Who’s for Cricket
Cricket is the most popular sport in the world after football. They are both team games of eleven players. I would imagine that, despite being a member of a cricket team, it is must be a lonely feeling facing a bowler propelling a 90 mile-an-hour ball at you. Equally, I am sure it must, at least sometimes, feel rather lonely taking a penalty kick in front of thousands of supporters, TV cameras and Twitter commentators.
Cricket at Highclere began well before social media was invented. In the UK, the game itself has its roots some four hundred years ago but really developed its modern day rules and regulations in the eighteenth century. Our cricket pitch is on a flat piece of ground to the north of the Castle where it has stayed, apart from a brief stint during World War Two when it was ploughed to try to grow crops. However, the ground was poor, and with better options elsewhere, it soon reverted back to cricket. My father-in-law, the 7th Earl, was an enthusiastic cricketer and played regularly against various teams, some local, some from further afield, with varying degrees of success.
Rumour has it that, in one particular game, he was captaining his team against an opposing team, led by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, when a cricket ball was launched rather close to the Queen!
The very top photograph is from 1856 when the Highclere Park Cricket Club was run by Auberon Herbert, one the 3rd Earl’s sons. The Castle diaries of the time note “He has gained fresh laurels and beaten the Aldermaston Club” (27 Jul 1857). Equally that the opening game of the Highclere Park Cricket Club that year on 5 May was “Single v. Married” (Newbury Weekly News, 20 Apr 1860).
Auberon may have been a team player but was also a true individualist and traveler. An MP, he lectured in history at St John’s Oxford, joined the army (7th Hussars’) and travelled to, witnessed and rescued the wounded in a number of war areas and, thus, was awarded the Danish Order of the Dannebrog and the Austrian Imperial Order of the Iron Crown. He witnessed the Siege of Paris, the Battle of Sedan (in the Ardennes) and the Siege of Richmond (USA). When I read the early sections of his diaries, every minute seems like sixty seconds of life run at high speed. In later life, Auberon helped pass an act for the preservation of wild birds and became a vegetarian.
Today, we still play around 12 games a year at the cricket pitch, always on a Sunday and scattered over the summer months. My husband is an enthusiastic, though often frustrated, cricketer and I always enjoy watching. For the last two years, I have even “captained” a cricket elevens myself. To my husband’s continual amazement, all eleven players have turned up each time and, furthermore, we won both games – though I, of course, agree that it is the taking part that matters! (In fact, I cheer, leaping up and down on the sidelines.)
Downton Abbey took advantage of the cricket pitch and filmed a beautiful scene there in, I think, series three. It was particularly memorable for us as it took them three days to film it and it was the only three days of sunshine in an otherwise rather dour and wet spring. Mrs Patmore was busy preparing the cricket lunch with Daisy, Carson took the lead but then the police appeared…
To many friends who are not English, cricket remains a most peculiar game. One team of 11 men bat. The batsmen go in in pairs and try not to be out but can be bowled out alone. The other team field and some of them bowl. Each bowler has six balls, as long as they are no-balls, and then the bowler and the end is changed. The fielding positions have names such as ‘silly mid-off’, ‘leg gully’ or ‘cow corner’. Most of the positions are named roughly according to a system of polar co-ordinates – one word (‘leg’, ‘cover’, ‘mid-wicket’) specifies the angle from the batsman (‘silly’, ‘short deep’ or ‘long’) detailing distance. Words such as ‘backwards’, ‘forward’ or ‘square’ can further indicate angle. Every so often one team ‘declares’ they will stop batting, if they think they will win on the score so far. At other times, the weather may intervene to create a draw.
