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HomeCricketCharles Townsend: A Forgotten Hero of the Golden Age

Charles Townsend: A Forgotten Hero of the Golden Age


All-rounder Charles Townsend made his First Class debut for Gloucestershire as a 16 yr previous in 1893. In 1899 his exceptional achievements earned him his two Ashes Exams. There have been no Check matches performed in 1900, when Townsend loved one other good summer time, however that was it. After that Townsend selected to focus on establishing his profession within the authorized occupation, and though it might be as late as 1922 earlier than he performed his final First Class match from 1901 on he was solely ever an occasional member of the Gloucestershire aspect.

Townsend’s father Frank was a county stalwart who performed for Gloucestershire between 1870 and 1891. WG Grace’s description of him as dashing a batsman as I ever noticed could also be clouded considerably by the friendship that the pair loved, however clearly exhibits there was cricketing expertise within the household. Two of Frank’s different sons (he had eight youngsters altogether), Frank Junior and Miles additionally performed for Gloucestershire, however each on only a handful of events. Charles, whose godfather WG was, was undoubtedly essentially the most gifted member of the household.

Frank Senior was a headmaster so, like his sons after him, performed as an novice and means have been such that the younger Townsends had a coconut matting wicket of their backyard at residence, and a web to guard the home itself from flying cricket balls.

The three years that Townsend spent on the prestigious Clifton School have been ones of conspicuous success on the cricket subject, and it was after he completed the second of these summers, 1893, that he was known as into the county aspect for the match in opposition to Middlesex on his residence wicket at Clifton. Regardless of the presence of WG the hosts misplaced the sport by an innings and 98 runs, and from 5 within the order Townsend contributed only a single run in every innings. However he had been chosen primarily as a bowler and the callow youth (Townsend was shut to 6 ft in top however barely ten stone in weight) opened the bowling and was known as upon to bowl as many as 70 5 ball overs, ending up with the creditable figures of three for 151.

Showing in the entire county’s 4 remaining First Class fixtures that summer time Townsend quickly slipped down the batting order, and had simply 28 runs to point out for his efforts, however he additionally had 21 wickets at 21.51, together with 5-70 in opposition to the touring Australians, and his greatest figures have been 6-56 in opposition to Surrey. In solely his second First Class match, in opposition to native rivals Somerset, Townsend carried out the hat trick, remarkably all three batsmen being stumped.

So what kind of bowler was Townsend? Cricketarchive and all of the books point out, not terribly helpfully, merely that he was a leg spinner. In 1899 WG wrote that he bowls over the wicket, with a excessive proper hand supply, and sends down a quick medium ball with a misleading leg break ……he places in an occasional quick ball. Years later one other teammate, Gilbert Jessop, commented in his autobiography that I can recall no leg break bowler of his tempo, excepting Braund, being so correct in size, nor one whose bowling got here so rapidly off the pitch. His tempo by way of the air was too quick to permit a batsman to leap out to him with any nice hope of success. Additionally it is clear that Townsend might additionally make the ball break in to the appropriate hander so, this being a decade earlier than the googly was launched to the sport, he will need to have slipped within the occasional break as nicely.

Townsend left Clifton in 1894 so as soon as extra joined the county in August. His batting made restricted progress till, in an finish of season competition match, he scored 79 for the West in opposition to the East at Portsmouth. His bowling was as soon as extra his robust go well with, his 37 wickets costing him 23.89 runs every.

It was in the course of the summer time of 1895 that Townsend actually made his identify. As soon as extra with the bat there was  a modest enchancment, however actually not as a lot as was likely hoped for after Townsend’s first look of the summer time, in opposition to Somerset at Bristol in Might. In reply to Somerset’s 303 Gloucestershire slipped to 15-2 to deliver Townsend to the crease to affix his godfather, who had began the match with a complete of 99 First Class a whole lot to his identify. WG went on to make his hundredth hundred, and on his option to an enormous 288 he added 223 with Townsend, who was dismissed simply 5 runs in need of his personal century.

