Rain in Edgbaston this morning, looks as though the entire day is going to be a wash, so I’d thought I would take this opportunity to talk about the history between England and the West Indies:
The West Indies have played England in 145 test matches, dating back to June of 1928. England have won 45, the West Indies have won 53, and there have been 49 draws. (West Indies have also won three more ODIs and two more T20s.) And, so, at the very least, West Indian fans can enjoy the fact that their boys hold the advantage in the overall series history. A draw in the third match would make that advantage even safer, going forward. So I guess they have at least something to play for.
But back to 1928, and the first test between England and the West Indies: Lords, June 23-26. England won by an innings and 58 runs. They went on to win the series 3-0.
England traveled to the Caribbean in ’29-’30, and the West Indies earned a draw in the five test series.
They played three more series in the 1930s, England won in England in 1933, the West Indies won in the West Indies in ’34-35, and England won again at home in the summer of…1939.
The last match of the series in ’39 ended in a draw at the Oval on August the 22nd. One year and one day later, the Luftwaffe would carry out an all night bombing raid on London, thus beginning what is now known as the Blitz.
Five months before the series started, in March of 1939, the Germans had invaded Czechoslovakia. Two weeks after the match ended, in September of 1939, the Germans invaded Poland, an event known historically as the official start to the War. Surely the fans at the Oval that day in August felt the winds of war on their cheeks as they watched the cricket. One last afternoon in the sun, before six long dark years of war.
It was a three day match. 1,216 runs were scored, but only 23 wickets fell. England opened with 352, an 80 from Buddy Oldfield and a 73 from Sir Leonard Hutton the stand out scores.
…Hutton suffered a compound fracture of his left arm during commando training in 1941, it took eight months of rehab to heal him, and when he was discharged his left arm was two inches shorter than his right arm. But he went on to play in 63 more tests for England, scoring almost 7,000 runs for an average of 56.67…
The West Indies responded with 498 runs, including 137 in just two and a quarter hours from Bam Bam Weekes.
…Weekes only played in two test matches. He moved to the USA after the war, became a nurse, fathered six children, and died in New York in 1998 at the ripe old age of 86…
England scored 366 in their second innings, but the match was well past any hope for a result. Hutton scored 165 in five hours for the home team, whilst the great Wally Hammond scored 138 in just three.
…Hammond is one of my favorite cricketers of all time. I will let Cricinfo do the talking for me…
According to Wisden, it was a well attended and highly entertaining match. The West Indians played “carefree” and joyful cricket, and Hammond’s lightning quick 138 included a crowd pleasing 21 fours – and for all three days the Oval was soaked in brilliant late summer sunshine.
But it couldn’t last forever.
And so on Tuesday, August the 22nd, 1939, at six o’clock in the evening, in front of 9,000 spectators, the players walked off the field.
England would not play another test match until 1946.
In the interim, 450,900 British citizens would die due to military activity. Just a hair shy of 1% of their total population.
The first test of that 1939 series against the West Indies was played at Lord’s on June 24-27. England won by eight wickets. Playing in that match was none other than Hedley Verity, well known as England’s best pre-War slow bowler.
He had played in 378 first class matches for Yorkshire up to that point, and 40 tests for England, taking 29,145 and 144 wickets, respectively. His performance at Lord’s that June was just average, at least it was for a player like Verity. He took two wickets for a tidy 54 runs.
It would be his last test match for England. He would play a few more matches for Yorkshire that summer, and his last ever cricket match would see him take 7 for 9 to bowl Sussex out for 33.*
Four summers later, he would die as a prisoner of war in Italy on July the 31st, 1943, at the age of 38.
He received his fatal wounds whilst leading a charge on German positions in Catania, Sicily. Supposedly, his last words were to his men: “Keep going, keep going, keep going.”
*Cheers, again, to Martin for the correction.