Paul Gibb © Getty Images
Paul Gibb © Getty Images

A popular cricket trivia question relates to the identities of designated wicketkeepers who have scored centuries on their respective Test debuts. As is common knowledge, there are three names on this list — Brendon Kuruppu, 201* vs New Zealand at CCC, 1987; Romesh Kaluwitharana, 132* vs Australia at SSC, 1992; and Matt Prior, 126* vs West Indies at Lord’s, 2007.

There is, however, a footnote to this data (there are a surprising number of footnotes attached to cricket statistics). There are three more cricketers who almost made the list, ‘almost’ because though they did score centuries on Test debut, and kept wickets for their respective countries in Test cricket, they were not the designated ’keepers in their debut Tests.

These individuals are Paul Gibb, 106 vs South Africa at Johannesburg, 1938-39 (later kept wickets in 3 Tests); Billy Griffith, 140 vs West Indies at Port-of-Spain in 1947-48 (kept wickets in 2 Tests); and Wayne Bentley Phillips, 159 vs Pakistan at Perth in 1983-84 (kept wickets in 18 Tests).

The archives reveal a list of 29 instances till date when a batsman has been dismissed for a score in the nervous nineties on Test debut. Of these unfortunate players, only two have redeemed themselves by scoring a century in the other innings. The first one to do this was the somewhat thin at the top, slightly built, bespectacled batsman-cum-wicketkeeper (in itself, a rarity) of average height, who played for England, Scotland, Cambridge, Yorkshire, and Essex, and who later took up umpiring at First-Class level. Meet Paul Antony Gibb.

The other man was, of course, the great Gordon Greenidge, who launched his brilliant Test career in an emphatic manner with scores of 93 and 107 against India at Bangalore in 1974-75.

Gibb first saw the light of day on July 11, 1913 at Acom, near York. The family had strong Scottish roots. Paul’s grandfather Sir George Gibb, a prominent transport administrator, was a Scot from a family of engineers. Paul was educated at St Edward’s, a public school in Oxford, and went to Cambridge. He later made a very good marriage, to a daughter of the Lord Mayor of York.

A feature appearing in Corridor of Uncertainty, a newsletter dedicated to Yorkshire cricket fans, reveals interesting insights into the life and cricket career of Gibb. It seems that, going against the usual trend, Gibb opted for employment with Sir Julian Cahn immediately after completing school, before embarking on his University education. Having already established his cricketing credentials while playing for St. Edward’s XI with some good scores from 1928 to 1931, he had the opportunity to build on his cricketing education during his stint with the eccentric cricket-loving millionaire and philanthropist. At the young age of 19, he played for Sir Cahn’s XI against the visiting West Indians at Bridgford in 1933, scoring 25* and 24* against the likes of Learie Constantine, Manny Martindale, and Ellis Achong.

In the same year the young man found himself rubbing shoulders with Walter Robins, Ian Peebles, and Jim Swanton as part of Sir Cahn’s private tour to Canada, the USA, and Bermuda. Against Ottawa in August he remained undefeated on 100 in the team’s total of 217 for 1. Gibb played a total of 11 games on this tour.

Between 1934 and 1956, Paul Gibb played 287 First-Class matches, including 8 Tests, scoring an aggregate of 12,520 runs. He had 19 centuries and 51 fifties, and averaged 28.07. He also held 425 catches and made 123 stumpings.

His resolute style of batting, free from any frills, as befitted an upper-order batsman, stood him in good stead, and he scored a thousand runs in five seasons: 1,658 in 1938, 1,330 in 1951, 1,519 in 1952, 1,342 in 1953, and 1,223 in 1955.

Gibb made his First-Class debut playing for Scotland against the visiting Australians of 1934, opening the innings with the legendary New Zealand stalwart Stewie Dempster. He scored 7 and 9. We find him fulfilling the role of wicketkeeper and opening batsman in his second match, playing for Minor Counties against Cambridge in 1935. He scored 23 and 28 in the game and made 7 dismissals. There were some famous names in the ’Varsity side, Norman Yardley, Hugh Bartlett, Billy Griffith, Wilfred Wooller, and Jahangir Khan among them.

