While matches went on at Old Trafford, Neville Cardus was often seen loitering on the streets of Manchester. Nevertheless, he seldom failed to write a detailed match report, often with the events retrofitted with surreptitious glances at the same scoreboard he had pompously branded an ass, garnished by his immensely fertile imagination.
Much of these figments of historical fiction is considered gospel today.
Cardus says in his Autobiography that the day he got married he had gone to Old Trafford, accompanied by Edith, and had stayed for a while to see (Harry) Makepeace and (Charles) Hallows come forth to bat. “As usual they opened with care. Then I had to leave, had to take a taxi to Manchester, there to be joined in wedlock at a registry office. Then I — that is we — returned to Old Trafford. While I had been away from the match … Lancashire had increased their total by exactly 17 — Makepeace 5, Hallows 11, and one leg-bye.”
If we look at the scorecards, we find that Makepeace and Hallows had opened the batting only once in June 1921, in a completely different match, in which Makepeace had made four and 24 (retired hurt) and Hallows 109 not out and 0. Thereafter, Makepeace was out of the side for a month, and they did not bat together again till August. Cardus got married on June 17, 1921.
In other words, that match of slow rhythm and leisure that characterise the summer game had been played in the imagination of the great Cardus.
Quite like most of the things he penned. The scoreboard was an ass because, as in such cases, it would ruin a perfectly delightful tale.
Neville Cardus was born on Apr 2, 1888. His mother registered a day later to avoid a fine. However, he claimed that he had seen the light of the day on Apr 2, 1889. Even here he disregarded the truth. Force of habit.
Text: Arunabha Sengupta