William    Billy    Caffyn. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
William Billy Caffyn. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

1860. William Billy Caffyn, on Winchester payroll, took on a team of eleven men single-handedly. He emerged triumphant by a massive margin. Abhishek Mukherjee recalls an amazing display by a special cricketer.

William Caffyn was no ordinary cricketer. To begin with, his First-Class career, mostly for Surrey, lasted from 1848 to 1873. His First-Class numbers, 5,885 runs at 17.99 and 602 wickets at 13.47 (he bowled round-arm), make more-than-impressive reading. Mind you, he played numerous other matches as well, some of which went undocumented.

Caffyn is remembered mostly for his performances for Surrey. He played 89 of his 200 matches for them (excluding matches for Players of Surrey, Surrey and Kent, Surrey and Sussex, Surrey Club, and Surrey XI). While his bowling remained the same, that batting average shot up to 23.20 excellent on pitches of the era. They called him the Surrey Pet for a reason.

Caffyn was also a part of two important tours: first, the North America tour of 1859 with George Parr s team, the first time any cricket team crossed an ocean for a tour; and, Australia in 1861-62 with HH Stephenson s team, the first tour of England in Australia.

He did several firsts on the second tour. Against Victoria he bowled the first ball by an Englishman in a match on Australian soil. Later, in a match for Surrey XI against The World the first First-Class match by an English side in Australia he bowled the first ball and took the first wicket.

He later settled down in Australia and played for New South Wales. In 1899 he wrote Seventy-One Not Out, a vivid documentation of cricket in the 19th century.

Before all that, even before that North America tour, however, he began coaching at Winchester. He started in 1858 and stayed there for four seasons. The match in question took place in 1860.

Not quite Nelson, but 1-11 anyway

Single-wicket cricket used to be popular till at least the middle of the 19th century. Transport was primitive in the 18th century, so it was often difficult to assemble twenty-two quality players. One-on-one matches drew bigger crowds.

Robert Colchin, Stephen Dingate, Tom Faulkner, and Thomas Waymark were all big names in the early days of single-wicket cricket. Giants such as Fuller Pilch, Alfred Mynn, and Nicholas Felix were champions of the format as well.

The matches were intense (Andrew Ward called it cricket s answer to boxing ). They were often played for large sums of money. As late as in 1857, a single-wicket match between John Grange and James Sadler lasted three days.

However, one man taking on an entire XI was not as common. Caffyn himself could mention two: Old [William] Clarke, I think, once did so; also that famous fast Nottingham bowler Sam Redgate, whom I only once saw at Derby.

Bill Ashdown and Bert Wensley would beat eleven men (representing Isle of Oxney) on their own in 1936, but they were still two men, not one!

The idea occurred to a local innkeeper called Burt. Burt challenged Caffyn to take on a full team. Of course, he would be provided with the assistance of two fielders (who would neither bat nor bowl). Caffyn immediately took up the challenge.

The match attracted lot of hype at Winchester. It lasted two days. In fact, such was the build-up that army men posted in the barracks cancelled their own match to watch Caffyn take on eleven men.

There were three additional rules for the match:

1. All runs had to be scored in front of the wicket. While this saved Caffyn the botheration of a long-stop, it also meant that he would have to pierce a field of a much stronger fielding unit in front of the wicket for every run.

2. The batsman was not allowed to leave his ground to hit . Why, one wonders.

3. Caffyn would have to dismiss every single opposition batsman. This presumably had to do with the fact that Caffyn s side would feature no not out batsman, but one cannot be sure.

Eleven of Winchester consisted of T Birt, J Blake, T Collins, W Collins, T Forder, W Judd, J Nash, E Powell, Sharpe, S Sherry, and J Tubb. Caffyn s fielders went by the names of Chamberlayne and Simpson.

Caffyn went in first. An altercation took place between him and a fielder (it is not clear whom). Caffyn recalled: I remember the gentleman who fielded point (and who stood very close in) chaffed me a good deal at the beginning of my innings about the folly of my attempting to play eleven of them, whereupon, being rather nettled at this, I offered to lay 10 to 1 on myself, and at the same time strongly advised him to stand farther away or I might injure him!

The fielder should not have messed with Caffyn, who scored a commendable 20 before W Collins bowled him. The locals bowled all over the place, conceding 14 wides. A solitary no-ball took the score to 35.

Now the Winchester batsmen walked out to bat. They were no match for Caffyn, who bowled 7 of them and caught 2 others off his bowling. Simpson held a catch, T Collins did not bat, and that was that. Eleven of Winchester were bowled out for 4. Birt scored 2 of these runs while Sherry and Judd got 1 apiece.

The lead was 31. It was almost insurmountable, but then, W Collins got Caffyn again this time for 1, caught Sharpe. The target, thus, was 33.

Once again Caffyn skittled out Eleven of Winchester for 4. He bowled 7 men again. Chamberlayne took 2 catches, and neither T Collins nor Nash batted. This time Sherry (probably the Bradman of the side) scored 2, and Forder and Tubb got a run apiece.

Caffyn won by 31 runs and pocketed 10.

Brief scores:

William Caffyn 35 and 1 beat Eleven of Winchester 4 and 4 by 28 runs.