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August 31, 1937 – A disgraceful end to the County Championship at the Lord’s

The London Derby between Middlesex and Surrey at the Lord's was played towards the end of the 1937 County Championship.

The crowd at Lord’s cricket ground in London. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

The winners of the County Championship in 1937 was yet to be finalized as Yorkshire and Middlesex were the front-runners ahead of the final round matches. Yorkshire and Middlesex were neck to neck in their bid to clinch the title as their Percentage of Possible Points (PPC) was 70.86 and 70.44 respectively separated by only 0.42. Middlesex, who were up against Surrey at Lord’s, needed a win at any cost.

A win would take Middlesex’s PPC to 71.67 but had to hope the table-toppers Yorkshire don’t win their last game against Hampshire. A defeat could push Yorkshire’s PtsPC down to 68.33 and would range between 69.1 or 69.5 in case of a drawn game. Yorkshire needed only a win irrespective of Middlesex’s result as their PPC would move to 71.91 ahead of Middlesex’s maximum possible 71.67.

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Not the news they wanted:

The big game turned out to be a high-scorer as the visitors posted 509 in their first innings after electing to bat first. Laurence Fishlock’s 127 and Henry Barling’s 114 played a crucial role in Surrey’s big total. The Middlesex team responded strongly ending the 2nd day at 377/6 before the game entered for an exciting final day’s play. Pasty Hendren, in his last match for Middlesex, scored 103, his 170th century in first-class cricket.

Patsy Hendren followed by teammate Bill Edrich, resumes his innings in his last match for Middlesex. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

However, Middlesex received a heart-breaking news from Bournemouth where Yorkshire defeated Hampshire by ten wickets to clinch the title. The news seemed to have shaken the home team’s players as they lost their last four wickets for only 21 runs to be bowled out for 419 on the next day. With a 90-run first innings lead in hand, Surrey batted for the 2nd time in the game to post 204/6 in 44 overs before they declared their innings. Middlesex were set a target of 295 runs to chase in three hours.

A disgraceful ending:

Denis Compton’s 64 kept the host in the hunt but were in need of 140 runs in just 50 minutes at 155/4. But trying to score runs at a quick pace, Middlesex lost three wickets for three runs to be reduced to 158/7. George Allen and his captain Robert Robins were into playing out the final passage of play. However, at the same time, the opposition skipper Errol Holmes made his bowlers to deliberately bowl no balls and wides to speed up the formality of getting the new ball.

In those days, the new ball was taken based on runs scored and not overs bowled. The Middlesex’s batsmen also tried their best to waste time just before Holmes rolled his arms. The Surrey skipper bowled a series of balls which produced extra runs. Those deliveries ended up reaching the fence behind the stumps and the fielders in the outfield made no attempt to return the ball.

At 6:20 pm local time, George Allen discussed the light conditions with the umpires when Middlesex were 201/7 in 49.4 overs. The officials upheld the appeal and uprooted the stumps to end the game amidst bright sunshine. This incident was met with a strong disapproval and an enquiry was initiated in the matter. The crowd that turned up in good number was disappointed with the way both Middlesex and Surrey played the game.

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