Saturday, 8 October 2011


This is Fantasy Bob's 424th Wittering.

424 is also the highest score achieved by Archie Maclaren.  424 is also the number of First Class games played by Maclaren in a career which ran from 1890 to 1923. 
Maclaren in full flow
So 424 is some number. It is actually the sum of ten consecutive primes (23 + 29 + 31 + 37 + 41 + 43 + 47 + 53 + 59 + 61) not that would have been a consideration for Maclaren as he was compiling his score. His innings was scored for Lancashire against Somerset at Taunton in 1895 and stood as the record score for 30 years until Bill Ponsford his 429 against Tasmania in 1923.   It remains the highest score by an English batsman.   Maclaren played 35 Tests and was captain in 22 of them and captained Lancashire for many years.

Maclaren may have been a fine bat - he is reported to have stood tall with a high backlift and an extended follow through, but by most accounts he was far from being a likeable man.  Neville Cardus eulogised about him.  But team-mates and business partners alike found MacLaren brusque, boorish, overbearing.  He had a habit of receiving players into his side with such morale boosting welcomes as "Look what they've given me this time." Or "gracious me! Don't tell me you're playing!"   His arrogance started young - as a senior boy at Harrow he treated his fag with contempt because of his unatheltic nature.  He dismissed him as being incapable of ever amounting to anything - the boy's name was Winston Churchill.  Whatever happened to him?

Maclaren was old school and was determined to retain his amateur status and pursued a series of careers with no great success.  He may have been the original Basil Fawlty as among his unsuccessful business ventures was a hotel described as inhospitable.

He was always down to his last sixpence.  The tale is also told of when he arrived in Hollywood on a voyage to or from Australia with significantly below the requisite number of brass farthings to rub together.  His arrival happened to be during the filming of The Four Feathers and  former team mate C Aubrey Smith managed to put some pin money in his direction by giving him a role as an extra. It is thought that his scenes didn't survive into the final cut, so an alternative career went begging.

But his 424 remains in all the record books.  And Archie Maclaren hero or villain lives on in cricket's memory.

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