Gibb played his first game for Cambridge that same season against a Nottinghamshire team that included Harold Larwood and Bill Voce, scoring 9. He had another joust against Nottinghamshire when he made his debut as an amateur for Yorkshire later in the same season, in his first Championship match. Herbert Sutcliffe and Len Hutton opened the innings for Yorkshire, but Hutton was dismissed for a duck. Sutcliffe carried his score on to 135 but the rookie trumped that with 157*, and his highest score for the White Rose county. For this game, the Nottinghamshire attack was boosted by Harold Butler in addition to Larwood and Voce.

Although Gibb played only 3 First-Class matches for Yorkshire in his debut season, he found himself leading them on a foreign tour the following season. It seems that following an initial suggestion from Lord Hawke, Yorkshire had been invited by the Jamaica Cricket Association to make a tour in 1935-36. Brian Sellers, reigning Yorkshire captain and amateur cricketer, was unable to make the trip for personal and business commitments, and the mantle fell on the inexperienced shoulders of 22-year-old amateur Gibb, with the gracious permission of Cambridge University.

He had a very good supporting cast in the form of George Hirst, who accompanied the team as the Manager, and umpired in some of the games as well. Then there were other established Yorkshire luminaries like Sutcliffe, Arthur Mitchell, Maurice Leyland, Hedley Verity, and Bill Bowes, to name a few to whom the newcomer could turn for advice and help. Yorkshire played 3 First-Class games on this tour, winning the first and drawing the rest. Gibb may have felt a bit overawed at the situation, being at the helm of a team full of stars and against another that could boast of the likes of George Headley and Ivan Barrow in their ranks, and which also had Leslie Hylton of macabre fame, being the only Test cricketer to have been executed. Gibb acquitted himself fairly well under the circumstances.

While playing for Cambridge from 1935 to 1938 and gaining his Blue, his batting potential was never in doubt, although the same could not have been said about his wicketkeeping abilities. He played purely as a batsman in his first year. Billy Griffith, a far more competent ’keeper, performed the duties behind the stumps. In his second year, Gibb found himself filling in for Griffith when the latter was sidelined with injuries. In his final year as an undergrad, much to the surprise of everyone, perhaps even to himself, Gibb was chosen as the first-choice ’keeper by the University even when Griffith was fit, a decision that had come in for much adverse comment at the time.

Gibb played only 3 games for Yorkshire towards the end of 1936 with only moderate success. Yet, he was capped by Yorkshire in that season. The presence of a rapidly developing Hutton and Yardley (a Cambridge compatriot), and the sound wicketkeeping of Arthur Wood contributed to his not finding many opportunities to turn out for the county. The story was much the same in the following season as well, though he did enjoy some success with the bat, scoring 113 for his university against Hampshire, and a gritty 87 (run out) against the perennial rivals Oxford in. Gibb also had the rather unusual experience of playing twice against the visiting New Zealanders, for Yorkshire and Scotland.

Gibb had his third international exposure in the winter of 1937 when he joined Lord Tennyson’s team on a private tour of India, playing 12 games. It was a fairly strong ream that he toured with, including the likes of Jim Parks of Sussex (having scored 3,003 runs and taken 101 wickets in 1937, the only man to accomplish the double of 3,000 runs and 101 wickets in a single season till date), Bill Edrich, Joe Hardstaff, James Langridge, Stan Worthington, George Pope, Arthur Wellard, and Peebles. For Gibb, the highlight of the tour was his 136* against Western India States.

Paul Gibb was joined by younger brother Richard at Cambridge in his last year (1938). This was to be an important year for his gradual development as a complete cricketer in his dual roles of batsman and ’keeper (he was a full-timer for the university now).  He registered the highest score of his career this season, for Free Forester (an itinerant team curiously granted First-Class status, but only for their games against Cambridge and Oxford). A curious incident of the Free Foresters innings was the dismissal of Freddie Brown (the only Test cricketer born in Peru, and later to lead England to Australia in Ashes 1950-51). Brown was caught by Paul off the bowling of his brother Richard Gibb.

In his next match of the season, for the Gentlemen of England, Gibb had the opportunity of facing the visiting Australians under Don Bradman (this was Bradman’s first tour of England as). Gibb scored 6 and 67, and took 3 catches.

