Arthur Conan Doyle played 10 first-class matches between 1900 (when he was over 40) and 1907, playing for the MCC. He averaged close to 20 with the bat, with a high score of 43. On 25 August 1900, against London County at Crystal Palace, he took his only first-class wicket: that of W. G. Grace, who was batting on 110 at the time (and declared his team’s innings immediately after getting out). He wrote a poem about it.
A Reminiscence of Cricket
Once in my heyday of cricket,
One day I shall ever recall!
I captured that glorious wicket,
The greatest, the grandest of all.
Before me he stands like a vision,
Bearded and burly and brown,
A smile of good humoured derision
As he waits for the first to come down.
A statue from Thebes or from Knossos,
A Hercules shrouded in white,
Assyrian bull-like colossus,
He stands in his might.
With the beard of a Goth or a Vandal,
His bat hanging ready and free,
His great hairy hands on the handle,
And his menacing eyes upon me.
And I – I had tricks for the rabbits,
The feeble of mind or eye,
I could see all the duffer’s bad habits
And where his ruin might lie.
The capture of such might elate one,
But it seemed like one horrible jest
That I should serve tosh to the great one,
Who had broken the hearts of the best.
Well, here goes! Good Lord, what a rotter!
Such a sitter as never was dreamt;
It was clay in the hands of the potter,
But he tapped it with quiet contempt.
The second was better – a leetle;
It was low, but was nearly long-hop;
As the housemaid comes down on the beetle
So down came the bat with a chop.
He was sizing me up with some wonder,
My broken-kneed action and ways;
I could see the grim menace from under
The striped peak that shaded his gaze.
The third was a gift or it looked it—
A foot off the wicket or so;
His huge figure swooped as he hooked it,
His great body swung to the blow.
Still when my dreams are night-marish,
I picture that terrible smite,
It was meant for a neighboring parish,
Or any place out of sight.
But – yes, there’s a but to the story –
The blade swished a trifle too low;
Oh wonder, and vision of glory!
It was up like a shaft from a bow.
Up, up like a towering game bird,
Up, up to a speck in the blue,
And then coming down like the same bird,
Dead straight on the line that it flew.
Good Lord, it was mine! Such a soarer
Would call for a safe pair of hands;
None safer than Derbyshire Storer,
And there, face uplifted, he stands
Wicket keep Storer, the knowing,
Wary and steady of nerve,
Watching it falling and growing
Marking the pace and curve.
I stood with my two eyes fixed on it,
Paralysed, helpless, inert;
There was ‘plunk’ as the gloves shut upon it,
And he cuddled it up to his shirt.
Out – beyond question or wrangle!
Homeward he lurched to his lunch!
His bat was tucked up at an angle,
His great shoulders curved to a hunch.
Walking he rumbled and grumbled,
Scolding himself and not me;
One glove was off, and he fumbled,
Twisting the other hand free
Did I give Storer the credit
The thanks he so splendidly earned?
It was mere empty talk if I said it,
For Grace had already returned.
Incidentally, W. G., like Conan Doyle, was also a doctor with no time for that profession. Here’s another article about Conan Doyle. He also made up a story about a “high dropping full toss” (lob bowling?) that fell on the stumps from the air. (Discussion.)
P. G. Wodehouse wrote a happy little poem about a fielder who misses a catch.
The sun in the heavens was beaming,
The breeze bore an odour of hay,
My flannels were spotless and gleaming,
My heart was unclouded and gay;
The ladies, all gaily apparelled,
Sat round looking on at the match,
In the tree-tops the dicky-birds carolled,
All was peace — till I bungled that catch.
My attention the magic of summer
Had lured from the game — which was wrong.
The bee (that inveterate hummer)
Was droning its favourite song.
I was tenderly dreaming of Clara
(On her not a girl is a patch),
When, ah, horror! there soared through the air a
Decidedly possible catch.
I heard in a stupor the bowler
Emit a self-satisfied ‘Ah!’
The small boys who sat on the roller
Set up an expectant ‘Hurrah!’
The batsman with grief from the wicket
Himself had begun to detach –
And I uttered a groan and turned sick. It
Was over. I’d buttered the catch.
O, ne’er, if I live to a million,
Shall I feel such a terrible pang.
From the seats on the far-off pavilion
A loud yell of ecstasy rang.
By the handful my hair (which is auburn)
I tore with a wrench from my thatch,
And my heart was seared deep with a raw burn
At the thought that I’d foozled that catch.
Ah, the bowler’s low, querulous mutter
Points loud, unforgettable scoff!
Oh, give me my driver and putter!
Henceforward my game shall be golf.
If I’m asked to play cricket hereafter,
I am wholly determined to scratch.
Life’s void of all pleasure and laughter;
I bungled the easiest catch.
Both Conan Doyle and Wodehouse played cricket at one point for J. M. Barrie’s team Allah-akbarries (named in the belief that “Allahu Akbar” meant “God help us!”, but of course probably more for the “barries” in the name), some of whose other players included Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells, G. K. Chesterton, Jerome K. Jerome, A. A. Milne.
A. A. Milne wrote some poems about cricket as well.
An article about authors.