Work recently began at the County Ground in Taunton to remove the Old Pavilion and during excavation workmen discovered a remarkable piece of memorabilia in the form of an old scorecard from the Somerset v Middlesex game in 1909. Read the story from the official website here.
Reading that story, and seeing some of the players involved, I remembered reading about an amazing game between the same two sides played ten years previously in the last year of the nineteenth century, this time at Lords. Two of the key players in both games were Jack Hearne and Albert Trott, both of Middlesex and England. These two were responsible for tearing Somerset to pieces in 1899 in a game that would become famous for being the fastest completed first class game in history to reach a natural and positive result, lasting under two sessions.
1899 was still a formative season for Somerset, their 13th in first class cricket. Having been granted first class status in 1882 the club were reinstated in 1891 having lost this status for five seasons in between.
To the contrary cricket has been reported as being played in the city of London since the 17th century. The first reference to a team called Middlesex was 1726 in a game versus London Cricket Club. They would be known in many different guises before becoming definitively known as Middlesex County Cricket Club and the county played its debut first class match against Sussex CCC at Islington in 1864.
Playing Middlesex away at Lords would be one of the highlight fixtures for the ‘carrot crunchers’ from the westcountry, who were skippered by Sammy Woods. He was the first true ‘great’ of Somerset cricket. His family heralded from Dublin but he was born and raised in Australia for whom he would play three Test matches against England in 1888.
But the game was far from a pleasant couple of days in the capital for Woods’ team. Play was scheduled to start on Whit Monday, 22nd May 1899, but the first day was a complete washout. Play eventually commenced on Tuesday 23rd. It is not recorded who won the toss but Somerset batted first and were in trouble almost instantly.
The first few balls came and went with little drama. Openers Philips and Robson both got off the mark with singles but then the wickets started to fall as Hearne bowled both men and Richard Palairet was run out for nought and the away team were 3 for 3! Trott then removed Roe, also for a duck, and four more Somerset batters came and went without troubling the scorers during which time Hearne took 3 wickets in 4 balls. Somerset were 8 for 8 including six ducks!
Captain Woods ensured his team would avoid the mantle of a record lowest ever team score which was, and remains, 12 all out. His 20 runs may not be outstanding on its own merit but helped Somerset to 35 all out and a small amount of respectability, all things considered.
For Middlesex Hearne took 5 wickets for 14 runs and Trott 4 for 18 bowling 15 overs between them.
Middlesex eased to 24 before losing a wicket and equalled Somerset’s total with only two wickets down and a healthy lead looked likely. But then 3 wickets fell for 1 run to reduce Middlesex to 36 for 5 with Ted Tyler taking all five. Tyler had played a solitary Test for England in 1895 and he would finish up with 8 wickets for 42 runs in 17.5 overs as Middlesex were all out for 86, a lead of 51 runs.
Somerset were back in the game! Or so they may have thought.
For the Londoners Foley equalled Woods and top scored with 20 which would prove to be the joint highest in this match.
Somerset started their second innings just after lunch. Once again Robson eased himself off the mark with a single but Trott took three wickets in the first over (there were 5-ball overs in those days) and Somerset were 2 for 3 from 1. In the next over Hearne bowled Robson and the away team were now 2 for 4. Trask was snared LBW by Trott and Somerset were looking likely for that lowest ever score again at 5 for 5.
Woods (6) was 6th man out on 11 and two more wickets reduced Somerset to 18 for 8, still trailing by 33. Nicholls (18) and Newton (12) put on 26 to take the score to 44 but both men perished on this score without adding further runs to the total so Somerset were 44 all out. Scorecard
Middlesex had scored just 86 runs but were winners by an innings and 7 runs. In total the game lasted 185 minutes, not much more than three hours from first ball to conclusion. Somerset had batted for a combined 31.3 overs only.
In the 2nd innings Trott took 7 for 13 to finish with amazing match figures of 11 wickets for 31 runs. Hearne had taken 3 for 30 to finish with match figures of 8 wickets for 44 runs
There were 13 ducks in the game but only two were Middlesex players, one being Trott. Four Somerset players had ‘pairs’ in the game – Palairet, Trask, Tyler and Roe, who ultimately played his last ever first class game with the most disappointing of outcomes.
Middlesex picked up one point for the win and Somerset deducted one point for losing. The Londoners finished the season in 2nd place on 8 points, the same haul as Surrey who were awarded the title because they had completed fewer games. Trott took 146 wickets in the season.
Somerset finished above only Derbyshire who were the ‘wooden spooners’.
Hearne’s career would run from 1891 to 1914 in which time he took over 3,000 wickets. He played 12 Tests for England taking 49 wickets including a best of 6 for 41.
Wisden described him as “possibly the finest cricketer from the Hearne clan”, as he had four cousins who played Tests, and two brothers who played first-class cricket.
Trott, who was named Wisden Player of the year in 1899, is one of only five men to play Test cricket for Australia before representing England. In actual fact two of those men played in this game, the other being Sammy Woods who later played Test Cricket for England and also captained the Rugby Union team. The others were Billy Midwinter, Billy Murdoch and J.J. Ferris.
Trott would prove to be Somerset’s nemesis again one season later when he took all ten wickets in an innings (10 for 42) at Taunton in 1900.
Trott was at the height of his powers at this time but his career nosedived dramatically in the next few seasons as his weight increased due to his colourful lifestyle. Albert liked a drink and was often seen enjoying a pint of ale with supporters on the boundary edge during play and his career finished prematurely in 1910. His later life dogged by illness and subsequent depression and he took his own life by shooting himself in 1914.
It is reported that South African born Warwickshire and England player Jonathan Trott is a distant relative.
As well as Hearne and Trott there were two Somerset players who played at Lords in 1899 and whose names appear on the scorecard found in Taunton recently and they were Ernie Robson and wicket keeper Arthur Newton. Middlesex won a closely fought game at Taunton in 1909 by just two wickets with Hearne taking 6 wickets and Trott just one. Scorecard here