Although Reg Simpson was born in Nottingham and became one of the county’s greatest batsmen, his first-class debut – in fact – came thousands of miles from home, in Karachi on 3 November 1944.
During the Second World War, the RAF posted Simpson to India – and 75 years ago today (3 November) he made his debut for Sind province against Bombay in the Ranji Trophy.
Sind, which was to become part of West Pakistan in 1947, were not one of the stronger teams in the competition, which had been established in July 1934 titled the Cricket Championship of India.
Bombay were led by Test player Vijay Merchant and included Rusi Modi, the first batsman to score 1,000 runs in a season in the Ranji Trophy at an average of 201.60.
Both batsmen made major contributions to a first innings score of 432, before Simpson opened the batting for Sind.
The match report stated that ‘Simpson played in copy-book style’. However, despite his top-score of 88, the home team were all out for 264 and forced to follow on. The Nottinghamshire man’s 63 in the second innings was again Sind’s highest score, before they declared at 244 for 4.
Bombay reached 16 for 1 when they batted again, and although the four-day match was drawn, the visitors were declared the winners ‘on first innings.
This ended Sind’s interest in a competition they never won, while Bombay went on to be the 1944/5 champions.
Simpson remained in India after the war and played in Sind’s first Trophy match in the 1945/6 competition, when they beat Maharashtra on the first innings score.
Reg contributed a modest 26 in the total of 416 and returned to England soon afterwards, having played six Indian first-class matches in two seasons.
Because of his wartime service, Simpson did not make his English first-class debut until the age of 26, when – on 6 July 1946 – Notts began a three-day County Championship match against Somerset at Trent Bridge.
Batting at number three, his score of 29 was somewhat overshadowed by 155 from Walter Keeton and 103* from captain George Heane.
Simpson, however, went on to play 366 matches for Notts (with a highest score of 243* against Worcestershire in 1950) and 27 Test matches for England, for whom his highest score was a match-winning 156* against Australia in February 1951.
He was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1950 and captained his home county from 1951 to 1960 before retiring in 1963.
Off the field, he became Notts’ longest-serving Committee member and was bestowed the Club Presidency in 1991-93, combining his duties at Trent Bridge with his work at Gunn & Moore.
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