Paul Edwards traces the history of Lancashire v Middlesex matches at Aigburth (but, as usual, he takes a long time getting round to it.)
Thomas Moult's name is unlikely to attract much attention these days. A minor Georgian poet, novelist and journalist, his magazine, Voices, was described by Robert H. Ross as "eminently uncontroversial", and although his yearly poetry anthologies sold well in the inter-war years, they do not fly off their dusty shelves now. Amazon has resisted the temptation to Kindle them.
I first came across Moult's work through Bat and Ball, his 1935 anthology which included the work of A. G. Macdonell and Neville Cardus, and also through a long-playing record Cricket - The Sovran King of Sports. This treasured piece of vinyl - I really must have it put on CD sometime - features prose by Cardus and John Nyren and poems by Alan Ross, John Arlott and Thomas Moult. I listened to the record so often when I was growing up with cricket that I have whole chunks of it by heart. I suspect I will be burbling parts of it when I have been claimed by second childishness and mere oblivion.
Thus, when I was researching the ten games played between Lancashire and Middlesex and found that J.T. Tyldesley (pictured above) had made 170 in the 1901 fixture, the opening lines from Moult's The Names came to mind: "There's music in the names I used to know / And magic when I heard them long ago / Is Tyldesley batting? Ah, the wonder still!"
Johnny Tyldesley's conjuring was insufficient to win the 1901 game for Lancashire. Needing 416 to win, Middlesex were four for one when rain prevented any possibility of play on the final day. Indeed, Lancashire have only one win to their name in the history of this fixture. That came in 1913 when Harry Makepeace made 76, slow left-armer James Heap took eight for 28 and no fewer than four Tyldesleys turned out for the Red Rose. For their part, Middlesex won by one wicket in 1894, and by two wickets in 1955, when neither Geoff Edrich's century nor Malcolm Hilton's 12 wickets preventing the visitors getting home. Geoff Edrich's brother, Bill, played for Middlesex.
It is terribly tempting to smother these performances in nostalgia's rich sauce, to forget the glorious, flawed humanity of the cricketers. Remembering his innocent childhood passion for the game, Moult knows that he is susceptible to this failing in respect of his own heroes: "Surely the glow they held was the high sun's ? / Or did a young boy's worship think it so? / And is it but his heart that's aching now?
It is also easy - indeed, it has become almost a cliché of the old buffer - to disparage the present by comparison with the past. Yet watching Karl Brown stroke the ball across the Aigburth outfield as he made his way to a graceful fifty this afternoon was a pleasure to be stored in the memory as a momentary stay against future confusions. The timing of a Brown or a Ramprakash, the bowling of an Anderson or a Warne, these, too, will be squirrelled away by those who have witnessed them.
Even in an age as glitzy as our own, when fame seems easily won and cheaply lost, it is vital to remember the skill of Shane Warne and the batting of Johnny Tyldesley are part of the same complex tapestry, not separate pictures. Memory is not made up of locked compartments; neither is history. I am watching Simon Kerrigan bowl in Aigburth's evening sunshine. How will I remember this in twenty years? The music and the magic linger still.
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd