or extra cover. He would also play thoroughly unchristian strokes like dropping on the knee and clouting a perfectly honest delivery over mid-on. He did all that while never wearing a protective box.

Major Poore was a relatively late developer. He hardly ever played cricket until he was in his mid-twenties. And then, in India with the 7th Hussars, he became interested in the game as he delved into the Badminton Book of Cricket to tide over heat and boredom. He followed this by practicing his strokes in front of a mirror and decided that batting really suited him. As Aide-de-Camp to Lord Harris in Bombay, he started playing the game and representing the Europeans.

His next military posting was in South Africa, and for this adopted country he played 3 Tests against Lord Hawke s men in 1896. Six feet four inches tall and massively built, he was not that successful in the Tests, but wanted to have a go in the county circuit when he was in his early thirties. In 1898, he planned his leave from the South African regiment in order to play cricket in the summer. He scored two hundreds, but averaged less than 30. He went back to the southern land, analysed his game thoroughly, and planned his next leave with military precision.

Then he played in 1899, in England, just before he would become engaged in the Boer War. He scored 1,551 runs at 91.23, the highest average in an English season before Don Bradman changed the landscape of batting in 1930.

In June 1899, he spent two weeks of sporting and military brilliance that has seldom been equalled. Well, he was perhaps even more versatile than Wynyard. He was one of the finest horsemen of his time, a leading swordsman, a champion polo player, and won several tennis and racquets championships.

In the said fortnight, Poore made the winning hit in the final of the Inter-Regimental at Hurlingham, one of the top polo tournaments. He went on to win the title of the Best Man at Arms at the Royal Naval and Military Tournament. He followed it up with three centuries in a row for Hampshire in the County Championship.

In fact, by the time he walked out to bat at 5.45 on that blisteringly hot day in July against the Somerset attack, the bowlers were already rather sick of his enormous form. Just over a month earlier, Poore had scored 104 and an unbeaten 119 against Somerset at Portsmouth. The Sunday Chronicle had remarked, The opinion the Somerset bowlers have of Major Poore is not on record. Maybe it is not for publication in a family newspaper.

The partnership

On the morning of this particular match Poore had been presented with an engraved matchbox for his exploits in the season so far. Besides, the Somerset bowling attack had been rendered less than threatening with the absence of the great Sammy Woods. This other versatile all-round sportsman was unable to take part in the game due to the death of his sister.

Hence, although Somerset had two excellent left arm slow bowlers in Beaumont Cranfield and Edwin Tyler, their bowling was not exactly intimidating.

Somerset batted first, in a virtual heat-wave. The scorecard puts absent hurt against the name of Cranfield, but in reality he arrived late. Somerset thus batted with ten men, and scored an impressive 315. Ernie Robinson, in his best ever season, scored 74 excellent runs etched with 12 boundaries.

The Hampshire start was rather disastrous. Tyler dismissed wicketkeeper Charles Barton at 26 and the mammoth form of Poore marched to the wicket.

At 31, Victor Barton was leg before. The bowler was again Tyler. His action looked curiously like throwing, but he was so slow through the air that the authorities cast an indulgent eye towards him. That too while the crackdown against throwing was at its peak. Tyler was deemed too slow to pose any physical threat. The doosra exponents would cringe at reading these lines.

At 31 for 2, Poore, at a personal score of 4, snicked one to be dropped by wicketkeeper Archdale Wickham. As far as drops go, this ranks with one of the costliest in history.

But Somerset were not too worried. They were, in fact, on a roll. At 38, Ted English was yorked by George Gill. Poore and Edward Lee staged some sort of a recovery before Cranfield, having by now arrived, got the latter caught in the slips. Hampshire ended the day perilously, at 65 for 4. Poore was on 24. Keeping him company was Thomas Soar, the fast bowler, used more in the capacity of a night-watchman.

The heat wave continued on the morrow. The temperature soared into the 90s (mid to late 30s in the centigrade scale). It was as bad as the summer drought of 1876.

Play began half an hour earlier, in order to ensure an early Friday evening. The bowlers sweated, the fielders wiped their brows. Perhaps Poore enjoyed it. Summers in the Veld were similar. He was soon in his stride, scoring freely off Tyler and Gill. Hampshire reached 100 in just 20 minutes of the morning s play. In three-quarters of an hour, the overnight total had doubled.

Changes to the bowling made no difference. Poore kept cutting and driving with confidence and contempt. After one hour and 55 minutes, he reached his hundred at 12.15. And then Robson dropped him at slips off Nichols.

Soar kept him inspired company for nearly a couple of hours. The cheery hitting got him 95, before he was caught off Gill. He would never score more in his career. His last 45 had been scored in just half an hour after the splendid cheer that had rung through with his fifty. The Hampshire 200 was up by 12:30. The pair had put on 196 in 116 minutes.