Even if you do understand cricket, it makes a wonderful backdrop for a lazy summer afternoon. Our lunches are delicious and, whilst I am biased, I think Highclere’s pitch is one of the prettiest in the country and some of my favourite days are spent with a Pimms, good friends and the soothing, familiar clop of willow against leather.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I think cricket is a wonderful game and it is terrific Highclere has it’s own pitch. It is VERY English and I recently have seen it on three of my favorite British shows. Downton (of course), Granchester, and Death in Paradise. I will take it for granted that UNLIKE on TV you will not have the police summoned on you, be poisoned or murdered!! I think things are more sedate in real life. At least I hope they are!! If not, I’m never coming back to England again!! Really it is a lovely game and I also commend you for forming a ladies team (or was it mixed?) I know you had great fun playing and enjoying a lovely summers day (and enjoying a cup of Pimms for your efforts). Kudos to Lord Carnarvon for his crickateering as well!!
Ann Catherine Flood
Eleven men played for me…
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Yet another wonderful blog, being from Yorkshire, cricket is in the blood, as children, we spent many happy hours watching the local cricket team, enjoying ice cream, as we got older, we still get together on a Sunday afternoon, sat in our deck chairs enjoying the glorious game in glorious weather. Best wishes Lorraine.xx
It is time out isn’t?
Dear Lady Carnarvon – Another wonderful depiction of life at Highclere – where past and present and Downton Abbey and real life stand together and mingle so magically. As an American I am very intrigued by Cricket as it is so different from any game I have ever participated in or witnessed. Your description made it sound even more intriguing. I quite agree that spending lazy summer Sunday afternoons with good friends and good food, while cheering your team on, sounds just heavenly. Thank you for a beautiful start to my week. Blessings to you!
Thank you – the last hour of a game on Sunday early evening at Highclere is often so exciting…
As an American, I must respectfully admit that of all the cricket I have watched, it appears to be a most ridiculous game, never gaining in logic. Ridiculous.
It is an elegantly slow game!
It’s always a delightful experience to read your blog posts about life at Highclere, no matter the topic.
My husband saw a new book at the local library that he thought I would find interesting. It’s title, a long one, is “The Crown: “The Official Companion, Volume 1, Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, and the Making of a Young Queen, 1947-1955.” The book covers Season 1 of the Netflix series, “The Crown” and it covers the history, in greater detail, behind the series.
In reading the book, there are pages devoted to the people in the series. The chapters are organized by the episodes in the series. One morning while I was reading and trying to wake up, was a page (p. 257) devoted to Lord Porchester. The information about Lord Porchester was on the right side of the spread and on the left side was Highclere Castle.
It was a pleasant surprise to read about Lord Porchester and know a little more of the history.
I am glad I met my father in law and enjoyed watching cricket with him. I hope he would be delighted Geordie and I have kept it all going
Fascinating blog, Lady C.! And there is the Queen at a cricket match at Highclere, a fine photo! Also liking the photo of your teams ready for a match, Lady Captain against Lord Captain? I do remember the episode of Downton Abbey with the cricket game, there was a moment when Matthew said to Mary, “you know, I’ll have to leave …” referring to the fact that he had to go-leave-and-play-in-the-game, but actually foreshadowing Dan Stevens departure from the series. And it is a beautiful lush green area you have for the cricket pitch!
As a Yankee from Chicago originally, I often thought of cricket as the sophisticated, aristocratic basis for American baseball. And just try to explain to someone about “home runs”, “bases loaded”, “line drive”, short stop, etc…’tis as easy as understanding “leg gully” and “silly mid-off”! Well, both games do involve bats and balls, although it is more beer ‘n pretzel ‘n hot dogs for one, while Pimms and elegant buffet for the other!
We can all settle for Pimms
I am American and no, I do not ‘get’ cricket. But then I doubt if most English people ‘get’ baseball either. I would love to have the opportunity to sit and watch a game in the summertime but I have heard that it is about as exciting as watching paint dry. The excitement would be spending time with family and friends on the grounds and of course enjoying the lovely luncheons that I hear are served.
Dear Lady C– another informative morning read about life at Highclere — I have only seen Cricket played in snippets on TV shows like Downton– thanks for explanagion– I am willing to prepare the lunch part!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
What a wonderful blog. There is no other sport quite like cricket. In no other game do the teams play all day and stop for both lunch and tea. In no other sport, can a single contest last for 5 days and still potentially not have a winner.
