Maurice Tremlett was one of Somerset’s greatest captains. In the late 1950s he wrought a renaissance in Somerset cricket comparable with that wrought in the 1970s by Brian Close and in the 2000s by Justin Langer. In each of the three cases the renaissance continued into the following decade under different captains.
Here the author recalls some imaginings of his young self about a player he had at that time never seen.
Somerset v Derbyshire. County Championship. Bath 1958
My earliest memories of serious reading are of kneeling on our sitting room floor with my father’s broadsheet newspaper spread before me. It was too large, or I was too small, for me to hold it steady standing up or sitting down. I remember it open at the sports page containing the cricket scorecards. Always in full in those days.
At the end of each round of matches the County Championship table would appear. One division of 17 teams in those days with the previous year’s position of each county in brackets after the name. No Durham until 1992, the first county to join the Championship since Glamorgan in 1919.
Were Somerset higher than they had finished the previous year the key consideration. And every so often the national averages would appear. Where and who was the highest placed Somerset batsman? Peter Wight always seemed to vie for that position. In 1959 he even vied for top spot but was beaten to it by MJK Smith with his 3245 runs.
I would pore down the scorecards, my finger running along each line. How many had Wight scored? Or Alley, or McCool, or above all Tremlett. I was always avidly in search of Tremlett’s score for he was Somerset’s captain and rarely seemed to score many runs at that time. I wondered what it must be like to be captain and not score many runs.
Then, one miraculous day, the paper revealed Tremlett had scored 118 out of Somerset’s total of 236 all out. The symmetry of scoring 118 out of 236, exactly half, made an indelible impression on my young mind. 118. 236. 118. 236. 118. 236. The two numbers turned over and over until they lodged firmly in my mind. They have never been dislodged. They are there still.
As I turned those numbers over in my mind that day I tried to imagine what to me was Tremlett’s great innings. My mind saw a heavy overcast day, bowlers constantly on the mark with no respite for the batsmen. I imagined Tremlett doggedly defending; scoring a run here and a run there, perhaps an occasional defiant boundary, as he stood fast against persistently accurate bowling, his score gradually mounting. The others I imagined succumbing one by one to the onslaught until, last man standing, the captain finally fell with Somerset having a precious score to defend.
What the weather was actually like that day I have no idea but I wanted it to be impossible for batting, the bowling unrelenting, the rest of the batting fragile. Tremlett standing god-like above the fray. I actually have no idea, and had no idea, if Tremlett really was the last man standing or if his innings was dogged or spectacular, skilful or lucky. But the mind of a boy who had never been taken to watch Somerset drew pictures in his mind to fit the image he had developed of his unseen hero, and that picture remains vivid.
A peek at an online scorecard today, an undreamt-of wonder in 1958, tells some of the story. The match was at Bath against Derbyshire. The Derbyshire attack included Jackson, Gladwin and Rhodes so the bowling probably was pretty unrelenting. Tremlett did score 118 out of 236 and Somerset batted 97.4 overs. Two and a half runs an over. Probably about par for the course in those days so perhaps the innings was not so dogged. Tremlett put on 104 for the fifth wicket with Alley of which Alley scored 51. So Tremlett must have matched Alley’s scoring rate. Perhaps not dogged at all then, at least in 1958 terms.
In fact, according to Wisden, Tremlett was known as a hitter but that was unknown to me at the time. Whether he hit out in this innings or played as I imagined, with Somerset under pressure, I have no way of knowing but my imagined image of this innings remains. The dogged hero digging out a score in impossible conditions as all around fell by the wayside. And that is how it will always remain for the mind of an eight-year-old should surely be permitted a dream or two which lasts a lifetime.
Oh yes, and Somerset won the match by 4 runs.
Scores: Somerset 236 and 120. Derbyshire 169 and 183.
This piece, here slightly edited, was, I believe, originally written somewhere in the winter of 2016/17 to be posted on grockles.com. I have been unable to locate it on the grockles site perhaps because old threads are often merged. Or perhaps I never got around to posting it. It has been posted there now.
Last posted on grockles.com 24th November 2018