If Aussie Arthur Mailey hadn’t thought of it first, Ken Smales might have been tempted to call the story of his life ‘10-66 and All That’*, for Ken and Arthur had identical career-best bowling figures of exactly that – 10 wickets in an innings at a cost of 66 runs.
The similarities don’t end there for the ‘victims’ were the same in each case! In 1921, Arthur Mailey took all ten wickets in Gloucestershire’s second innings (following on) and 35 years later, on 11 June 1956, Ken Smales took his ten in Gloucestershire’s first innings of a low scoring game.
This achievement occurred on the Erinoid Ground at Stroud, during the first Championship game ever staged at that venue (there were only a dozen or so, the last in 1963).
Smales sent down 41.3 overs (including 20 maidens) while his fellow bowlers - Arthur Jepson and the Australians Alan Walker and Bruce Dooland - bowled 62 wicketless overs. Despite Smales’s heroics, Notts lost the match inside two days by nine wickets.
Mailey’s return was rather better rewarded – the Aussies winning by an innings and 136 runs. Mailey passed the milestone of 100 First-Class wickets in the season, a remarkable achievement for a touring player, even though visiting sides usually had a full programme of matches against the Counties. Indeed, this was the second match v Gloucester on that tour as they had drawn a game back in June at Bristol.
That must have been a good season for record-breaking cricket as it was at Trent Bridge in that same summer that Charlie MacCartney set what is still the highest score on our great old ground, and the highest in England by any Australian, making 345 against Notts in a little more than four hours.
But 1921 pales in comparison to Ken Smales’s golden year of 1956. When he took all those wickets in June, more than one contemporary report suggested that he was well placed to take the award for the best bowling performance of the summer.
In fact, he was but third in that list – the first two places being occupied by yet another off-break bowler, Jim Laker. Twice in that Ashes summer, Laker took all ten against the touring Aussies, 10-88 in their county game at The Oval in May and then going considerably better at Old Trafford in the Test when he set a record that will, in all probability, never be beaten, taking 9-37 in the first innings and 10-53 in the second, as Australia crashed to a huge innings defeat.
Laker’s stellar performance perhaps overshadowed what Ken Smales had achieved but the fact that no Notts player has matched him before or since underlines the extraordinary nature of his figures. Along the way to all ten, when Smales had John Mortimore caught by Cyril Poole, it was his 250th First-Class wicket in a career that took in a spell with his home county, Yorkshire, and brought him more than 500 wickets.
That three off-break bowlers should share the ten wicket haul – and two of them for the same cost in runs – is yet another of the fascinating stories that cricket serves up to its fans and followers.
*1066 And All That by Sellars and Yeatman is a once much-read and very amusing take on the History of England.