Tales from the Boundary
“He Were a Rough Diamond, Ted”
On 20th May 1911 there occurred the most sustained display of hitting ever seen in a first-class match, certainly in this country. It took place at Hove on the third day of the match between Sussex and Notts. Sussex had a first innings lead of 176, and on the last morning Notts lost their 7th wicket with the score 185, at that point only 9 runs ahead. The new batsman was Edwin Boaler ("Ted") Alletson. He was only playing because of injuries to other players; in addition he had a sprained wrist. Alletson had been playing off and on since 1906 without any special success, and indeed was considered primarily a bowler.
By lunch the score had advanced to 260 for 9, leaving Notts only 84 ahead whilst Alletson had scored 47 in 50 minutes. But this was merely a warm-up for what was to follow, as in 40 minutes after lunch, Alletson added a further 142 runs. This was not mere slogging; Alletson was a tall man with powerful shoulders – he played straight, and most of his hits were straight or off drives, apart from one fearsome square cut which demolished a plate glass window in the pavilion. Alletson's score is even more impressive given the time taken to replace a number of lost balls. Several landed on the roof of an adjacent ice rink, and another ended up on the beach at Hove, taken there by a small boy who picked it up in the road outside the ground!
The power of the shots can be judged from the fact that one Sussex fielder said he could hear the ball humming as it approached him. Out of sheer self-preservation, none of the fielders on the boundary attempted to stop any of the shots coming towards them. At one point, spinner Tim Killick went for 56 in 2 overs.
Eventually Alletson was caught on the boundary, but the fielder stepped back over the line, so the catch was invalid. By the time Alletson heard this, he was walking off and merely said “I've had enough” and went into the pavilion. Alletson had scored 189 in 90 minutes, with 8 sixes and 23 fours. The last 142 came off 51 balls; the 10th wicket added 152, of which number eleven scored 10. By way of comparison, the fastest double century in this country is 120 minutes by Gilbert Jessop and Clive Lloyd.
All this meant that Sussex were set 237 to win, but they fell short at 213 for 8. In Notts very next match, Alletson went in at 6pm on the first day, and was out at 6.30pm having scored 60 out of 80. On another occasion he hit a ball out of the ground at Trent Bridge, with a carry estimated at 150 yards.
But the innings at Hove earned his place in posterity.
Years later, John Arlott spoke to Tom Oates, Notts wicketkeeper in that game. He said of Alletson “Ay, he were a rough diamond, Ted, rougher than most, but my word, what an innings that were.”