As a result of his good performances in the season, Gibb was selected for the third Test at Old Trafford. Les Ames was injured, and that provided Gibb the window of opportunity with George Duckworth close to retirement. It was principally Gibb’s batting that prompted the selectors to prefer him over more accomplished men like Wood of Yorkshire and Fred Price of Middlesex, not a very popular move, to go by contemporary media reports.

As it turned out, the Test was washed out in a deluge of rain and was abandoned without a ball being bowled and without the toss being made. According to Hutton, Gibb spent much of the time running laps around the stadium, perhaps in an effort to be by himself and away from the dressing-room or to work off some of his inordinate fondness for ice-cream and fruits (he was reputed to be a ‘hearty trencherman’). The opportunity passed him by on this occasion.

As Ames was still on the injured list by the time the fourth Test came around, Gibb was in the running for his Test debut. He was preferred over Wood for Yorkshire’s important game against Middlesex at Lord’s. The Yorkshire team however, suffered a number of injuries in this match. Hutton had a finger broken by an Bill Edrich delivery and took no further part in the game. Batting on 4 in the first innings, Gibb was hit on the head by a short delivery from ‘Big Jim’ Smith that required stitches, and he took no further part in the game either.

Gibb was not fit for the Headingley Test, and Price kept wickets for England. For the fifth Test at The Oval, Wood was at last given his due recognition, making his Test debut, and joining Hutton in the middle at the total of 770 for 6 and keeping him company while he created a new Test record with his 364*. Wood was the last England wicket to fall before the declaration at the then Test record team score of 903 for 7, but not before he had scored 53 and had partnered Hutton in a seventh-wicket stand of 106.

Fortunately for Gibb, Yorkshire won the Championship in 1938. When the touring party to South Africa was announced, Gibb was in the team as the understudy to Ames. In the meanwhile, Wally Hammond, who had turned amateur in the winter of 1937-38 in an effort to gain the England captaincy, was appointed captain by MCC. The squad included four Yorkshiremen: Verity, Hutton, and the uncapped pair of Yardley and Gibb.

Gibb had 3 First-Class innings in South Africa prior to the first Test, scoring 19, 16, and 28. It was a bit of a surprise, therefore, when he was selected to open the innings for England (Hutton being unfit for this Test as a result of a head injury) in the first Test at Johannesburg. He was in the team only as a batsman, however, Ames taking up his rightful position behind the stumps.

Hammond called correctly and England batted first, losing Edrich (4) at the total of 4. Debutant Gibb then had a fruitful second-wicket stand of 184 with Lancastrian Eddie Paynter (117), followed by a brief 46-run third-wicket stand with the skipper, and a 44-run fourth-wicket stand with Ames, before he was dismissed for 93 in his very first Test innings. Valentine contributed 97 in a team total of 422. Norman Gordon (who would live to be 103 years old, and be the last pre-war survivor in Test cricket), took 5 for 103 in the innings for South Africa.

South Africa then replied with 390, with a fine 102 by Eric Dalton, and identical scores of 73 by Bruce Mitchell and Dudley Nourse. For England, Tom Goddard took 3 for 54 in a hat-trick, with the wickets of Nourse, Gordon, and Billy Wade, the second instance of an England bowler taking a hat-trick against South Africa after George Lohmann did this at Port Elizabeth in 1895-96. 

When England batted again, the first wicket again fell early, Edrich being dismissed at the total of 38. Gibb then had his second 100-partnership for the second wicket with Paynter (100), the stand yielding 168 runs before Gibb was dismissed for 106, having kept his tryst with a century on Test debut.This Test provided a unique instance of 150+ partnerships for the same wicket between the same batsmen in both innings, with second-wicket stands of 184 and 168 between Gibb and Paynter. The Test ended in a draw. 

The second Test at Cape Town also ended in a draw. Hammond won the toss again but Jupiter Pluvius prevented any play till half-past-three in the afternoon of the first day. Day One ended with England on 131 for 2, Hammond batting on 54 and Gibb on 56. Hammond (181 masterful runs) and Ames (115) shared a fourth-wicket stand of 197 runs. Valentine scored 112, and England had a total of 559 for 9, at the time the highest total for England against South Africa [there have been 5 higher first-innings totals since then. In this run-fest, Edrich scored a duck. Gordon took 5 for 157.