After the Somerset match Townsend didn’t reappear within the county aspect till the top of July, however as soon as he did his bowling was spectacular. In a complete of simply 14 matches his season’s haul was 131 wickets at 13.94, 94 of them in August. Wisden’s verdict on these figures was that this naked document, splendid although it’s, doesn’t convey any concept of the good character of his work earlier than, after conceding that he had discovered some useful wickets alongside the way in which, it was astonishing {that a} bowler not but 19 years of age ought to so completely show the grasp of essentially the most skilled batsmen within the nation. The view of Jessop was that on that season’s type….. Charlie Townsend will at all times seem to me as the best sluggish bowler on all wickets of my time.

In truth Townsend’s document was not adequate to see him end on the prime of the First Class averages, that honour being taken by the occasional Hampshire tempo bowler Coote Hedley whose 48 wickets  value him fractionally much less, however the extra telling statistic was, maybe, that of all of the nation’s main bowlers Townsend’s strike fee, at simply over 27, was the most effective of them. 

In 1896 the Australians got here to England and, on the idea he continued with the shape he had proven the earlier summer time, Townsend would absolutely have been known as up by England. Within the remaining evaluation nonetheless while the primary season for which he was out there to play all summer time confirmed an affordable return Townsend’s type in Might, June and July being patchy to say the least, a Check name eluded him. With the bat Townsend, as he had the earlier summer time, averaged a tick over 20 and had 4 half centuries the best of which, 96 for the Gents in opposition to the Gamers on the Oval simply overhauled his earlier excessive rating.

With the ball there have been 113 wickets for Townsend at 22.19 in 1896, the vast majority of them within the latter a part of the season. In response to Wisden early on he had suffered from an affectation of the arm, much like however not, apparently, tennis elbow. 

The next season of 1897 gave no alternative for Check honours, and once more there have been blended fortunes for Townsend with bat and ball. With the ball he was Gloucestershire’s main wicket taker with 92, however he paid as many as 27.33 runs for every of them and no fewer than 5 of his teammates had higher averages, together with the 49 yr previous WG. This time spherical nonetheless harm appears to not have been the issue, Wisden’s report on the season indicating that Townsend’s accuracy had suffered, and while in these days some bowlers suffered from issues brought on by poor fielding the Almanack particularly dominated that one out, making the purpose that Townsend was lucky to have been as nicely supported as he was.

So far as his batting was involved the naked numbers counsel that Townsend marked time, as a slight fall in his mixture was offset by a equally marginal rise in his common. In fact nonetheless there have been distinct indicators of progress. The elusive first century got here, and a formidable one it was too, 109 in opposition to Yorkshire in their very own yard in Harrogate as Gloucestershire loved a uncommon away win over the White Rose. Within the opinion of Wisden nonetheless his greatest efficiency was per week earlier than the Yorkshire sport, when an unbeaten 67 skilfully guided Gloucestershire residence in opposition to Notts with 5 minutes and three wickets to spare.

Nonetheless solely 21 in 1898 Townsend reassured his supporters that summer time that not solely was his batting star on the rise, however that he might bowl in addition to ever. With the ball he took what was to stay his  greatest haul of wickets, 145, at a a lot improved common of 20.64. As soon as once more he confirmed a specific liking for late season wickets, the ultimate 5 matches of the summer time bringing him as many as 65 of these victims at simply 11 runs apiece. It was throughout this purple patch that he recorded what have been to reman his greatest figures, 9-48 in opposition to Middlesex at Bristol because the aspect who have been to finish the season as runners up within the Championship have been shot out for 75.

With the bat Townsend made a large step ahead and, based on Wisden, had a justifiable declare to being the most effective left handed batsman within the nation. One among simply three males to do the double that summer time (Yorkshire’s Stanley Jackson and Lancashire’s Willis Cuttell have been the others) all instructed he scored 1,270 runs at a mean of 34.32 and in doing so recorded 5 centuries. Maybe oddly the majority of his runs got here within the early a part of the season when his bowling was much less efficient, and vice versa.