Despite the recent abhorrent behaviour of some professional cricketers, the great game is steeped in tradition and respect. There are of course the laws of the game but more importantly there is “the spirit of the game”.
For that we have to thank our previous generations and pioneers of the game. That includes not only past greats such as WG Grace, Spofforrh and others but also those who embraced the game, such as Auberon Herbert. They fostered the game and passed on a legacy that has been nurtured from one generation to the next.
The sense of “fair play” that is associated with cricket has made its way into everyday parlance. For example, if something smacks of sharp practice, “it just isn’t cricket”.
Cricket also has its own special style and grace. Sir Domald Bradman’s magnificent treatise on how to master the game was aptly called “The Art of Cricket”.
Downunder where everything is upside down (where our noses run and our feet smell) Christmas occurs in the heat of summer. Yet Christmas lunch would not be complete in Australia without the family game of cricket in the backyard or on the beach.
I love all sports but there is a special place in my heart for the great game of cricket.
A radio commentator’s description of the fielding positions – such as you have set out in your blog – of two slips, a fieldsman in the gully, another at point, one at each of square leg and long leg, another at third man, a cover and mid on – all create a word picture so that a listener familiar with the game can visualise the precise field placement that the batsman is facing. Sheer magic!
Then there is the history of the game, such as you have touched upon above. Books of immense prose have been written of the game and it’s past.
There also are so many clubs and societies of past players and cricket lovers (& cricket tragics too) who raise large amounts every year for charity, such as The Primary Club, the Forty Club, the Lord Taverners and so on. The LBW (“Learning for a Better World”) Trust raises money for the education of children in countries where they would be unable to attend a university without such significant financial assistance.
And all this has emanated from the village green of England’s “pleasant pastures seen” to the world stage.
Anyway, I seem to have rambled on, so I will bring my comments to a close by providing the following oft-repeated straight forward explanation of the game of cricket:
“You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
“When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.
“There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.
“When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.”
Thank you again for such a fantastic Blog. The photos also are wonderful.
Um, this American old woman just says “well played”, and we’ll leave it like that! But it is wonderful that is a treasured sport, none the less.
Thank you Jeffrey!
What a wonderful piece about cricket and it’s traditions. I assume that though you were captain of a team you did not play the game yourself? Are there female cricket players or is this game “men only”? What fun to have such a glorious tradition at Highclere! THANKS!
I did not play myself – perhaps next year I could field !!!
I am from India, therefore cricket is home ground for me. We were always glued to the TV when cricket matches were being played especially against England at the Oval, Lords or Marlyeborne stadia. One our famous cricketeer, Ranjith Singh (The Jam Sahib of Nawanagar) had a trophy instituted in his name called the Ranjith trophy, and I have heard of many famous men like Bob Willis and Peter Lever. We now even have a women’s cricket team.
I now live in America and the only cricket that the Americans (not all of them) have heard of is the insect by the same name…Lol.
In the days before TV, the radio carried all the cricket commentaries and I would wonder about names like “silly midoff”or “silly midon.”India still gets into the “cricket fever” when a match is being played.
It is very much your home ground … what a good reason to get excited!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for explaining the rules of Cricket! I’ve only seen the game played on Downton Abbey and on various UK television shows.
As a Houston Astros baseball fan, I understand the bit about bats and balls. Of course the Pimms and lunch sounds much more elegant than the standard hot dogs and beer or Tex-Mex tacos. What an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.
Congratulations on the success of your team!
Thank you – chuffed!!!
I’m not one for sports at all, but I always enjoy looking at the photos and reading your stories, no matter the subject. It’s interesting how all of the men in the top photo have facial hair, except the young lad. That must have been the fashion in 1856. And it seems the fashion of wearing white clothing for the game has never gone out of fashion.