The South Africa first-innings total of 286 was built around 120 from Nourse. Verity took 5 for 70 for England and Goddard 3 for 64. In the time remaining in the game, South Africa, following on, scored 201 for 2, Eric Rowan remaining unbeaten on 89.

Hammond won the toss and England had first strike yet again in the third Test at Durban. Hutton fell at the team score of 38. Gibb (38) then had a second-wicket stand of 115 with Paynter (243), the most prolific batsman for England on the tour. The 115-run association between Gibb and Paynter made it the third consecutive innings in which the two batsmen had collaborated in century stands.After the departure of Gibb at 153, Paynter and skipper Hammond (120) added 242 for the third wicket. England declared at the fall of Paynter’s wicket, at 469 for 4.

South Africa began in intermittent. Wickets fell at regular intervals as the England bowlers made inroads into the South Africa batting. Ken Farnes took 4 for 29 and Hammond held 3 catches in the slips. The innings ended at 103, and South Africa followed on. Mitchell scored a defiant 109. Rowan (67) and Ken Viljoen (61) batted sensibly as well, but the innings was terminated at 353. In the end, England won the Test by an innings and 13 runs and went into the 4th Test 1-0 up.

It was back to Johannesburg for the fourth Test, and Hammond won the toss for the eighth consecutive time, and the fourth time in this series.The weather was uncertain throughout the game and the entire third day’s play was washed out, the Test ending in a draw. England were dismissed for 215, Hutton top-scoring with 92 and Arthur Langton took 5 for 58. South Africa declared on 349 for 8 declared with a top-score of 85 from Rowan. In the truncated England second-innings total of 203 for 4, Gibb scored 45 and Hammond remained unbeaten on 61.

The combatants returned to Durban for the fifth Test. As per the match conditions agreed to for the series, since England had come into this game 1-0 up, this Test was to be played to a finish, irrespective of the time taken. This ‘timeless’ Test is perhaps one of the most written-about and discussed cricket contests of all, lasting all of 10 days and being terminated by ‘mutual agreement’. There were two rest days and the eighth day’s play was rained off.

This is what Farnes had to say about this game in his journal: “For most reasons, I should prefer to draw a veil over the final test match, there was so much batting, it would be tedious to mention details.” The man who gained most notoriety from the match was Vic Robbins, the curator of Kingsmead, as he and his mule religiously rolled the pitch absolutely flat, beginning at 5.30 each morning. The sun-baked, lifeless wicket turned out to be a graveyard for the bowlers, and the batsmen kept grinding on with no thought of infusing any sort of life into the proceedings.

Andy Bull wrote in The Guardian: “The game started on Friday 3 March and it ended 12 days later, after 43 hours and 16 minutes of play, 1,981 runs, and 5,447 balls. After all that, it still lacked the one thing it was supposed to have — a winner.”

That things would be different in this Test was evident from the toss. Quite frustrated by losing four consecutive tosses in the series, Melville abandoned his favourite tossing coin, a ‘lucky’ half-crown, in favour of a three-penny bit that Gordon had won off Hutton in a snooker game the previous night. The switch worked for Melville and, for the first time in the series, he was able to smile at his team-mates looking on anxiously from the dressing-room.

The figures speak of long and tedious vigils at the crease for almost all the batsmen in the game. Having been specifically instructed by the skipper to “camp on the wicket”, Pieter van der Bijl scored only 12 by lunch on the first day, skipper Melville scoring only 35 in the same time. The first boundary of the day, off a no-ball, came at 2:25 PM. Van der Bijl’s 125 came in 438 excruciating minutes of self-restraint. Nourse spent 364 minutes over his 103. The first-innings total of 530 came in 1,622 deliveries, and ended late into the third day. Ames had kept wickets with admirable composure, conceding only 2 byes. Reg Perks picked up 5 for 100.

The weary England team lost Gibb (4) early. When the innings finally came to an end on the fifth day, England had scored 316, 214 runs behind, Ames top-scoring with 84. With no thought of enforcing the follow-on, South Africa batted again in an effort to bat England out of the game. There was a frisson of excitement in the sparse crowd late on the fifth day when the first 3 wickets all fell at the total of 191: Mitchell (89), van der Bijl (97, narrowly missing the opportunity of becoming the first South African to score a century in each innings in a Test), and Rowan for a duck.

