Elizabeth College 1st XI

Great Elizabethans.

Rob Batiste selects a fantasy Elizabeth College First XI cricket team from all the great names who have graced the College Field in King’s Road in October 2017.

Part 1 – the first five:

A SUMMER’S afternoon at the College Field, King’s Road. You can book me in for one of those any day of the week. What a place to watch cricket, what a venue to play it. The very best have played there; legends such as Garry Sobers, Len Hutton, Barry Richards and Gordon Greenidge, and generations of Elizabeth College cricketers have been mightily lucky to have it as their summer second home, enjoying lunches and teas on the upper floor while gazing down to that vast greenery penned in by a gorgeous tree-line. But College cricketers were not always so lucky, when the captain of our fantasy First XI went out to bat for Elizabeth, his track was the lumpy, bumpy and not so salubrious surroundings of a public Cambridge Park. George Bailey makes our side on the grounds that he is the only OE to have gone on to play Test cricket. Not for England, but for Australia. Bailey was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where his father, Canon Brooke Bailey, was a military chaplain and inspector of schools. He boarded at Elizabeth College where he captained the first XI for two years in 1869 and 1870. This was soon after the introduction of inter-collegiate cricket, the first matches in 1862 when Elizabeth won in the sister isle, and the ‘brown caps’ won up here. After he left school he followed his father to Tasmania where he played for the Launceston Cricket Club and soon enough made his first-class debut for Tasmania, batting at number three and opening the bowling against Victoria. Although Tasmania did not play another interstate or first-class match until 1877-78, Bailey established a reputation as ‘a particularly forceful hitter, his favourite stroke being a powerful drive’. So good was he that he caught the eye of the national selectors who took him as part of the 1878 Australian touring team, the only Tasmanian in the 12-man side. The Australians played 40 matches in the United Kingdom, 15 of them first-class, of which Bailey played 12. He made 254 runs at an average of 14.94, with a top score of 40.

In a tour of low scores, he finished third in the Australians’ batting averages and among the opposition was one W. G. Grace. The tour continued with matches in the United States and Canada in October, then returned to Australia for some more matches. In the first match back in Australia, Bailey broke his arm while fielding, and took no further part in the tour, or the 1878-79 season. Bailey top-scored in each innings for North in an innings defeat to South in 1879-80 and was invited to tour the United Kingdom again in 1880, when Test matches were played, but he declined for business reasons. Bailey, who will bat at four in our team, died in 1926 at the age of 73, by which time the second of our XI had nailed his spot in the side. We’re talking one John Valdemar Blad, the eldest of the Blad boys and destined for an Army life. But before that, in 1914, he and younger brother Carl dominated the Victoria bowlers unlike anyone before or since. In the first of those summer’s Victoria games, played at King’s Road, JV hit an undefeated 129 and CE 104. When they later travelled to Jersey, JV finished undefeated on 209, the only double-century- maker in the school’s 155-year cricket history. In Jersey, the brothers opened the innings and between them put on 214 in the side’s 267 for three. The Elizabethan magazine noted: ‘At lunch no wicket had fallen and the score stood at 125, JV Blad being 57 and his brother 56. After lunch more risks were taken, especially by CE Blad, who, hitting at almost everything, and once sending the ball out of the ground, reached his century within half-an-hour. Almost immediately afterwards, with the score on 214, he was stumped, having scored 104 by very fine cricket. ‘

1913 team

Mr E B White, J V Blad, P E N Howard, L E Hamber, H de Saldanha

L W hart, G H Forty, W S Ozanne, T G Grant, F D McCrea

T S Bobree, C E Blad

Victoria were all out for 155 and JV took 3 for 29 from eight overs. Barely a game went by that summer that the Blads did not open together and the runs invariably flowed. On Friday 27 June, the XI, captained by GH Forty, jumped aboard the Reindeer, and headed eastwards. In dense fog off the Corbiere the captain dropped anchor. They stayed there overnight. The Elizabethan record the precariousness of the situation. ‘The bell and gun from the lighthouse, the fog-bell on board, and the whistles of passing steamers made night hideous. It was an unpleasant experience.’ Weary-eyed or not, Elizabeth were at the ground for an 11 am start and Forty’s special shilling saw him win another toss and elect to bat. This time it was the Victoria bowlers who were all at sea, even though the younger Blad went cheaply and three more top-order wickets also went cheaply. JV Blad dug in and when the side had reached 342 for nine, Blad had very nearly two-thirds of the runs, the next highest scorer being Layard with 36. The Elizabethan again:

‘JV Blad merits the heartiest of congratulations. It was distinctly his match and it was gratifying to see such a fine end of his career in the eleven.’  Incidentally, it took Elizabeth 94 overs to amass 343 and they then required 43 to bowl out Victoria for 127.

