Len Hutton (left: © Getty Images) and John Snagge (Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Len Hutton (left: © Getty Images) and John Snagge (Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

With cricket resuming in England after World War II, Len Hutton lit up Headingley on May 25, 1946 with a characteristic hundred. Unfortunately, a glitch from BBC ensured the nation got a completely different version of the day’s proceedings. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at a bizarre act from a radio announcer.

Resumption of County Championship after World War II was more than re-introduction of cricket in England. After the violent War years and the economic crisis that followed, cricket provided a ray of hope and perhaps the finest form of entertainment for the English.

County Championship of 1946 teed off at Lord’s, where Jim Sims bowled Middlesex to a 65-run victory over Leicestershire. Yorkshire played the next match, where they were tested by Glamorgan despite Ellis Robinson’s 11-wicket haul. Chasing 84 they were reduced to 38 for 4 before they eventually sailed home by 5 wickets. The two teams — Yorkshire and Leicestershire — met together later that month at Headingley.

Hutton’s masterpiece

Brian Sellers batted, and Len Hutton and Bob Barber grinded out the Leicestershire attack to put up 43 for the opening stand. Hutton added 64 more with Harold Beaumont for the third wicket, and with Frank Smailes rising to the occasion (his 32 was one of the two scores in the innings in excess of 25), Yorkshire looked comfortable at 194 for 4.

Then James Sperry rose to the task with his left-arm pace. He scythed through the Yorkshire lower order and finished with 5 for 71. Vic Jackson claimed Hutton, but not before the great man (he held the Test record of 364 at this time) had carved out 111 in 255 minutes. Yorkshire were bowled out for 232.

Hutton “falls ill”

As mentioned above, all of England waited eagerly for updates as they tuned in to BBC. Yorkshire were the most revered side of the Championship (they had, after all, won it the last three years before The War, and had won 21 titles where nobody had won more than 7).

John Snagge, the renowned announcer, complete with a remarkably shaped moustache (which, admittedly, was of zero significance to his job role) had received the brief scores. It is not known whether he had received a handwritten note, but whatever it may have been, we may give Snagge the benefit of doubt over what followed. The message read a simple Yorkshire 232 all out, Len Hutton 111.

Snagge got the first part, and even Hutton’s name. Unfortunately, 111 was not the first thing that came to his mind when he saw something similar to ||| scrawled on the paper. The line Snagge uttered has become immortalised in the history of the sport ever since: “Yorkshire 232 all out, Len Hutton ill — no, I’m sorry, Hutton 111.

At least he apologised for his gaffe and rectified.

Berry responds

Leicestershire lost an early wicket, but Les Berry and Francis Prentice took them to 79 for 1 at stumps. The other two days witnessed rain and lost overs; Berry led from the front, scoring 103 in 260 minutes; Leicestershire reached 199 for 3, lost 3 more wickets on that score, added 4 more, and lost 4 more on that score to Bill Bowes and Robinson.

Having secured a 29-run lead and no time to secure anything of significance, Hutton and Barber decided to provide a brand of  entertainment typically looked down upon by Yorkshiremen. They finished on 37 without loss in 6 overs when the umpires decided to call it stumps.

What followed?

– Yorkshire won the Championship that season.
– Not all newsreaders have been as fortunate. In 2014 a Doordarshan employee misread the name of Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping as Eleven Jinping and was fired as a result.

Brief scores:

Yorkshire 232 (Len Hutton 111; James Sperry 5 for 71, Vic Jackson 3 for 52) and 37 for no loss drew with Leicestershire 203 (Les Berry 103, Francis Prentice 42; Ellis Robinson 5 for 31, Bill Bowes 4 for 47).

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)