What is the worst thing that can happen to you on a cricket field? Injury apart, for a batsman I would imagine it is being run out without facing a ball. And to be run out thus twice in the same match makes it four times as bad (cricket statistics do not always follow the logic of numbers).
But what if the first 10 players all fail to score and a team is dismissed for three runs, two of them being leg byes, thus ensuring immortality of sorts for Connor Hobson, at least at trivia quizzes in pubs around Wirral in England? Hobson was the only batsman to score in the Cheshire League (Division 3) for Wirral against Haslington, thus ruining the figures of Ben Istead who finished with six for one. Clearly he has made a case for promotion in the batting order.
For those who value detail, the match lasted eight-and-a-half overs and was watched by 40 spectators, which is 10 times the audience at some of the first class matches in India. It is useful to remember that Victoria, which made a world record 1107 in a Sheffield Shield match against New South Wales was dismissed for 35 in the return game a month later. All eyes are now on the return match between Wirral and Haslington slated for July. If more than 40 spectators turn up, it will surprise no one.
But as so often happens to our heroes, the sole run-maker’s name has two versions. Some newspapers have credited the run to “Hobson”, others to “Hodson”. Horatio, you might remember had no such problems after his heroics on the bridge — he was not called “Horato” or “Horashio” depending on whether the newspaper was conservative-religious or liberal-secular.Botham’s birthplace
Ten ducks all in a row have put Wirral on the cricketing map, although to be fair, it had already found a spot there as the birthplace of Ian Botham. It was a son of Wirral, Crapper, who is credited with inventing the modern toilet, and nothing its cricketers can do is likely to send the village’s reputation down its best-known product. The first American president George Washington’s grandparents are reputed to have lived in Wirral.
Such a rich historical and cultural heritage was nothing against the 17-year-old college student Istead who, with that gift for understatement which is nearly famous in Wirral, said, “To get six wickets for one run was pretty good.” In the same vein, the opponent’s manager said: “They didn’t play too badly.” But maybe he was being ironic.
Trained to look at the bright side of life, it is possible that Wirral fans may celebrate not getting to where the Somerset club Langport did in a match nearly a century ago when it was dismissed for zero. Till the ICC invents a way of negative scoring (minus one, for getting a partner run out, for example, or minus two for sledging), that will have to remain the unbeatable record.
Meanwhile, the Liverpool Echo informs us that Wirral CC has gone back to the nets. Life moves on. How long before it puts up a statue to Hobson (or Hodson), and sells merchandise connected with the biggest rout on a cricket field since archers lined up at Lord’s for the Olympic competition?
(Suresh Menon is Editor, Wisden India Almanack)