Edwin Boaler Alletson was born in Welbeck Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire, on 6 March 1884. Originally employed as a coal miner, he made his First-Class debut for Nottinghamshire in 1906 and went on to play 119 matches before the end of his professional career in 1914, scoring 3,217 runs at an average of 18.57. He also took 33 wickets at an average of 19.03, but he is most fondly remembered for his only century in professional cricket, scoring 189 against Sussex in just 90 minutes at Hove in May 1911 - a feat made even more impressive since he had injured his wrist and was only able to bowl a single over in Sussex’s first innings.
The previous weekend, Alletson had probably given a hint of what was to come while playing for Whitwell CC, his home club. The Derbyshire Courier reported that “Alletson ‘the lusty’ was the chief aggressor, for he went for [the opposition’s] bowling in a manner that was perfectly pleasing. .... Alletson had made 67 by hurricane slogging, and this is the kind of cricket the spectators like”.
Batting at number nine against Sussex, Alletson came to the wicket in Notts’ second innings with the score at 185 for 7, just nine runs ahead after Sussex had taken a first innings lead of 176. He steadily compiled his first 47 runs, but by lunch Notts were 84 ahead with one wicket remaining.
However, after lunch Alletson assaulted the Sussex bowling attack, scoring 142 runs off just 70 balls in a 152-run tenth wicket partnership. His aggressive innings included 23 fours and eight sixes, allowing Nottinghamshire to build a 237-run lead and push for victory. Despite four wickets for William Riley – who had contributed ten runs to the last wicket partnership with Alletson – Sussex held on for a draw, closing on 213 for 8.
Alletson’s innings broke the record for the highest score from a number nine batsman in First-Class cricket, and to this day his 189 is still the third highest worldwide First-Class score by a number nine. And the 34 runs he hit off an over from leg spinner Tim Killick were the most runs scored in a single six-ball over until Gary Sobers achieved the maximum 56 years later.
Returning to his home village in north Nottinghamshire, Alletson received a hero’s welcome: “At the station, meeting the seven o’clock train, about fifty schoolboys with a brake were assembled, and Alletson and his wife were drawn in the conveyance to their residence in Duke Street. All along the route crowds assembled and heartily cheered the sun-burnt cricketer. Several tradesmen displayed flags in honour of the occasion.”
Alletson proceeded to score 60 in his next innings – against Gloucestershire at Trent Bridge – which led to his selection for a Test trial at Bramall Lane on 1 June 1911, although this proved to be the only non-Notts match in his First-Class career. However other recognition of his outstanding batting against Sussex included a gold watch, a cheque for £100 from the Duke of Portland (who had promised Alletson this reward once he had scored his first century for Notts) and ‘Alletson’s Innings’, a book written by John Arlott that was published in 1957.
As a right-arm bowler, Alletson’s best performance came in a 237-run defeat at Northampton in May 1910. He took 6 for 74 from 24.1 overs in the second innings, and his victims included both openers and the number three batsman.
Alletson’s county cricket career ended due to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Serving in the Royal Artillery, he survived the war and represented his regiment against Yorkshire in August 1918 before returning to work in the coal industry. He remained in possession of the high-scoring bat until his death on 5 July 1963, after which the bat was auctioned off and raised £15,000.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 292