The height was 1899. Townsend loved an impressive summer time in his penultimate season as a daily First Class cricketer. He all however doubled his run tally which rose to 2,440 and solely Ranji and the Surrey pair of Tom Hayward and Bobby Abel scored extra. Townsend completed seventh within the First Class averages on 51.91 and nobody exceeded his tally of 9 centuries. With the ball he was much less spectacular, however nonetheless did the double for the second and remaining time, his 101 wickets costing him a comparatively pricy 29.06.

The Australians have been in England in 1899 and it was no shock when, after the drawn first Check, Townsend was known as up for the second match at Lord’s. Sadly for England the sport led to a vastly disappointing 10 wicket defeat and Townsend’s scores have been 5 and eight. Picked primarily for the runs he would possibly rating his three wickets within the Australian first innings have been scant comfort, and as England drew the third and fourth Exams Townsend was again in Gloucestershire’s colors.

A recall was, as Townsend’s batting continued to glitter, at all times on the playing cards and he duly received the nod for the ultimate Check on the Oval. England received the toss and batted and, simply earlier than the shut and together with his aspect nicely positioned on 428-4, Townsend got here to the crease. He survived that tough interval and subsequent day took his rating to 38. Australia have been made to observe on however England couldn’t bowl them out twice and the sport was drawn and the sequence misplaced. It’s maybe a measure of the dearth of significance hooked up to Townsend’s bowling by this time that throughout the 2 Australian innings he bowled simply 13 economical however wicketless overs.

Having now fulfilled expectations of his batting it’s value pausing briefly to contemplate what kind of batsman Townsend was, and once more I’ll quote WG and Jessop. Within the phrases of his god father Townsend can hit arduous, although he typically performs a gentle constant sport. His lengthy attain permits him to play ahead simply, and he drives with distinctive cleanness, a view confirmed by Jessop who wrote of him, though he had the standard left-handers punch previous additional cowl, he relied in the primary for his runs by deflecting the ball.

The shut of the English summer time of 1899 noticed Townsend endeavor his solely important abroad tour. A powerful workforce was put collectively underneath Ranji’s captaincy to tour North America for 3 weeks in September and October. After his efforts within the English summer time Townsend’s contributions with each bat and ball have been modest regardless that the opposition was distinctly missing in high quality.

The primary yr of the brand new century was a wierd one for Gloucestershire in that the county was with out WG, nonetheless a helpful batsman in addition to the county’s talisman, his having fallen out with the committee in taking on a suggestion from the Crystal Palace to run the London County aspect. With out WG Townsend was, within the phrases of Wisden, nothing like as fantastic a cricketer as within the earlier season. His contributions with the bat have been nonetheless good, 1,662 runs at 34.62, however he once more misplaced accuracy with the ball and accordingly was not used as a lot as up to now, and a reasonably modest 57 wickets value virtually 29 runs every.

Though his father had been to College, in his case Trinity School Dublin, when Townsend was interviewed by Cricket: A Weekly File of the Recreation in 1895 he was clear that he didn’t intend to pursue a college diploma himself. It’s maybe stunning that the interviewer didn’t then go on to ask him about his ambitions for the longer term, or maybe he did and Townsend had not (he was solely 18 on the time) made any plans. In any occasion the selection Townsend did make was the authorized occupation and as soon as he certified as a solicitor he relocated to Stockton-on-Tees in an effort to follow legislation. In time he served additionally as an Official Receiver, and his cricket was largely confined to the North Yorkshire and Durham League. Curiously regardless of having been introduced up in an space the place League cricket was unknown Townsend did change into an advocate of League constructions for membership cricket.

Regardless of transferring as removed from Gloucestershire as he did Townsend nonetheless preserved his hyperlinks with the county and there have been occasional appearances annually till 1907. Regardless of taking part in so irregularly there have been nonetheless some notable appearances, most significantly an innings of 147 in opposition to Sussex within the second of his three matches in 1902. With a few wickets in every innings to go along with the century it was a formidable efficiency from a person who by then was primarily a membership cricketer.

