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Vic Marks (left) and John Spencer © Getty Images

 Not content with their success in retail market, Marks & Spencer decided to enter the world of First-Class cricket on April 26, 1975, only to return two days later. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at a somewhat unusual scorecard entry from an otherwise ordinary match.

Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer had founded their famous retailer in 1884 at Leeds. Though their business thrived over close to a century, few would have expected Messrs Marks and Spencer to appear on a row of a First-Class scorecard, despite Leeds being one of the headquarters of the sport in England.

The year was 1975, the same in which Marks & Spencer ventured into mainland Europe, opening stores at Paris (Boulevard Haussmann) and Lyon. In less than a decade’s time several more would spring up in Ireland, France, and Belgium.

Oxford University were scheduled to open their season against Gloucestershire, but the match was washed out without a ball. The Sussex match was technically their season opener.

Oxford were a strong outfit, and consisted of quite a few big names: Imran Khan had already played for Pakistan; Chris Tavare and debutant Vic Marks would play for England; captain Trevor Glover was a rugby union Blue; Gajanand Pathmanabhan was a star in Sri Lankan cricket; and Andrew Wingfield Digby would be, and still is, the vicar of St Andrew’s Church, Oxford.

Sussex, on the other hand, boasted of Test stars Tony Greig and John Snow as well as Geoff Greenidge (a white West Indian Test cricketer of known relation to Gordon). They also had Mark Faber, who had gone to Oxford in his college days.

Glover opted to bat, but Oxford ran into trouble before they could say ‘John Snow’. Snow took out both openers while medium-pacer John Spencer removed Imran, and Oxford were left reeling at 6 for 3.

Spencer was no ordinary cricketer. A Cambridge alumnus (why do you think he was this hostile against Oxford?), Spencer was instrumental in the University’s first win against a visiting side. While Spencer had felled Pakistan in 1971 with 6 for 40 and 5 for 58, Cambridge captain Majid Khan saw the University to a 10-wicket victory.

Tavare, the man who would put many a soul to sleep in years to come, hung on grimly, with Marks for company. The pair added 14. On came Roger Marshall with his left-arm seam, removing Tavare and Martyn Lloyd. Oxford were 26 for 5 at this stage, and it was left to Marks and Wingfield Digby to salvage some pride.

Marks & Spencer

Marks ambled to 22, by far the highest score of the innings. Then he played one off Spencer, straight to Snow — and the scorecard, for the first time in the history as per chroniclers and statisticians of the sport — included the names Marks and Spencer.

The great retailers of Leeds had finally found a new domain — the greatest of them all — to invest in.

The rest was a blur. Oxford, reduced to 46 for 8, were somewhat rescued by wicketkeeper Paul Fisher and Rod Eddington, but they were bowled out for 78, Snow and Spencer taking four wickets apiece.

Imran and Charles Cantlay hit back apiece, reducing Sussex to 51 for 3, but Jeremy Morley (94) and Greig (121) added 200 for the fourth wicket. Sussex became 274 for 6, but the tail wagged, both Spencer (63) and wicketkeeper Alan Mansell (52) got fifties. Sussex piled up 448.

Marks & Spencer II

Oxford walked out again, and Glover was run out for a duck. Out walked Marks. Spencer was bowling second over. And again — almost inevitably — Marks did an encore, caught Snow bowled Spencer, this time for a duck.

It had taken Marks & Spencer 91 years to appear in the County Championship, but once they were there, they did it twice in consecutive days. As mentioned, they would do the same when it came to expanding their business outside England.

Once again, only three students made it to double-figures (Wingfield Digby scored 69) as Oxford folded for 154 and lost by plenty on the third morning.

But the Leeds giants had already made their presence felt in cricket by then.

Brief scores:

 Oxford University 78 (John Snow 4 for 10, John Spencer 4 for 19) and 154 (Andrew Wingfield Digby 69; John Spencer 3 for 31) lost to Sussex 448 (Jeremy Morley 94, Tony Greig 121, Alan Mansell 52, John Spencer 63*; Charles Cantlay 4 for 85) by an innings and 216 runs.

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