Victory over the 1923 West Indians

During February 1923, Bill Ponsford, in only his third first class innings, broke the world record for an individual score, making 429.  In April, Wembley Stadium hosted its first FA Cup Final, a match which came to be known as ‘the white horse final’.  Stanley Baldwin began his first term as British Prime Minister in May and the Hollywood sign was erected in Californian in the summer.  In November, an attempt was made to seize political power in Bavaria by a nationalist politician unknown, at that time, outside Germany.  His name was Adolf Hitler.

In England, cricket saw a touring West Indies side, as yet, not granted Test Match status.  However, their opening batsman, George Challenor, did much to convince the cricketing establishment that they should be given such an opportunity. In August, he had scored an unbeaten 111 against Gloucestershire and scored 155 and 66 not out against Surrey before arriving at the Arms Park for the game against Glamorgan which began on Saturday 4th August.

On what was a batsman’s pitch it was the West Indies opening bowler George John that caught the eye of the Western Mail reporter as he watched the first days play:

“Throughout the Glamorgan innings he bowled unchanged and came out with the splendid analysis of 23-9-52-7.  On any wicket such a record would give satisfaction to any bowler, but John’s performance is far and away a better one than is indicated by the bald statement.  He is a fast bowler and one doubts very much indeed if we have a fast bowler in England today who could keep up his pace and preserve the accurate length John did for two and a half hours without a break save for the luncheon interval.”

John, at 38 years old, was probably past his best as an opening bowler but that did not stop CLR James describing his bowling as ‘hostility itself’ and comparing him, as a fast bowler, to neither Statham nor Trueman but to Frank Tyson.  He would take then wickets in the match.

After bowling Glamorgan out, the West Indies were 168-6 at the end of Day One.  Nomad was able to report the ‘Splendid cricket by Glamorgan’ and a ten thousand strong crowd that had witnessed a rousing days play from Glamorgan.  The plaudits on day two then went firstly to Trevor Arnott, the amateur all-rounder, whose lively medium pace was rewarded with figures of 7/40.  A career-best, it kept the West Indies lead to below a hundred.

Trevor Arnott.
Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Batting for a second time, Glamorgan were 53-3 when Jimmy Stone joined Eddie Bates at the wicket.  Two partnerships later the score had gone to 265 and Stone, described as ‘the little man’ had ended on a history-making 108.  The first Glamorgan player to score a hundred against a touring side Stone ‘deservedly inscribed his name on to the honours roll of Glamorgan cricket’.  And all at the age of 46! His  partnership of 136 in an hour and a half with Frank Pinch helped the county to reach 324-8 by the close, a lead of 238.

“The match from the start was one long thrill, but into the last day’s play were crowded incidents which were far more exciting and sensational than anything which the two previous days offered.”

So began Nomad’s report on 8th August.  Glamorgan lost their two remaining wickets without adding to their score and the big crowd watched on as Challenor and the West Indies set about their task of scoring 239 to win the game.  ‘The hopes of the majority of spectators must have fallen to zero’ as Challenor and Ince added 75 in 45 minutes for the second wicket.  Nomad was effusive in his praise:

“Challenor is, perhaps, one of the most aggressive and hardest-hitting first wicket batsmen playing in cricket today.  He took only forty minutes to obtain his first 50 and another eighty five minutes for his remaining 60 runs.  His driving through the covers was an object lesson in timing and execution, whilst he also possesses an unerring square and late cut.  When he drives the ball the whole weight of his body is put into the stroke.  No one can wonder how it is that he has hit six previous centuries off the best bowling in England.”

The West Indies had reached 171 when, as Nomad described, the match ‘was marked by one of the most extraordinary collapses that first class cricket in the United Kingdom has provided this year.  The last six Colonial wickets actually fell for 24 runs’.

‘Glamorgan’s Great Victory’ hailed the piece in the Western Mail and as well as praise for the contest, journalists were struck by the fielding of Learie Constantine for the touring side and the wicketkeeping of Dennis Sullivan for the hosts.  The Daily Mail, perhaps epitomising the view of Welsh cricket from outside the principality titled its piece ‘Surprising Defeat of West Indies.’

Stephen Hedges

Museum Volunteer

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