John Wisden remains the only one to bowl out all 10 batsmen in a First-Class innings.
John Wisden remains the only one to bowl out all 10 batsmen in a First-Class innings. Picture Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

July 15, 1850. John Wisden, long before he started the publication that went on to become the Bible of Cricket, took ten wickets in an innings at Lord’s. Arunabha Sengupta recalls the day when the stumps were rattled ten times.

There was much more to John Wisden than the publication of the famed Cricketer’s Almanack.

As a youngster, he perhaps weighed only slightly more than half a dozen hard bound copies of the yearly editions of Wisden. The weights of cricketers are not extensively documented, but among the ones that are available, John Wisden was the lightest. At one point of his career, he tilted the scales at just seven stones.

Yes, he was indeed a cricketer. And surprisingly for a man of his size, standing at five feet six inches and light as a feather, he became one of the best fast bowlers of his era. He ran in with a relaxed action followed by supremely accurate deliveries from his round arm release. Till his pace diminished in the later stages of his career, he averaged around ten wickets per match.

He was a good batsman as well, with an extremely straight bat and excelled in hits towards the leg.

According to Fuller Pilch, the leading batsman of that era, Wisden was the finest of all-rounders. Given that a chunk of his career coincided with the great Alfred Mynn, it was no mean assessment.

In fact, Alfred Mynn was a member of the opposition team when Wisden had his best day in cricket — at Lord’s in 1850. When the North of England, came down to take on the South in a contest between the best players of the country.

The Northerners had shining stars in their ranks. Among them was William Clarke, the bricklayer turned cricketer and the man behind the establishment of Trent Bridge as a cricket ground. There was George Parr, who made his name by hitting sixes at that very venue. A tree standing beside the ground, which was bombarded by several of Parr’s hits beyond the boundary, later became known as George Parr’s tree. And then there was Wisden — although by virtue of his birth in Brighton, Sussex, he should have been playing for South. There was also Heneage Finch, the sixth Earl of Aylesford, titled as Lord Guernsey, a keen if not exceptional cricketer. Eventually, he ended as the highest scorer of the match.

The South had their own heavyweights. Apart from Mynn, there was Nicholas ‘Felix’ Wanostrocht. Known as Felix on his own curious request, this man of many talents was a classical scholar, musician, linguist, inventor, writer and artist. Along with all that he was also the mainstay of the great Kent side, a fantastic batsman and the inventor of the Catapulta, first crude bowling machine.  There was also John Lillywhite, the patriarch of the great cricketing family. And finally the side contained Billy Caffyn, the famous Surrey all-rounder.

Who won the toss is a snippet of history buried in the sands of time, but South batted first. Soon, John Wisden with his round arm fast bowling and William Clarke’s under-arm leg spin created havoc. No one reached double-figures, Caffyn came closest with 9. The South were bowled out for 36, with Wisden taking 3 wickets and Clarke 6.

Thomas Sherman of Surrey hit back for South. Parr made a quick 17, but soon the North were eight down for 53. Now Wisden and Lord Guernsey shared an excellent partnership. The exact number of runs they put on has again been lost with some page of history gone missing. But Wisden scored 22, Guernsey remained unbeaten on 27 and, with 14 byes and five leg byes boosting the total, the South ended with 131.

The rest of the match was all Wisden. He ran in ball after ball and kept hitting the stumps of the South batsmen. Caffyn batted well again for 24. Mynn, who had fallen to Wisden in the first innings, remained unbeaten on 17. But Wisden struck timber 10 times. North were literally bowled out for 76. The three day game ended before stumps were drawn on the first evening. As many as 25 of the 30 wickets to fall were bowled. There were three run outs as well, making it 28 strikes on the wickets.

There have been 79 instances of a bowler taking all ten wickets in a First-Class match, apart from three more in 12-a-side games. The first of these had taken place two years before Wisden’s haul, when the Kent left arm round-arm bowler Edmund Hinklyhad blasted out ten batsmen of England in 1848. Hinkly’s feat and Wisden’s subsequent ten wicket haul remain the only ones without fully available bowling analysis.

Among the others, Hedley Verity leads the way with 10 for 10 for Yorkshire against Nottinghamshire in 1932. Wisden remains the only bowler to have got all his wickets by knocking over the stumps. Only Eric Hollies, who took 10 for 46 for Warwickshire against Nottinghamshire in 1946, managed to capture all ten without the help of teammates, with seven bowled and three leg-before.

Jim Laker in 1956 and Anil Kumble in 1998-99 performed the feat in Test cricket. The last person to achieve thisin the First-Class game was the Warriors seamer Mario Olivier who took all ten against the Eagles at Bloemfontein in December 2007. Tich Freeman managed it three times for Kent in successive seasons — 1929, 1930 and 1931. Vyell Edward Walker, Verity and Laker are the only other bowlers to have achieved this twice.

As for Wisden himself, he gave up cricket at a relatively early age of 37, mainly due to frequent attacks of rheumatism. He ended with 1,109 wickets in 186 matches at 6.66. Yes, even his average indicates that he was a devilish bowler.

His more lasting feat was, however, performed the year after his retirement, in 1864, when he launched the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

Brief Scores

South 36 (William Clarke 6 wickets) and 76 (John Wisden 10 wickets) lost to North 131 (Thomas Sherman 6 wickets) by an innings and 19 runs.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)