Reg Perks © Getty Images
Reg Perks © Getty Images

“In Hartford, Hereford, and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen.” This unforgettable ditty being repeated again and again by the hapless Cockney flower-girl Eliza Doolittle to the point of exhaustion at the behest of Professor Henry Higgins is one of the abiding memories of the film My Fair Lady. Very unobtrusively, however, a hurricane of sorts was set in motion in October 1911.

Reginald Thomas David ‘Reg’ Perks was born October 4, 1911 at Hereford. A right-arm fast-medium bowler, Reg Perks played 595 First-Class matches in all in a 25-year span of 1930 to 1955. This included 2 Tests, one against South Africa, and one against West Indies. Perks had joined the Worcestershire ground staff as early as 1928. It is learnt that his father Thomas Perks had played one First-Class game, for MCC in 1902.

Let us first get the unfortunate numbers of his cricket career out of the way. Here is the list of players with more than 100 ‘ducks’ in their First-Class career:

Reg Perks (England and Worcestershire): 156 ducks from 595 games

Charlie Parker (England and Gloucestershire): 150 ducks from 635 matches

Courtney Walsh (West Indies, Gloucestershire and Jamaica): 103 ducks from 429 matches

Given the numbers quoted above, it seems quite unbelievable that Perks had scored a total of 8,956 runs from his 884 visits to the batting crease, remaining not out on 150 occasions. This means he was dismissed for a duck once every 4.7 dismissals.

His highest individual score was 75, and he had 14 fifties and held 238 catches.

His bowling statistics make flattering reading: 2,233 wickets at 24.07 apiece with a wicket every 52 balls. His best innings bowling figures were 9 for 40, and he took 5 wickets in an innings 143 times and 10 wickets in the match on 24 occasions.

He began his First-Class career in remarkable and memorable fashion. It was an ‘away’ game for Worcestershire against Surrey at The Oval, in May 1930. Debutant Perk, not yet 19, was run out for the first of his 156 ducks when Worcestershire, led by Cyril Walters, batted first, and were dismissed for only 40.

Surrey declared on 447 for 8. Opening bowling for Worcestershire with the vastly experienced Fred Root (2 for 119), Perks had figures of 3 for 106, breaking a first-wicket stand of 122 by dismissing Jack Hobbs (66) as his very first victim in First-Class cricket.

His other victims were Andrew Sandham (65) and skipper Percy Fender (36), another extremely distinguished pair. It turned out to be an occasion worth reminiscing about to the grandchildren of later years.

Worcestershire were dismissed for 183, with William Fox contributing 59. Maurice Allom and Eric Stroud took 4 wickets each, and Surrey won by an innings and 224 runs. The hurricane from Hereford had been launched in right earnest.

Perks had his first 5-wicket haul in the game against Leicestershire at Worcester in July of his debut season, when he picked up 7 for 20 in the Leicestershire 1st innings of only 58. Worcestershire won by an innings and 12 runs.

Perks was to achieve his best bowling figures in the game against Glamorgan at Amblecote in 1939. In a low-scoring match where the highest innings total was 153 for 9, Glamorgan were dismissed for 115 in their 2nd innings, Perks capturing 9 for 40. With his 1 for 22 in the Glamorgan 1st innings, this was Perks’ first match haul of 10 wickets. He twice took hat-tricks, against Kent at Stourbridge in 1931 and versus Warwickshire at Edgbaston in 1933.

In the match against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham in August 1946, Perks enjoyed a fair amount of success with 5 for 54 and 9 for 42, picking up his second 10-wicket haul in a match.

Against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in August 1938, Perks did something with bat that must have made him proud. The match started the same day England had levelled the 1938 Ashes with a resounding victory over Australia at The Oval, thanks to Len Hutton’s 364.

Having scored one of his innumerable ducks that made his batting career so memorable in the Worcestershire 1st-innings of 73, Perks made his highest individual score of 75 in the second (399), once again batting at No. 11, and adding 84 runs for the 10th wicket with Roly Jenkins (20). His 75 was scored in a mere 30 minutes, with 56 runs coming from boundaries (24 from 4 sixes and 32 from 8 fours).

The only debutant from both sides in the fifth Test between South Africa and England, at Kingsmead, starting March 1939, was Perks for England. Opening bowling with Ken Farnes in the South Africa 1st innings of 530, Perks picked up 5 for 100, his victims being Pieter van der Bijl (125), Eric Rowan (33), Dudley Nourse (103), Ken Viljoen (0), and wicketkeeper Ronnie Grieveson (75).

Perks took 1 for 99 in the South Africa 2nd innings of 481, his lone victim being Viljoen (74) again. Perks remained not out on 2 from #11 (where else?) in the only innings he batted, as the weary battle continued for 10 days, the match ultimately being declared a draw by mutual consent as the England team had a boat to catch on the way home with a World War looming in the distance.

Perks played his only other Test for England, under Wally Hammond, against West Indies at The Oval in August 1939. He remained not out on 1 in the England 1st innings of 352.

When West Indies batted, Perks opened bowling with Stan Nichols, picking up 5 for 156 in the 1st innings of 498. For West Indies, Bam Bam Weekes, the first Test cricketer to be born on the USA (Boston), scored 137 in 135 minutes with 18 fours and 1 six. Weekes put on 163 in 100 minutes with Vic Stollmeyer (96), 43 coming in 4 overs against the new ball with Weekes hitting 4 consecutive fours off Perks, a chastening experience for a bowler in only his 2nd, and, as it turned out, last Test.

Even so, Perks had the satisfaction of having a 5-wicket haul in both his Test matches.

Having lost his prime years to the War, like a lot of other cricketers, Perks found himself pushing 35 years of age when cricket resumed in 1946. He played his 595th and last First-Class game against Hampshire at Bournemouth in 1955, as the very first professional player to captain the Worcestershire team, a rare honour conferred on him by his County.

He captured 5 for 79, opening bowling in the Hampshire 1st innings of 294, and added another 2 for 40 in the second innings of 255 for 7, thus bowing out with his head held high, although he did add the final 2 ducks to his First-Class tally in his last game.

In his 25 years in First-Class cricket, Perks topped 100 wickets in a season a total of 15 times. Only Derek Shackleton (20 seasons) and ‘Tich’ Freeman (17 seasons) have taken 100 or more wickets in a season more often than Perks.

Worcestershire awarded the County Cap to Perks in 1931. A grateful Worcestershire Committee then granted him benefit seasons twice, in 1947 (this raised £3,000) and again in 1955, when the Testimonial raised £2,600.

His tally of 2,143 wickets for Worcestershire is still the County record.

The Members’ Dining Enclosure used to contain a Perks Room, in fond memory of Reg Perks, one of the “golden local heroes” of Worcestershire cricket. This room was also part of the Club’s Office Suite till 1988, when the whole old structure was pulled down in the name of modernisation.

In later years, Perks served as an outspoken member of the County Committee, and was involved with management duties on behalf of his beloved County, bringing all his experience as a player to the assignment.

Reg Perks passed away on November 22, 1977 at Worcester, aged 66. The hurricane at Hereford had finally blown over.

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