By then Poore had competed his hundred, his third against the poor Somerset bowlers that season. He was batting on 120. The innings had been full of those thunderous drives through the off and over the heads of the bowlers. But Hampshire were still 57 behind.

Now the tall imposing form of Captain Wynyard approached the wicket. The military duo conferred, looked around the field and launched their offensive.

Lunch was taken at 1.20. Poore was on 146 by then. Wynyard had quickly notched up 22. In two hours and 20 minutes, 241 runs had been scored in the morning s play. Hampshire were on 306 for 5.

The break lasted for an hour in those leisurely days. But it did little to break the military rhythm. Poore passed his 150 in the first over after resumption. In the third over, the lead was taken. An hour and ten minutes of sustained hitting and the hundred of the partnership was brought up. Five minutes after that Wynyard reached his fifty.

Poore had posted 175 against Surrey towards the end of the previous month. Now he went past this career best score by cutting Cranfield to the fence. Wynyard pulled the same bowler onto a cottage roof adjoining the grounds.

Well, there were plenty of other strokes. Wynyard even went down on his knees to the extremely slow floaters of Tyler and tried to paddle him away past point. Yes, it was an attempted reverse sweep. It was termed back stroke by the amused pressmen.

Wynyard got his 100 in 2 hours and 25 minutes. Soon Poore had posted his 200 in 4 hours and 27 minutes. By tea, Hampshire were on 461 for 5. Poore was on 216. Wynyard 106.

The bowling was by now thoroughly demoralised. 500 was reached in 5 hours and 50 minutes. Wynyard raced along while a tiring Poore was more subdued during this phase. But the captain did enjoy a couple of lives when Charlie Bernard dropped him in the deep, and then Cranfield spilled a caught and bowled chance when he had scored 158.

And now Poore once again took the initiative, passing his 250. And Wynyard surpassed this resurgence of aggression by hitting 39 from just 18 balls. The Captain passed his double hundred and Poore brought up his triple.

By now the bowling was being slaughtered to all parts of the ground in that scorching heat, and the Somerset men were praying for release. It finally arrived at 6:25, when Wynyard skied Tyler to the outfield and Bernard held the catch. 36 fours and two fives (out of ground hits were fives according to the rules of the day) were studded in his 225.

The stand was worth 411, scored in just over four hours. At that point of time it was the second highest partnership for any wicket in First-Class cricket, after JT Brown and John Tunnicliffe s association of 554 for Yorkshire against Derbyshire the previous summer.

Poore was out in the same over, two runs later. He was stumped by Wickham off Tyler for 304, exactly 300 runs after the wicketkeeper had let him off the previous afternoon. The Major s innings lasted 410 minutes and was punctuated by 45 boundaries. At that time the number of boundaries ranked the seventh-highest in a First-Class innings.

Hampshire ended at 672 for 7, having scored 607 during the day for the loss of three wickets.

Poore s 304 stood as a Hampshire record till 1937 when RH Moore went past it. The Southern Echo summarised, Apart from its merits as a brilliant exhibition of batting, Poore s innings was a remarkable feat of physical endurance and the Major must be in the finest trim to have played so well right through a sweltering day. This was considered by the same writer, a few days later, to be due to the fact that Poore s father had sent him out every morning on a five-mile run from a very early age.

What followed?

Wynyard declared the Hampshire innings at the overnight score. Thus, Tyler finished with figures of 4 for 201 from 65 five-ball overs.

The next morning Somerset batted, attempting to score 358 to avoid innings defeat. By 3.15, their challenge had come to a sorry end. Wynyard tossed up lobs to take 3 wickets and the innings ended at 206.

Poore s diary, however, remains prosaic about the details of the epochal previous day: We continued our cricket with Somerset at 11am. Soar and I put on 196 runs before he was caught for 95. Wynyard and I then put on 411 before he was caught for 225. I was stumped in the same over for 304 and when stumps were drawn Hants had made 672-7, so we are 357 runs on.

Batting was to him a simple act, as was the subject of cricket. Quite expected perhaps, for someone who would soon be Provost Marshal in the Boer War.

Brief scores:

Somerset 315 (Ernest Robson 74, George Nichols 64) and 206 (John Daniell 57; Harry Baldwin 4 for 53) lost to Hampshire 672 for 7 decl. (Robert Poore 304*, Thomas Soar 95, Edward Wynyard 225; Edwin Tyler 4 for 201) by an innings and 151 runs.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history of cricket, with occasional statistical pieces and reflections on the modern game. He is also the author of four novels, the most recent being Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes. He tweets here.)