Magazine article The Spectator

Fowler's Match: 100 Years On

Magazine article The Spectator

Fowler's Match: 100 Years On

Article excerpt

This week marks the centenary of what might just be the greatest cricket match of all time: Fowler's match, the epic battle between Eton and Harrow in 1910. On 8 and 9 July that year, Lord's was packed to the gunwales. It was the social and sporting event of the year. Back then, Eton vs Harrow mattered a lot - and not just for the public-schooled elite. Everyone supported one school or the other.

That year, Harrow won the toss and elected to bat. On a soft but not difficult pitch, they scored 232. The opening bowlers for Eton, R.St.L. Fowler (the captain) and A.I. Steel (whose father A.G. had captained England in the 1880s), each took four wickets. Eton's first innings: by the time bad light forced early stumps, they had struggled to 40 for five.

The next morning they were 67 all out with Fowler, batting at five, making the top score of 21. Asked to follow on, Eton were soon reduced to 65 for five wickets, no one able to force the ball away on the soft pitch.

At this point, Fowler took command and, stoutly supported by D.G. Wigan and W.G.K. Boswell, reached 64 before being caught off Hillyard by his opposing captain, G.F. Earle. When Fowler fell, Eton were nine wickets down and only nine runs ahead. The last-wicket partnership, between K. Lister Kaye (13) and the Hon. J.N. Manners (40 not out) was brave stuff ('Manners hit in a way that cannot be praised too highly for its courage and dash, ' reported the Times) but, with Eton all out for 219, Harrow only had to make 55 for victory.

Robert St Leger Fowler, however, was not beaten yet. He clean-bowled the first three Harrow batsman and soon reduced their score to 21 for four. Etonian hopes began to rise.

Moments later and the score stood at 21 for six, all six wickets to Fowler. A sensational victory looked possible. The 20,000 crowd grew ever more restive and vociferous.

Then Steel took his first wicket of the innings and Fowler yorked A.C.

Straker for one. The score was 29 for eight. The excitement approached its highest pitch. The roar from the Harrow stands whenever a run was scored could be heard in the Zoological Gardens.

Then Fowler bowled Harrow's opening batsman T.O. Jameson, for two. 32-9!

In strode the Hon. R.H.L.G.

Alexander, who had raced from the tea tent, bun in hand. He appeared nerveless, he waved to the Harrow dressing room like Jack Raggles in Tom Brown's Schooldays. …

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