The Old Lord’s Cricket Ground witnessed the Bs being bowled for 6 © Getty Images
The Old Lord’s Cricket Ground witnessed the Bs being bowled for 6 © Getty Images

June 14, 1810. In one of the quirkier contests of the era, a team consisting of players whose surnames started with B took on the rest of England at Old Lord’s Ground. The Bs were skittled out for 6 in the second innings. Though some statisticians do not accept the contest as a First-Class match, some others agree that the match met the criterion. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at probably the lowest score in First-Class cricket.

Statisticians and historians have often mulled over the First-Class status of many a match, especially the ones before 1825. In Playfair Cricket Records, Roy Webber suggested 1864 — the year in which overarm bowling was legalised — as the cut-off. Bill Frindall, in Wisden Cricket Records, emphasised on 1815. CricketArchive, the most prolific online chronicler of cricket statistics, has the Hampshire vs England match of 1772 at Broad Halfpenny Down, Hambledon (it started on June 25) as the first ever First-Class match.

The Bs were a curious team, for they consisted of only cricketers whose surnames started with B. Though it may sound a strange concept in the 21st century, such teams were not unusual in those days.

They had beaten an all-England side at Lord’s Old Ground in 1805 despite conceding a 26-run lead: Lord Frederick Beauclerk scored 40 and claimed at least 5 wickets. A strange feature of the match was the fact that the Bs were a member short, and had to rope in the remarkable John Wells.

The match

It took five years for an encore of the contest. The match in question was played in 1810 at the same ground. Beauclerk, son of 5th Duke of St Albans was one of the most prominent figures of English cricket of the era, and one of the keenest enthusiasts behind the Bs. READ: The very first match to be played at Lord’s

Once again the Bs could not find 11 men. In fact, they were two men short. Wells was, once again, a part of the line-up, as was James Lawrell, who had done something similar before. When The Ws and Hs took on an all-England side in 1800, there were eight Ws and two Hs: Lawrell made his First-Class debut.

The Bs batted first, and negotiated the underarm bowling of William Lambert and roundarm bowling of John Hammond well. It is to be noted that both Lambert and Hammond kept wickets as well. Five of the top six batsmen reached double figures; and of them, Edward Budd managed 27 and Beauclerk, one of the finest all-rounders of the era, scored 41.

Lambert finished with at least 3 wickets and Hammond, at least 2. The Bs finished with 137. The first wicket Lambert claimed in the innings was also his 100th in First-Class cricket.

Both all-England openers registered ducks. In stark contrast with the Bs, only one of the top six (William Ayling, 15) went past 10. There was some resistance down the order from Robert Robinson, Assheton Smith, and Andrew Freemantle, but The Bs acquired a crucial 37-run lead.

Lord Beauclerk was the driving force behind The Bs. Photo Courtesy: Scanned from The Hambledon Men by John Nyren, edited by EV Lucas.
Lord Beauclerk was the driving force behind The Bs. Photo Courtesy: Scanned from The Hambledon Men by John Nyren, edited by EV Lucas.

Sealed with a six!

Henry Bentley and John Bennett, the openers, were quickly dismissed for ducks. Both Lambert and Hammond oscillated between bowling and wicketkeeping duties. The big blow came when the legendary Billy Beldham (also brother-in-law of Wells) was bowled for nought: having bowled for a duck by Lambert in the first innings, he bagged a pair.

Beauclerk was bowled by Hammond without scoring, too. There was suddenly some action when Wells scored four from a single shot. However, he was bowled by Hammond without adding another run to his score.

Hammond continued to rattle the stumps of more batsmen, removing C Bentley for a duck, but Samuel Bridger managed a single before he was caught by Hammond. The scoreboard read 5 for 7 when Lawrell joined John Bentley, brother of Henry; Lawrell scored a run shortly afterwards; then he holed out to Smith.

Hammond clean bowled J Barton for a duck. The score read 6 for 9. Budd did not bat, leaving J Bentley stranded on zero. This also meant that the Bs were bowled out for 6 — still the lowest score in First-Class cricket. Even those reluctant to grant First-Class status to the match unanimously accept this as the lowest total in an “important match”.

Ironically, 5 of these 6 runs were scored by Wells (4) and Lawrell (1), which meant that the nine “bona-fide Bs” managed a single between them.

A few wickets went down quickly as all-England started their chase of 44. However, Robinson scored 23 not out (to go with his 19 in the first innings), and all-England won by six wickets.

What followed?

–    Beldham (also spelled as Beldam, or even Beldum) was one of the outstanding cricketers of his era. He was named by John Woodcock among his list of 100 greatest cricketers of all time in The Times in 1997.

–    Beauclerk played till 1825. It was a successful yet controversial career. Playing for Homerton against Montpelier in 1807 he scored 170, then the highest score in any recorded form of cricket. Unfortunately, he was also involved in several controversies, including match-fixing scandals.

He became MCC President in 1826, and to quote Derek Birley from A Social History of English Cricket, was a “persistent symbol of insensitive autocracy long after his retirement”.

–    After Wells and Lawrell, only two other cricketers have played for The Bs — Frederick Hutchison Hervey-Bathurst (the second surname, of course, started with B) and Roger Kyanston.

Brief scores:

The Bs 137 (Lord Frederick Beauclerk 41; William Lambert 3 wickets or more) and 6 (John Hammond 5 wickets or more) lost to England 100 and 44 for 4 by 6 wickets.

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