Ahead of Nottinghamshire's LV County Championship trip to Old Trafford, Cricket Historian Peter Wynne-Thomas recalls a classic encounter.


Reg Simpson the Nottinghamshire and England batsman has particularly fond memories of Old Trafford. On the 9th of July 1949, he hit 238 off the Lancashire attack and then on the 25th of the same month appeared in his first home Test Match – England v New Zealand – scoring his maiden Test century. The final 53 of that innings was hit in just 27 minutes, with three sixes and six fours. Simpson was then caught on the boundary attempting another six. England declared on 440 for nine, having a first innings lead of 147. It is difficult to believe that that Test Match was scheduled for only three days – all four Tests that summer were only three days; all four were drawn and that was the last the world saw of Tests allocated just three days.

Returning to Simpson’s innings of 238 for Nottinghamshire, he opened the county’s batting with Walter Keeton in that game and indeed in many of the 1949 Notts’ contests. Keeton and Simpson made a contrasting pair. Walter Keeton was then aged 44, he had made his Notts debut 24 years previously, in 1926, but until the sudden death of Dodge Whysall in 1930 and the final retirement (aged 53) of George Gunn in 1932, had difficulty in obtaining a regular place in the Notts side. Keeton had played in a couple of Tests for England, but with little success.

Simpson also was rather old when he made his Notts debut – aged 26 in 1946 – but this was due to the Second World War. It was whilst on active service with India in 1944 that he made his first-class debut : for Sind in the Ranji Trophy. Simpson’s first overseas tour with England came in the winter of 1948-49 and during this trip he was involved in one of the most astonishing cricket feats of all time. He opened the batting with Cyril Washbrook, but both Washbrook and his successor, Charles Palmer, were soon dismissed. Denis Compton came in to partner Simpson. The pair added 399 for the third wicket in 181 minutes. Compton made no less than 300 of those runs and that triple hundred still stands as the fastest of all time.

In the Notts – Lancashire match of 1949, Simpson and Keeton added 318 for the first wicket, but at a more sedate speed. The runs came in 315 minutes. Notts declared on 504 for five, then dismissed Lancashire for 337. The game ended in a tame draw after Lancashire declined to chase the very stiff target which Simpson set them.

During the 1949 season Keeton and Simpson opened the innings for Notts on 19 occasions adding a total of 1,469 runs – that works out as an average partnership of 77. Is this a Nottinghamshire record, for a regular opening pair? Putting that into perspective, the average opening partnership for Nottinghamshire in 2008 was 25.