This photograph from NCCC’s archive shows Northamptonshire taking the field against Surrey at The Oval on Saturday May 1, 1920 – a hundred years ago today.
It was the opening County Championship match of the season but club officials had ‘extraordinary difficulties’ (according to the local newspaper) raising a side: ‘Quite half a score of amateurs have declined to play, and the eleven that will go to London will be very weak.’
Desborough’s Lawrence Holland – one of five amateurs who eventually answered the call – captained the team, and after losing the toss he saw fast bowler ‘Bumper’ Wells from Daventry dismiss the great Jack Hobbs cheaply, caught by ‘Fanny’ Walden at cover. But Surrey totalled 266 all out and Northamptonshire, who collapsed to 100-8 in reply at Saturday’s close, lost by 299 runs inside two days.
On a more positive note, the club’s coffers were boosted the previous weekend – thanks to a fundraising rugby match at Franklin’s Gardens between the Saints and Leicester Tigers, the idea of former Northamptonshire captain Fred Tyler.
It was an extra fixture – the traditional rivals had already met twice that season – and the Tigers won 25-6, but a crowd of between nine and ten thousand came to watch at the Gardens. The proceeds amounted to around £280 but the Saints committee opted to round it up to £300 for the benefit of NCCC. The actions of both Saints and Tigers were warmly welcomed in the press: ‘These generous actions will be heartily appreciated by all sportsmen.’
It wasn’t the only fundraising effort going on a century ago. NCCC’s committee ran a raffle to win a car – with a motorcycle and a ‘French premium bond’ as second and third prize respectively. Although there were legal restrictions on advertising the competition it still yielded a profit of £800 for the club. Much needed at the time!