4 years later in 1906 Townsend was capable of seem twice for his county, and within the first of these matches, in opposition to neighbours Worcestershire, he produced a batting show that Jessop was moved to explain as astonishingly good. Townsend made the second highest rating of his profession, 214, and Jessop added his off driving was a revelation to me, for I had by no means earlier than seen him hit with a lot pressure.

And that also was not fairly the final time that Townsend surprised the cricket world. After the looks in opposition to Worcestershire he performed within the subsequent match in opposition to Yorkshire, after which in opposition to the White Rose once more in 1907, discovering three spare days to journey the comparatively quick distance to Harrogate and the scene of his first century. He didn’t fairly reprise that memorable innings and on this event Yorkshire received simply sufficient however Townsend did prime rating with 61 within the Gloucestershire first innings.

Following that outing in Harrogate it was a full two years earlier than Townsend ventured on to a First Class subject once more, showing for Gloucestershire in opposition to the Australians at Cheltenham in 1909. The Australians had already received the 5 Check sequence 2-1 and had overwhelmed Gloucestershire by an innings earlier within the tour. Gloucestershire have been having a wretched summer time and would end on the backside of the Championship, and their skipper and greatest participant, Jessop, was lacking.

In opposition to that background in agreeing to skipper his previous county Townsend will need to have puzzled if he had chosen a poisoned chalice, however the Australians underneath estimated their opponents. They started by resting all of skipper Monty Noble, Warwick Armstrong and Frank Laver, though even once they have been all out for 211 after successful the toss and selecting to bat they will need to have nonetheless felt they’d sufficient. In the event that they did they have been actually fallacious as the house aspect’s response was 411, skipper Townsend coming in at first drop and making 129 in simply two hours, batting as he had in opposition to Worcestershire two years beforehand. Sadly for Townsend there was not sufficient time left within the sport to pressure a win, however Gloucestershire ended what will need to have been a morale boosting draw nicely on prime.

Following that match in opposition to the Australians Townsend turned out within the subsequent sport, in opposition to Worcestershire and after that simply as soon as extra earlier than the Nice Struggle, a forgettable defeat by the hands of Yorkshire in 1912. When peace returned Townsend was 42, and had not performed common cricket for twenty years, however he nonetheless had yet one more eye-catching efficiency to provide amongst his ten First Class look between 1919 and 1922. All have been for Gloucestershire, one in opposition to the Australian Imperial Forces XI in 1919 and, in every of the next three summers, three Championship matches for the county on the finish July and starting of August. In these there was a half century in opposition to the AIF, and one other in Townsend’s final look in opposition to Essex at Leyton in 1922. 

The sport that deserves a barely lengthier point out was performed in 1920 on the Fry’s Floor in Bristol in opposition to native rivals Somerset. The guests received the toss and would likely not have been overly proud of their all out first innings complete of 169. The temper within the dressing room later that day would nonetheless have been very totally different, as Gloucestershire in flip have been bundled out simply earlier than the shut for under 22. The second day was misplaced and on the third Somerset prolonged their result in 273 earlier than the house aspect launched into what was, within the context of their first innings catastrophe, an enormous goal. That they made it it with 4 wickets in hand was a surprising achievement and the London Day by day Information described Townsend’s contribution thus, the tall left hander, taking each threat, hit with astonishing energy and made 84 out of 119 placed on for the primary wicket in 75 minutes.

Townsend married in 1909 and had three sons, two of whom performed First Class cricket. The eldest, Peter, performed twice for Oxford College in 1929, and the center brother David additionally performed for Oxford. David’s profession was slightly extra spectacular nonetheless, successful a blue in 1933 and 1934 after which in 1934/35 within the Caribbean he gained three Check caps in opposition to West Indies. He was not an incredible success, however will certainly be the final man ever to seem for England in a Check match with out ever taking part in county cricket. 

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