Such is the depth of historical talent Carl Blad does not make our First XI, instead he has to settle for a place in the Seconds and we have to fast forward to account for Blad’s opening batting partner. N. K. ‘Keith’ Howick was a phenomenon in his own right and after Bailey is the only other first-class player in our side. The Victoria College bowlers of 1969-71 vintage must have been heartily sick of the sight of this very tall man with great depths of concentration and who took three centuries off the Victorians in three successive years – a record.
All three ‘tons’ were not-outs and Tony Taylor, his last coach, loved him to bits like his predecessor Jack Reddish. Taylor seldom gave anyone a rave review in the Elizabethan magazine, but at the end of Howick’s innings at Elizabeth, he penned these words: ‘N. K. HOWICK (Secretary). 597 runs and 39 wickets present the facts of his contribution but the wider, overall influence is best exampled by his innings of 114 not out at Victoria in a total of 178. Throughout a time when wickets and strange decisions were being obtained, concentration was applied and responsibility accepted for the benefit of the team, to produce as fine an innings as one could hope to see from any schoolboy. With Bailey batting at four in our team, coming in first wicket down is surely one of the most stylish – if not the most exquisitely balanced timer of the ball – the school has seen. Robin Roussel ensured his name was added to the centuries honours board when, in 1953, he struck an undefeated 107 alongside L. C. Fitzgerald’s 105 in an unbroken third-wicket stand of over 200 before Roussel declared at 273 for 2, the last half-hour of the innings realising 105.

Both young men were lynchpins in the side and, of course, the captain went onto play many a game for the full Island side. This was what Reddish had to say about his captain at the end of the 1953 season: ‘A powerful batsman who has made several good scores, including a century against Victoria. He is happiest when attacking the bowling and would be a more reliable bat if he gave the same concentration to defence, especially in the first few overs. He has handled the side well and set an admirable example in the field.’ Batting at five is possibly the most naturally talented batsman of the last quarter-century, sufficiently talented to be taken onto Hampshire’s books and play limited overs cricket for them. Tim Ravenscroft is cricket’s modern-day enigma, making the game look so easy and, sadly for the spectator, so often wanting more. It would be interesting to know what old Jack would have made of him.

Part 2

Not a bad top five was it? Keith Howick and John Blad, with five inter-collegiate centuries between them, at 1 and 2, that most elegant of run-getters, Robin Roussel, at first wicket down and an Australian Test player – George Bailey – at No. 4. Throw in the mercurial run-thrasher, Tim Ravenscroft, good enough to play one-day cricket with Hampshire, and the fantasy 1st Xl top five has all styles to see off any similar Old Victorian opposition. But, as selector, I worry about bad tracks, helpful bowling conditions, dust-bowls. We need more batting. So, in filling places 6-9 I have plumped for four all-rounders who, like the top order, all had something different about them. H. V. Stone could hit the ball harder and farther than perhaps any Elizabethan, even though cricket was his second-string sport. Howard Vernon Stone made the school cricket, football and hockey first XIs in the mid-20s before going on to a long teaching career on the mainland, including Scotland, which he represented at full international level in 1938. Stone’s College cricketing career was nothing too spectacular, but islanders often got full value when they slipped through the King’s Road or Rue a L’Or gates to see him bat for GlCC or Guernsey in the immediate post-war years and through the 1950s. Legend has it, he cleared the College pavilion with one massive hit. As a schoolboy, his school record was nothing to write home about, although the end-of-year summariser in 1927 wrote this of him: ‘H. V. STONE. Good forcing bat, not afraid to punish the bowling; excellent field; would do well to practise slow leg breaks.’ It is at this point I can reveal I am cheating a little and having set out to name the best XI, have added a 12th to pick from, given conditions on the day. Next in the order, and someone to bolster the batting in seaming conditions, comes Stuart Mackay, the golden boy of the late 1980s who took a century off Victoria in 1989 and, having forced his way into the full Island side that summer, proceeded to score a ‘ton’ on debut against Jersey. Mackay was a stylish accumulator and benefitted from playing in an outstanding side that also included Dave Marshall, Neil Garrett, Rob Turville and Dale Chadwick. Marshall scored his own inter- collegiate century as they all reached Upper Sixth status, but Mackay was the truly outstanding talent, scoring 793 runs for the first XI that summer at 52.9 with two centuries and six 50s. They all knew it was coming, of course, as he had scored stacks of runs the previous two years and when he left his first XI tally amounted to 1,806 from 70 matches at 36.1.

