‘Getting the ball back’ is a familiar phrase to cricketers of every age and every level – but rarely does it take 102 years!
But that’s what happened in July 2023 when the ball used on the day Hampshire Legend Phil Mead made his highest score – 280 not out v Nottinghamshire at the County Ground, Southampton, in June 1921 – was presented to members and supporters from Hampshire by the Heritage team at Trent Bridge.
The ball had been gifted to the late Peter Wynne Thomas, historian and archivist at Trent Bridge, some years ago on the mistaken assumption that Mead’s historic innings had been made in Nottingham rather than Southampton.
Peter Smith, one of Notts CCC’s award-winning team of heritage volunteers, explained: “The ball had sat on our shelves for a good while with this note in pencil saying that it had been used when Mead made his highest score and well over 300 runs were scored in the day.
“When we checked the records, it was clear that Phil Mead had indeed made 280 against Notts but the innings was at the County Ground in Southampton.
“It seemed to us, then, that the ball would have far more significance for Hampshire’s archives and memorabilia than for ours. We were delighted that during the County Championship game at Trent Bridge this July, we could send the ball back to where it belongs”.
For the record, Phil Mead’s top score at Trent Bridge was 143, one of four centuries that he made on Notts’ home turf.
That 1921 match was significant in other ways. It was the last appearance in county cricket of the Edwardian era’s sporting superstar CB Fry; extraordinarily, he played on in other matches for another ten years, playing his last game in July 1931!
In the course of his mammoth knock, Phil Mead passed both 1,000 runs for the First-Class season and 17,000 runs in County Championship matches. (Nottinghamshire’s George Gunn went even further, notching up 18,0000 First-Class runs during his first innings). Despite Mead’s heroics, incidentally, Nottinghamshire won a high-scoring match by 2 wickets.
In a three-day fixture, almost 1400 runs were scored and more than 320 six-ball overs were bowled – shades of ‘Bazball’!
In a playing career that lasted more than thirty years and took in 814 First-Class matches, 17 of those Tests, Mead scored an extraordinary 55,601 First-Class runs, a total only exceeded by some of the very greatest English batters. Jack Hobbs, Frank Woolley and Pasty Hendren are the only players, thus far, to have more career runs than Mead.
(main photo): The ball is presented to @Hantscricket Heritage Committee member David Ackland by Notts CCC Heritage Volunteer Peter Smith during the recent county match in Nottingham.