James Grundy © Getty Images
James Grundy © Getty Images

Here is an example of a Law of cricket circa 1744, in its original form: “If ye Striker touches or takes up ye Ball before she is lain quite still, unless asked by ye Bowler or Wicket Keeper, it’s out.”

This is the story of the first time that this Law of cricket was enforced in a First-Class match.

James Grundy was born March 5, 1824 at New Radford, Nottingham. He was a right-hand bat and a right-arm fast (round-arm) bowler who would occasionally bowl a fast underarm delivery, and was known to be capable of subtle variations of pace in his bowling. He was also an occasional wicketkeeper.

Although career statistics were understandably not very accurately maintained from so long ago, we find that Grundy had played 298 First-Class games from 1850 to 1869, scoring 5,898 runs. He had a highest score of 95 and an average of 12.65. He scored 18 fifties, held 233 catches, and made 2 stumpings.

He also took 1,137 wickets. His best innings bowling analysis was 9 for 19, and his bowling average was 12.81. He took 5 wickets in an innings 84 times and 10 wickets in a match 24 times.

From the sketchy accounts that have come down about the cricket career of Grundy, we learn that he had been a professional cricketer for the Sherwood Forest Club as long ago as 1842, but had dropped out of club cricket from 1844 to 1850, and that he had been employed at Holkham by the Earl of Leicester for four seasons in one capacity or other.

In 1851, Grundy began a long stint as a ground bowler (along with George Wootton) at Lord’s, playing 121 matches for the MCC over a period of time, scoring 2,416 runs for them and taking 600 wickets.

Lillywhite’s Guide credits Grundy with 107 wickets in 1851 at an average of 8. Lillywhite goes on to say that Grundy has a very fair and fast delivery with a ‘cutting’ and ‘twisting’ ball’. He took 7 wickets in his first county game. He preferred to bowl against the wind, claiming that it ‘steadied him’.

Grundy made his First-Class debut for a team called Under 36 against another team called Over 36 at Lord’s at the end of July 1850. He scored 6 and 1 and picked up a wicket. John Wisden took 14 wickets for Under 36..

Rather surprisingly, Grundy began his Championship career fairly late in his First-Class career, playing the first of his 52 matches for Nottinghamshire against Surrey at The Oval in July 1851, when he was 27 years old, and playing his 17th First-Class match overall.

Although Surrey won the game by 75 runs, Grundy gave a good account of himself with the ball, taking 4 for 39 and 3 for 22 and scoring 6 and 13. He made up for his tardiness by turning out for all the matches played by Nottinghamshire over the next 16 seasons, with the exception of only onemajor game.

Grundy appeared in the annual Gentlemen vs Players match 19 times in succession, beginning from the same 1851 season. We find him playing for MCC against All England Eleven (AEE) of Nottinghamshire professional William Clarke in June 1951. By July the same year, however, he was to throw in his lot with William Clarke and represented AEE against Newark in a Second-Class fixture. He was to play a total of 36 Second-Class games for AEE from 1851 to 1867.

To complicate the issue even further, Grundy was persuaded to join the United All England XI formed by John Wisden in the summer of 1852 (playing 20 First-Class matches for them), and to be with them till 1867.

William Caffyn, the Surrey player and an AEE compatriot of Grundy leaves us in no doubt about the cricketing prowess of Grundy: “He was one of the best plucked men I ever saw on a cricket field, and could generally rise to the occasion, either to keep runs down or to obtain them, when necessity required. His bowling may be described as fast medium, with a little break back. He bowled very straight, and could drop the ball on a cheese-plate if so minded.

“Indeed this was the class of bowler to which he belonged. He bowled at the wicket, always endeavouring to beat the batsman himself, and not bowling for catches; so it may easily be imagined how successful he was when anything peculiar in the ground helped him … As a batsman he had excellent defence and being always very cool and collected, could often keep his wicket up till further orders, when required to do so.”

Grundy leapt into the record books for good through a seemingly innocuous deed in his 178th First-Class game, for MCC against Kent at Lord’s in June 1857. MCC batted first, being dismissed for 101. John Lillywhite top scored with 43, but it was the # 4 batsman that caused the real flutter: James Grundy was declared out “handled the ball” for 15 — the very first such instance in the long and eventful history of First-Class cricket

The exact circumstances surrounding this unprecedented historical event are not known. One must assume that Grundy may have “touched or taken up ye Ball before she (had) lain quite still, (not having been) asked by ye Bowler or Wicket Keeper.”

The long and short of it is that he was given his marching orders by either George Chatterton or Tom Sewell, the two umpires for the game (who also deserve their own niche in the annals of First-Class cricket for this incident).

For the sake of completion, it may be mentioned that Kent replied with 110, Tom Adams scoring 35 at the top of the order. For MCC, James Dean picked up 8 for 48. The second-innings total for MCC was even less, 92. Interestingly, Ned Willsher of Kent had identical bowling figures in both MCC innings — 4 for 32.

Kent, however, were themselves bowled out for a mere 78, losing the closely-fought match by 5 runs. For the MCC, Lillywhite took 6 for 27 and the doubtlessly crestfallen Grundy vented his ire with the remarkable figures of 13.2-10-3-2.

Grundy played his last First-Class game under the colours of the MCC against Oxford at Lord’s in June 1869, a game that the MCC won by an innings and 21 runs. Batting only once, Grundy scored 12 not out from # 10, in a team score of 209 (Robert Miles taking 7 for 97 for the University).

He then teamed up with his long-time comrade on the bowling staff at Lord’s, Wootton, to dismiss the Undergrads for 57 and 131. Wootton had figures of 7 for 37 and 7 for 51, whist Grundy captured 3 for 20 (in a two-man attack) and 1 for 19, WG Grace also picking up 1 wicket in the second innings.

In the meanwhile, Grundy was part of the very first overseas cricket tour in history, being one of the 12 intrepid English cricketers to tour North America under George Parr in 1859. The group comprised: William Caffyn, Tom Lockyer, Julius Caesar (of Surrey); Parr, Grundy and John Jackson (Nottinghamshire); Wisden and John Lillywhite (Sussex); and Robert Carpenter, Thomas Hayward and Alfred Diver (Cambridgeshire), with Fred Lillywhite acting as manager.  On their voyage from Liverpool to Quebec City on board SS Nova Scotian, the Englishmen had feared for their lives as storms raged in the Atlantic.

Grundy did not lose all contact with cricket after his playing days were over. We find him as an umpire in 37 First-Class matches between 1855 and 1871.

The chequered life and times of Grundy had him setting up a grocery business in Nottingham when he could find some time out of his cricket schedule. In 1863, he became the landlord of the William the Fourth Inn at Carrington.

He later moved on to the ownership of the Midland Hotel at Carrington in 1866. He passed away on November 24, 1873, aged only 49, at his own hotel at Carrington. The sad part of all this, however, is that from all accounts, this man, so highly active in so many fields, appears to have died from such a prosaic illness as gout.

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