The only saving grace of the soporific sixth day was Melville’s 100. After lunch, Perks made pretence of crawling back on to the field, and the fielders just flopped on the grass at the fall of each wicket. After tea, Hammond called on Gibb to put on the big gloves so as to give Ames, who had been keeping wickets while 916 runs had been scored in all by the hosts, and conceding only 6 byes, a well-deserved rest. Mercifully, the innings ended at 481 later that day, by which time, Verity had bowled all of 95.6 overs (766 deliveries) for his 4 wickets. That left England the monumental task of scoring 696 to win the game, an unheard-of scenario.

It is reported that Edrich, who had scored only 88 runs from his 11 innings in Test cricket till that time (with only 21 from his 5 innings on the current tour) got ‘blind drunk’ that night in the company of his Middlesex teammate, the South African Tuppy Owen-Smith (who played Test cricket for South Africa and captained England in Rugby Union). His England teammates had to put him to bed that night. Arriving at Kingsmead the next morning, he was informed by Hammond that he would be batting at No. 3 that day, and that this was his last chance to redeem himself. Hammond has been quoted as saying “Don’t be afraid to go for the ball if you see it.”

Well, on that fateful seventh morning of the Test, England’s first wicket fell at 78 when Hutton (55) was dismissed by Mitchell, his only wicket of the Test. In walked Edrich with the skipper’s words still ringing in his years. It was to be a defining moment in the career of the diminutive Middlesex professional. The next England wicket fell at the total of 358 when Gibb (120 from 451 minutes of vigilance, and containing only 2 fours) returned to the pavilion, having scored the slowest Test century by an England player till then, but a century in which every run had been worth its weight in gold for the team. The second-wicket partnership had yielded 280 tenacious and precious runs for England, and had anchored their ultimate total of 654 for 5.

Saturday, 11 Mar/1939, the scheduled eighth day of the match, was rained off completely, and Sunday was the second rest day of the game. By this time the England think-tank was getting somewhat anxious, not having foreseen that the game would drag on for so long. The team were already supposed to have been in Cape Town by this time, and were supposed to have been playing a final tour match against Western Province before sailing home from South Africa. The tour game had to be cancelled.In the meantime, Hugh Bartlett, Goddard, and Len Wilkinson, the 3 Englishmen not playing in this game, had left Durban on the Athlone Castle, the ship that was to convey them home, on March 9 — well ahead of the rest actively involved with the Test. The scheduled departure of the vessel from Cape Town for the Atlantic crossing had been set at March 17.

On Monday, March 13, Edrich, who had been 107 not out, was finally dismissed for a colossal 219 (his maiden Test century), the wicket falling on the total of 447. He had resurrected his Test career and would be, along with his ‘Middlesex twin’ Denis Compton, the scourge of South Africa when they visited England in the post-war summer of 1947, Compton scoring 753 runs from 5 Tests and Edrich making 552 from 4.

Hammond was not far behind, scoring 140 and sharing a fifth-wicket stand of 164 with Paynter (75). It was on the tenth day of the game, that the announcement was made that, whatever the outcome of the Test, this would be the last day of the game, considering that the England squad would have to make a train journey to Cape Town to avail the ship home.

The day began with England needing 200 runs for a win (which did not seem improbable at the time, given the docility of the pitch) with 7 wickets in hand. At lunch the target was only 118 and they still had those 7 wickets in hand. Rain was predicted for later in the day and England knew they would have to speed up their scoring.

According to Brian Bassano (father of Chris Bassano, who, with scores of 186* and 106 for Derbyshire against Gloucestershire in 2001, became the only batsman ever to score a century in each innings on County Championship debut), “Spectators poured in to see the last few hours of this amazing match.”

It is reported that soon after the interval, Jim Swanton, who was doing a radio broadcast, received a message from an England supporter, tuning in 15 miles down the coast. “Tell Hammond to buck up. The storm has just broken at Isipingo.” When Paynter was out for 75, England Manager Jack Holmes ran out with a fresh pair of gloves for Hammond, so he could pass on the message. The showers closed in and Hammond was stumped in an attempt to push the scoring along. An early tea was taken by the umpires. England now needed only 42, and they had 5 wickets in hand. There was excitement in the air at the thought of the impossible about to take place.

