A Rare Ovation

Published: 2019
Pages: 40
Author: Gault, Adrian
Publisher: Mitcham CC
Rating: 3.5 stars

Cricket having first been played on the Green as long ago as 1685 Mitcham has a strong claim to be the oldest cricket club in existence. It has been a struggle in recent years however as the club continues to fight a still unresolved dispute which might see it fold. The occupation of the pavilion, leased in the past from a brewery, has been in a state of limbo for some years as a somewhat shadowy development company has purchased its site and will not allow the club any security of tenure until their plans have been finalised. Even if that does happen the suggestion is that the annual rent that would then be charged would be well beyond the club’s means.

Fortunately for the club they have many on their side, and the fight is one that hopefully they will eventually win and future generations will still be able to play and watch cricket on the historic sward. If not it will be a dark day for the entire game as well as for Mitcham.

Inevitably the club is always in need of funds and two worthwhile booklets have already been published in recent years which I reviewed here. This year, despite its troubles the club arranged a fixture in September to celebrate the 100th anniversary of a match Mitcham played against the Australian Imperial Forces side of 1919, the last game played before the Australians travelled on to South Africa for the next leg of their tour.

A century ago therefore sixteen of Mitcham (comprising thirteen local men and three men borrowed from the Australians) took on an AIF side which included future test captain Herb Collins as well as the great all-rounder, Jack Gregory, and Test batsmen Johnny Taylor, a favourite of the young Donald Bradman. A number of the other AIF players had or were to enjoy decent First Class careers. As for the locals their wicket-keeper, Dennis Sullivan, played a few times for Surrey whilst Herbert Strudwick’s understudy and later made well over one hundred appearances for Glamorgan). Sullivan and one of those given by the opposition apart only Burn Bullock, who played half a dozen matches for Surrey in the 1920s, were ever to grace the First Class game.

Present-day Mitcham member Adrian Gault has gone back to the original press reports of the lead up to the game and the match itself in order to reconstruct why it took place and the progress of the match. It will come as no surprise to learn that the eleven defeated the sixteen, but Mitcham put up a creditable performance nonetheless.

The booklet also contains lively pen portraits of the players on both sides, and if Ronald Cardwell had done the spade work into the Australians many years ago Gault has built on his work, and must have put a fair number of hours into researching the backgrounds of the local members of the Mitcham side. With the inclusion of some contemporary photographs the result is an entirely satisfying and well written account of an interesting episode in the history of a famous Surrey club.

The book is a mere £5 to purchase plus the cost of postage and packing and all proceeds will be a welcome boost to the club coffers. The book, and Outstanding and Outstanding II, can be bought on eBay Uk or orders can be placed directly with the author whose email address is adrigault@aol.com. Alternatively those in the southern hemisphere can purchase from Roger Page.

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by Martin Chandler