It is a rather amazing photo
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Cricket will, I think, forever be shrouded in “mystery” as I can make neither head nor tail of the structure of the game! It is great fun to watch, but I haven’t a clue as to what is going on!! When Matthew taught the game to Tom Branson, I thought here’s my chance to gain some insight. Well, sorry to say, I did not. I do, however, love the idea of sipping Pimms on the sidelines. I recently watched your video on making the delicious cocktail, and you have inspired me to add it to the summer drinks at my house. Many years ago I had the privilege of visiting an author outside of Cambridge who served Pimms in rose petal blossoms, just for fun. I held the petals in the palm of my hand making a sort of little cup. A bit messy, but a wonderful experience. I’ll stick with a glass, add ice as you did, scoop in the delicious fruits, lots of mint, and add the sweet mixture on a warm afternoon.
Thank you for another wonderful article! Loud applaud and shouting for your team’s success!
Thank you – Pimms is a good long cool drink and with all the fruit part of your 5 a day!!!!
A wonderful blog! My husband read it too (feel flattered!). I am in France at the moment where ,La Belle is more exquisite than usual….but I would love to hear Cricket sounds and watch people playing on village greens ….you made me homesick ! My Grandfather played for Kent and his sister played in a ladies team…considered very “fast”” for the 1890’s!
How fascinating!!!! I would love to watch a match just once so I could understand it better. Thank you for explaining it so well…if that is possible! The picture of the Cricket on Highclere grounds is BEAUTIFUL!!! I love the drone shot of ‘the Cricket”. So interesting. I think the social side of Cricket is so desirable. I can just imagine going to a game and setting under a tent and sharing good food and drinks with friends! Sounds delightful to me. Thank you for painting the picture for us to imagine. And good for you being the Captain of a team!
Linda Sue Smith
If you are here one summer come and watch!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Being an American, I don’t understand cricket at all, but I love watching it! I think the episode in Downton Abbey was one of my favorites! I love that everyone wears white; and the pitch (I think that’s what you call it!)is just beautiful. You are right. The one at Highclere is one of the prettiest I’ve seen (in pictures!). I wish we played cricket over here, so I could learn it better. My Dad was an avid baseball player (Red Sox, I was born and grew up near Boston), which is probably our closest sport, though not really anything like it I suppose. I like baseball much better than football (American football, that is) because it is a bit more civil! I think cricket is very elegant, and I can just imagine how enjoyable it is to sit on the sidelines watching, having lunch and drinking Pimms. The English just do everything more civil than we do. I don’t know why that is. Perhaps I was born on the wrong side of the pond!! I much more lean to the English way of doing things!! Thank you so much for sharing all of this, so we can enjoy it from afar!!
currently living in Arkansas
from Reading, Massachusetts
Well thank you!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you again for a wonderful blog post.
Here in Pennsylvania we have a very famous cricket club – The Merion Cricket Club. Which opened in 1865. It has a very active cricket club, lawn tennis, soccer. golf club etc.
So we do know what cricket is here in the Philadelphia area!! Or some of us.
It is so wonderful to see your pictures of your pitch and out buildings. When watching Downton Abbey, I did not realized that was actually the pitch belonging to Highclere.
I must give you and your husband a congratulations for your good runs this past week at Royal Ascot. I saw that some of the horses your farm had trained had won and performed quite well indeed.
Thank you as always.
Another American here. Sounds like a lovely and wonderful way to spend an afternoon. I tried to follow your explanation of the game. However, I think I have a better grasp of Quidditch but then I’ve only seen very short moments of cricket played. Be that as it may, I really love reading your stories and having a bit of an insider’s peek at Highclere. So cool. Thanks!
Ah, to speak two languages, English and Cricket. It’s the event not so much the game, maybe? Thanks for your stories.
Hello from California, USA. My brother visited Highclere on June 14, while on a visit to UK. He shared with me that he was thrilled to have a few words with you. The visit was a highlight of his trip. So sorry I was not able to be with him on this trip. He loved the tour and the meal. His thanks to you for the conversation.
Delighted to meet him and hope you will return!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I am totally ignorant of the customs of the game of cricket. You probably were quite surprised that I thought women could play!! Still, I am impressed by the sport, and charmed by this lovely and summmery blog entry. Thank you as always for your terrific commentary on life at Highclere!!