With the bell calling the players out for the final session of play ringing out, the showers got heavier, and play was reluctantly called off, and, with it, the amazing Test.  The Test XI caught a train on the evening of March 14, pulling into Cape Town railway station on 17 March.   Walter Hammond flew from Durban to Cape Town. Delayed by a day, the Athlone Castle sailed out of Cape Town on March 18.

Although Paynter was the heaviest scorer for England in the Test series with 653 runs from 5 games, Gibb, third in the list with 473, became the second-highest scorer (till then) for England on a debut Test series, just 13 behind ‘Tip’ Foster against Australia in his epic of 1903-04. 

Back home and having graduated from Cambridge (his time at the university having been prolonged by his two overseas tours), Gibb did not play any First-Class cricket in 1939, though he did score 114 against Ireland and 211 against Minor Counties, playing these two games for Sir Cahn’s XI, not First-Class fixtures. With World War II imminent, Gibb joined the RAF, playing some wartime games when time and opportunity permitted.

At 32, Gibb returned to First-Class cricket with Yorkshire. Wood having retired, Gibb took on the wicketkeeper’s role. It took him a little time find his feet in the County circuit, but with successive scores of 73 against Gloucestershire, 72* against “Roses” rivals Lancashire and 104 against Warwickshire, he was gradually getting back into the swim of things. When India toured England in the summer of 1946, Gibb was selected as a wicketkeeper-batsman for the first 2 Tests.

After India had been dismissed for a round 200 in the first Test at Lord’s, England found themselves 4 down with only 70 on the board when skipper Hammond was dismissed. It was left to Gibb (60) and Joe Hardstaff Jr to carry the England batting to respectability. Hardstaff scored 205*, and the fifth-wicket stand was worth 182 when Gibb fell. England won by 10 wickets. In the drawn second Test at Old Trafford Gibb’s contribution was 24 and 0.

When the first post-war Ashes squad for Australia was announced in 1946, Gibb was in the team as the preferred ’keeper with Godfrey Evans as his deputy. It was not a happy fourth overseas tour for Gibb. He played in only the first Test, at Brisbane, scoring 13 and 11, and his ’keeping was found to be wanting. He was replaced by Evans for the second Test and never played international cricket again.

In all, he played in only 9 of the 25 matches that England played on the tour, scoring a total of 199 runs in his 14 First-Class innings with a highest of 37* and an average of 15.30.

It seems that Gibb was in the habit of writing a diary (not discovered till his passing away in 1977). He recounts a visit to the English dressing-room by the Duke of Gloucester, the uncle of Queen Elizabeth II, in his capacity of Governor-General of Australia. According to Gibb, it was on the first day of 1947, just prior to the Melbourne Test. “The Duke had put one or two whisky-and-sodas away so was quite easy to get on with and frequently broke into his somewhat high-pitched laugh… If we had been a bunch of racehorses he would have known better what to say to us. He talked a lot of hot air in such a manner as to make us doubt his sobriety and he opened by saying that he supposed we had all won the toss — as if each of us had spun our separate coin with our opposite number in the Australian team.”

Back in England after the Australian tour, Gibb, now 33 and an amateur, found it difficult to make ends meet in post-War England, played no more cricket for Yorkshire and looked for gainful employment for the next few years. There are reports of his being employed by a tailoring firm in London during this period.

It seems that his Yorkshire teammate Yardley had recommended his name to Essex, who were struggling at the bottom of the table and looking for a wicketkeeper-batsman. At 37 Gibb accepted the Essex offer and turned professional. He was the first Blue to become a professional cricketer, as a consequence of which he was forced to resign his membership from MCC. This is a rather sad comment of the social structure of cricket of the times, given that Tom Graveney was to later become the first former professional cricketer to become President of MCC, assuming the august office in 2004. He began his association with Essex from 1951. A new phase of Gibb’s cricket career was about to begin.