S Mackay

Two out-and-out seaming all-rounders follow in the form of Vernon Collenette and Pierre Le Cocq. Future island captains both, they were fine talents undoubtedly – Collenette, whose athletic ability made him arguably the finest all-round sportsman of the 1950s, Le Cocq also a high quality hockey player. With Collenette’s student years largely coinciding with the Occupation years, his first XI cricket record is not noted, but Le Cocq’s is. He enjoyed three seasons in the first XI from 1961-63. This was what Jack Reddish said of him at the end of the 62 season when he regularly batted at first wicket down behind Mick Fooks and the occasionally outstanding the occasionally outstanding Philip ‘P. V.’ Sarre, who smashed 175 off the visiting Forest school attack with seven sixes and 21 fours: ‘Someone who plays fast bowling better than spin. Can be relied upon for a sound innings when one is most needed. A very useful medium pace bowler who moves the ball both ways; has bowled rather short on occasion this year. A very safe fielder and an able Secretary’.

1962 team

Pierre Le Cocq middle row, second left and Philip Sarre immediately to his left

Sarre was obviously some player himself and, but for the fantastic records of Blad and Howick, would make the XII. In 1962, he hit a brilliant hundred against Victoria, while Reddish had this to say about him in The Elizabethan: ‘His batting was more than competent and was at times outstanding. Naturally one particularly recalls his century before lunch against Victoria and his several successes against the MCC during their Cl tour. We congratulate him on being picked for the Lords trial match in August.’

MCC Webber

At 9, and shamefully low for someone who was such a fine and aggressive player, is the man with the best initials in the history of island cricket: M.C C Webber. When he left the College in the summer of 1971, a season which saw Elizabeth College first XI be a match for the island’s two main club sides, Rovers and Cobo, his coach Jack Reddish took out his biro to pen these notes in the Elizabethan review: ‘M. C. C. WEBBER (capt.) – Consistent, reliable and usually attractive in getting runs, he has given his own personal lead to a highly successful side; 588 runs, 23 victims behind the wicket and, at times, mature captaincy are a fair contribution by any standards.‘ For three seasons that embraced the 60s and 70s, Webber and Howick scored thousands between them in contrasting styles. Howick – dour, accumulative, assuring – Webber, a blaze of square cuts, pulls and vicious drives. The period 1968 through to 1971 sides may go down in the school’s history as the best ever, what with the ‘big two’, fellow honours board centurion Michael de Figuiredo – the eldest of three boarding Jersey boys to play in the College top order in that five-year spell.

William Watling

Intriguingly, Philip and Richard were given the honour of opening for Elizabeth when they took on Victoria. Now for the strike bowlers and who else could it be but for those two flying heroes of the  Second World War. Watling and Rose, who destroyed Victoria in 1939 with devastating fast bowling, yet, tragically, were dead just a few years later. Old cricket fan R. J. Nicolle, possesses lasting admiration for our fantasy first XI new-ball attack, having witnessed them first-hand in the last summer before the Second World War: ‘Although Watling joined Elizabeth College in 1936, I well remember him as a prefect at the States Intermediate School in 1935 when I became a pupil there. In those days, boys who passed the School Certificate gained entry to the College in order to obtain higher education and a way into university. My interest in cricket and in particular a fascination in fast bowling, in the late 1930s, was enhanced by the sight, at the College Field, of Watling and Rose opening the bowling in tandem. A frightening sight. The Intermediate School first XI versus the College Colts were allocated a corner of the Field for their games, giving me a marvellous opportunity to watch the “Fearsome Two” in their pomp,‘ covers all bases and sufficiently talented to nudge a host of fine cricketers into the second XI. In fact, five of the Seconds have their names on the College Pavilion century honours board, stretching 110 years between L. D. Watling’s 141 in 1895 and Jamie Nussbaumer’s 107 in 2005. We know plenty about the post-war performers which, of course, also include two full Island captains in Andy Biggins and Nussbaumer, but some, like Watling, for example, will be strangers. But he was clearly a class act and in the year he made history as the first College centurion, The Elizabethan summed him up thus: ‘Plays almost faultless cricket when in his best form, driving grandly along the ground, and playing forward beautifully on the leg side. Worst at back play and too apt to go in for it. Has kept wicket very creditably and bowled at times with success’.

1st XI  1. Keith Howick, 2. Jerome Blad, 3. Robin Roussel, 4. George Bailey, 5. Tim Ravenscroft, 6. Howard Stone, 7. Stuart Mackay, 8. Vernon Collenette, 9. Pierre Le Cocq, 10. Mike Webber, 11. William Watling, 12. Brian Rose

How’s this for a second string: (in batting order) 1. L D. Watling, 2. P. V. Sarre, 3. M. Stokes, 4. C.E. BIad, 5. A. C. Bisson, 6. A. Biggins (captain), 7. R. Self, 8. J. Ravenscroft , 9. J. Nussbaumer, 10. M. A. Fooks (w/k), 11. D. J. Bowen.  Fielding 12th man  A. Tapp.