Johnny Briggs

Published: 2020
Pages: 12
Author: Tebay, Martin
Publisher: Red Rose Books
Rating: 4 stars

And, for the eight time this year, we have a new booklet in the author’s Red Rose Cricket Records series. Hitherto Martin Tebay has, to use a cricketing metaphor, played these with a straight bat. But this time he courts controversy in his very first sentence, by declaring Johnny Briggs to be unquestionably Lancashire County Cricket Club’s greatest all-round cricketer.

In truth I don’t suppose too many of those who would champion the cause of Andrew Flintoff are regular consumers of Red Rose publications, but for what it is worth Tebay’s is an assertion that is, ultimately, difficult to disagree with save, perhaps, for the use of the word unquestionably.

One thing that is certainly the case is that Flintoff never matched the feat that is celebrated here, that of scoring a century and taking ten wickets in the same match for Lancashire. In fact it is a feat that has only been achieved five times in all. Briggs was responsible for the first, second and third instances and it is the first that is celebrated here. Len Hopwood and Mike Watkinson are the only other men to have managed the feat.

The contest in question was at Old Trafford in 1890 and the Red Rose’s opponent were Sussex. The weather wasn’t at all good, and at 2.50pm on the third and final day Lancashire’s first innings stood at 246-2, with Briggs unbeaten on 129.

The previous summer the laws of the game had been changed to permit the possibility of a Lancashire declaration, and skipper Arthur Kemble took full advantage. Even so in what little time that was left Lancashire couldn’t bowl Sussex out twice, could they?

Of course they could, and they used just two bowlers. Briggs and Alec Watson bowled unchanged throughout Sussex’s 35 all out and 24 all out. Briggs took ten wickets, Watson nine and one man was run out. No Sussex batsman got into double figures.

The booklet’s formula is the same as for the previous seven. There is a brief introduction by Tebay, followed by a detailed account of the match itself before the scorecard is reproduced, a few words written about Briggs and the other four instances of the feat listed.

This Johnny Briggs booklet is just as enjoyable as the previous seven in the series, and perhaps a little more so given that Tebay’s affection for his subject comes shining through from his narrative. It is an excellent addition to an excellent series and again appears in a limited edition of just 30 copies. Interested purchasers are advised to contact the publisher immediately. He can be contacted via email at sales_redrosecricketbooks@live.co.uk

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