Between 1951 and 1956, Paul Gibb played 145 First-Class matches for Essex, scoring 6,328 runs at an average of 26.58. He scored 8 centuries and 25 fifties, held 273 catches, and made 63 stumpings. Essex had finished at the bottom of the County Championship in 1950, their first wooden spoon, but during Gibb’s tenure with them, they rose to eighth place in 1951 and subsequently finished 10th, 12th, 15th and 14th, Trevor Bailey and Doug Insole also playing a large part in the team’s gradual ascent up the Championship ladder.

Ironically, Gibb’s first century for Essex came in the game against Yorkshire at Brentwood in 1951. He scored 107 in the first innings. His former opening partner Hutton scored 141. Later in his first season with Essex, Gibb was in the limelight again against Kent at Blackheath, scoring 141 and sharing a third-wicket stand of 343 with native Yorkshireman Dick Horsfall (206).

In the next season, there was a second-wicket stand of 294 between Gibb (132) and ‘Sonny’ Avery (224) against Northamptonshire at Northampton. Gibb’s crowning success for 1952, however, was his expertise with the big gloves, netting 84 dismissals (67 caught and 17 stumped), a performance that placed him at the head of the keepers’ list for the season for the first and only time in his First-Class career, and which created a new Essex record.

It was 1953 and Australia were to tour England. The powers that be in English cricket decided on a trial game in preparation for the Ashes series, organising a game at Edgbaston between ‘England’ and ‘The Rest’. Gibb, almost 40, was selected to play for England in the game while Evans turned out for The Rest. Gibb scored 21 and made a solitary dismissal, thereby dropping out of national reckoning. However, he made his fifth overseas tour, to India with a Commonwealth XI under the leadership of Ben Barnett, a wicketkeeper from Australia in the winter of 1953-54, playing 13 First-Class games. The highlight for Gibb for this tour was his 154 and his first-wicket stand of 211 with Ken Meuleman (79) of Australia, against Assam Governor’s XI at Jorhat.

Gibb suffered a freak injury at the start of 1954 when he was hit on the face with a bat, and his performance, both with bat and behind stumps, suffered to some extent. He played his last First-Class game for MCC against his alma mater Cambridge at Lord’s, scoring 8 and 7. He was 43 at the time. Insole, his Essex comrade-in-arms and later Chairman of selectors for England, writing about Gibb, had cause to mention, “a few days after his retirement the club received from him a subscription for life membership.”

Weighing up his post-retirement options, Gibb decided to take up umpiring and joined the list if English First-Class umpires. Between 1957 and 1966, he stood in 235 matches. It is said that in the time that he was constantly on the move across the length and breadth of the land in connection with his umpiring duties, Gibb lived in a caravan, towing it to each venue.

Cricket administrators in England were very sensitive to the issue of the legality of bowling actions and were determined to exercise strict vigilance in the matter. It was with this backdrop that Gibb called Harold Rhodes, the prominent Derbyshire and England fast bowler, for ‘throwing’ 6 times in one over in the game against the visiting South Africans at Derby 1960.

Ironically, South African Geoff Griffin (later acquire infamy for his bowling action later in the season, being called for ‘throwing’ 11 times by umpire Frank Lee in the second Test at Lord’s, and bowing out of international cricket bowling underarm in the Test) was playing his first First-Class game in England in this match, but seems to have passed the scrutiny of the umpires. Later in the same season, Rhodes would fall foul of Gibb and umpire Syd Buller on another occasion.

Gibb was 53 by the time he gave up umpiring. He spent some time coaching in South Africa. In England, he secured a job as a bus driver (his extensive experience of towing his caravan all over England may have been useful in this respect), being based in Guildford, Surrey. It is reported that his fellow bus drivers were not aware of his cricketing past and he chose not to enlighten them in this regard. There is a story that David Frith, quite close to Gibb, had approached him with the intention of writing a book about him. Gibb, however, seems to have laid down one pre-condition, that any interview would have to be done while Gibb was at the wheel of his bus. This had resulted in Frith riding Gibb’s bus with a tape-recorder balanced on his lap.

Sadly, the project could not be completed. Gibb was about to begin a duty shift at the Guildford bus station on December 7, 1977 when he suffered a major heart attack and passed away aged about 64. His fascinating story, therefore, remained untold.