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A safe pair of hands

Many veteran cricket fans in England will declare without hesitation that the most celebrated batsman ever to play for Somerset was Harold Gimblett. 
11 Apr 2020

Those with shorter memories will argue for Viv Richards or Ian Botham.  The debate, in scores of Somerset cricket club bars, no doubt continues.  And that is as it should be.

Be any of that as it may, it is a solid fact that Harold Gimblett attended West Buckland school in the late 1920`s.  He was playing for the First Eleven when he was thirteen, and was captain at fifteen.  He was playing for Somerset when he was barely out of school.  In his debut county match in 1935, he scored 123 – in eighty minutes, without  giving a single chance.  He played for the county 329 times.  It is therefore safe to say, without any fear of partisan contradiction, that he was the greatest cricketer the school ever produced – by miles. 

In 1975, the county authorities decided, understandably, to mark their centenary with a celebrity cricket match, and Harold was invited to play.  At the age of 61. 

The whole of Somerset respected and was proud of his distinguished record, and wanted him therefore to make a passable score.  He had also been one of the most rapid run-scorers in the country, and so was a highly popular figure in every county ground.   Everybody was also willing him to score – if only a token few. 

He opened the batting, and even the fielding side was praying that he would score just something.  A well-known cricketing journalist was fielding close to the wicket.  The bowler kindly tossed up a gentle half-volley.  Harold managed to spoon it up straight towards the journalist at short mid-off. 

As the ball covered the intervening fifteen yards or so, this gentleman did a lot of thinking.  When it reached him, he pretended to stumble, and to fumble, and with a huge effort managed to drop it. 

He said afterwards, in his biography of Gimblett, ‘I like to think it was the best thing I ever did on the cricket field.’ 


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