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Left: Grave of Sidney Adams at Reichswald Forest War Cemetery (Photo courtesy: Commonwealth War Graves Commission). Right: Samuel Beckett, no less, was the man Adams dismissed with his first ball in First-Class cricket © Getty Images

Sidney Clarke Adams was born August 17, 1904 at Northampton, and passed away at a relatively young age, as a gunner serving with the Royal Artillery and crossing the Rhine along with the Allied forces, on March 24, 1945, near Hamminkelu, Germany. Adams played only 11 First-Class matches between 1926 and 1932, all for Northamptonshire. He scored 158 runs in 16 innings, with a highest of 87, and an average of 10.53, and held 5 catches. His infrequent bowling spells fetched him 13 wickets from 359 deliveries, with a best innings bowling analysis of 6 for 32. He had only this one 5-wicket haul, but this particular bowling feat of his is part of cricket lore. ALSO READ – The Ashes: Ivo Bligh brings back the Urn after brushes with calamity and cupid

Adams was playing in only his 2nd First-Class match, not having been required to bowl in his first game. It was a home match against the undergraduates of Dublin University, played at Northampton in July 1926.

Northampton were led by Maurice Fitzroy, who changed his name from John Maurice Fitzroy to John Maurice Fitzroy-Newdegate in later life, for reasons unknown. His son, the even more spectacularly named Francis Humphrey Maurice Fitzroy Newdegate did away with the hyphen, and played Second-Class cricket for Eton College.

But let us get back to the match. Fitzroy opted to bat first, and declared the Northamptonshire on a healthy 454 for 7. William Adams, no relation of the protagonist of this anecdote, opened the innings and scored 101, sharing a 2nd-wicket partnership of 170 runs with John Timms (115). Our man Sidney Adams chipped in with 87 at #4. The undergrads toiled long and hard, using seven bowlers in all. One Thomas Dixon was the most successful bowler, with 4 for 118. ALSO READ – Ivo Bligh: the hero of cricket’s immortal love story

Dublin University, led by Alfred Jeffares, were dismissed for 155, with only Patrick Dixon (brother of the aforesaid Thomas), with 47, and wicketkeeper Harry Forsyth, with 43, doing anything really worthwhile with the bat. The home team employed five bowlers, new-ball bowler Edgar Towell taking 4 for 42 and Fitzroy taking 4 for 14. Sidney Adams was not required to bowl in this innings.

The undergrads were invited to follow-on, and scored only 58 in 22 overs in their 2nd innings. Only two men reached double figures — Stephen Radcliffe, with 14, and James Wills, with 10.

Purely on a whim, the Northants captain threw the ball to the untried Sidney Adams for his very first stint at the bowling crease in his First-Class career at bowling sequence No. 4 in the innings.

The first ball Adams bowled in First-Class cricket netted him the prize wicket of the celebrated Nobel Prize winning Irish writer Samuel Barclay Beckett, playing in the first of his 2 First-Class matches.

Beckett, bowled by Adams in the innings, would play 2 First-Class matches, both for Dublin University against Northamptonshire, in successive seasons. He remains the only Nobel Laureate to play First-Class cricket.

But Sidney Adams was far from over. His 2nd ball in First-Class cricket fetched him another scalp, of Patrick Dixon, once again bowled. He captured another wicket in his first over, that of the other brother, Thomas Dixon, caught by Ken Rymill. ALSO READ  Ashes 1882-83, the ‘extra’ Test: When 4 innings were played on 4 pitches

Sidney Adams finished with 7-0-32-6: all this, and purely on an impulse! This may have been a classical case of one’s impulse being too strong for one’s judgement, but what a wonderful impulse it turned out to be, for the team as well as for the bewildered bowler!

What a story this would have been to tell the grandchildren around the fire on a winter evening. Alas, Adams was to be deprived of this privilege, having made the supreme sacrifice at the altar of patriotism in a foreign land.

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