Ann Catherine Flood
Women can playtoday and have sometimes played in the past -I am however very happy to help create a team and then watch and leap up and down!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Once again you have produced a delighted image and a wonderful story.
I am in England now again and sadly our itinerary did not bring us as far south as Highclere but I am slowly making a tour of the great houses of Great Britain. Yesterday we went to Burghley House and I tried to pretend that it was Highclere. Two years ago we were at Ingam Mote. Someday I hope to visit. Maybe next year and catch a game of cricket. Thank you for trying to explain it to us.
Oops! I did not mean Ingram Mote ( although we have been there). I meant Knole House. My husband knew one of the young women there many years ago and went to visit.
Is there a fixture list available?
Regarding women’s involvement in cricket, a much higher profile has in recent times been afforded to women’s international matches. Than in the past.
However, women actually have a long history of participation in the game and even influenced its development. The legendary Dr WG Grace was taught to play the game by his mother.
In the early days of cricket, the ball was bowled underarm at two stumps holding just one bail. It is now generally acknowledged (including at Lord’s itself) that a woman/women probably invented overarm bowling.
It is claimed Christina Willes used to bowl overarm to her brother John, who played cricket for Kent and England in the early nineteenth century. Christina bowled in that manner in order to avoid getting her arm tangled up in the many folds of her skirt – given the style/fashion of that time. John then tried out the overarm method at Lord’s, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Lord’s also notes that the first recorded women’s game was in 1745. The Reading Mercury reported: “Eleven maids of Bramley and eleven maids of Hambleton, dressed all in white, the girls bowled, batted, ran and catched as well as most men could do.”
A number of years ago, in a match raising transplant awareness, I had the privilege of playing in a team with the Australian women’s all rounder, Lisa Sthalekar, against a team that contained the Australian opening batswoman, Alex Blackwell. Those young ladies were far and away the best cricketers in that match.
Both women represented Australia with distinction in teams that won many international tournaments and World Cups. Lisa became the first player to achieve the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in Women’s One Day Internationals.
Regards & best wishes,
Dear Mr Sewell,
Fascinating!!! Now that I see how women are fully part of the game, I think I have a better overall picture of the game itself. I thank you for the history and the wonderful stories. They added to an already wonderful blog, and you should be a teacher because you would hold a classroom in thrall!! Lady Carnarvon, you have missed your calling as well as you are a historian and storyteller extrordinare!!
Regards to all,
The ignorant (but always delighted to learn) Ann Catherine Flood
Dear Ms Flood,
Thank you for such a lovely comment. You are far too kind.
I wish you a wonderful day. Your wonderful sentiments have made mine.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I am really not an avid sportswoman but I do love to watch tennis since my dad and I used to teach. He was in the top ten of American tennis pros. I love watching cricket and I wish the sports channels would offer more of the games on TV. It is nice to know that there are women’s teams nowadays. Thanks for the interesting posts.
Yes, I remember the cricket segment on Downton, but I did not realize it was filmed on Highclere grounds. Fascinating! I seem to remember from a “special features” clip that Jim Carter, who played Mr. Carson, was quite heavily involved with cricket.
Dear Lady Carnarvon, I was lucky enough to play at Highclere more than once. Henry Porchester was a good friend to many of us cricketers. They were always special days. The Duke of Edinburgh bowled to me and I defended the first 8 balls. HRH told me not to be too polite. I hit the next two for six. ( On reflection that was a bit silly, overdoing it) I think it was a separate occasion watching in the tent with Her Majesty, when I managed to deflect a hard hit in her direction. That may be the source of the event mentioned in the photo caption. Yours sincerely Edward. (Ted) Dexter.
Oh my goodness – thank you for writing in! We still keep cricket going – will you come and watch a match with us next year ?
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I must confess after reading this article, that playing against your team would be an absolute honor.
I am privileged to be on the Committee of London NZ CC (https://www.lnzcc.org/history.html), and whilst we have not been around for quite as long as your club’s history, we are celebrating 70yr anniversaries with some of the regular clubs we play against this year.
If you ever wish to expand your schedule list, please let us know.
Kindest regards and best wishes,