Monday, 1 August 2005

Tomorrow is the 200th Anniversary of the first occasion upon which the world of Romantic literature crossed paths with that of Cricket. The occasion was the first match between Eton and Harrow. The match appears to have been held at the instigation of Lord Byron, and it was probably only his active involvement in organising the match that secured him a place in the Harrow side. While Byron was a great lover of the game his club foot must have severely hampered his playing it. On this occasion he employed a runner. He wrote of the match:
We have played the Eton and were most confoundedly beat; however it was some comfort to me that I got 11 notches the 1st Innings and 7 the 2nd, which was more than any of our side except Brockman and Ipswich could contrive to hit.
Sadly the scorecard does not quite support this version of events. I am however inclined to believe Byron's account of the aftermath of this match:
After the match we dined together, and were extremely friendly, not a single discordant word was uttered by either party. To be sure we were most of us very drunk and we went together to the Haymarket Theatre where we kicked up a row, as you may suppose when so many Harrovians and Etonians meet in one place. I was one of seven in a single Hackney, four Eton and three Harrow, we all got into the same box, the consequence was that such a devil of a noise arose that none of our neighbours could hear a word of the drama, at which not being highly delighted they began to quarrel with us and we nearly came to a battle royal.
The match took place at the original Lord's Cricket Ground, where now stands Dorset Square. I was hoping to make a pilgrimage there tomorrow to see if I could drink a toast or two to the great Romantic, but it is not to be.
Friend of my heart, and foremost of the list
Of those with whom I lived supremely blest,
Oft have we drain'd the font of ancient lore;
Though drinking deeply, thirsting still the more.
Yet, when confinement's lingering hour was done,
Our sports, our studies, and our souls were one:
Together we impell'd the flying ball;
Together waited in our tutor's hall;
Together join'd in cricket's manly toil,
Or shared the produce of the river's spoil;
Or, plunging from the green declining shore,
Our pliant limbs the buoyant billows bore;
In every element, unchanged, the same,
All, all that brothers should be, but the name.
Lord Byron, from Hours of Idleness.

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