Alf Gover (left) went on to become one of the greatest coaches, but he never stood a chance against the shrewd Patsy Hendren    Getty Images
Alf Gover (left) went on to become one of the greatest coaches, but he never stood a chance against the shrewd Patsy Hendren Getty Images

September 2, 1929. Young Alf Gover was playing his first match at Lord s. Just before the match begun, Patsy Hendren pleaded him for mercy, and Gover fell for the bait. Abhishek Mukherjee recalls an excellent display of gamesmanship.

Alf Gover, especially in younger days, could be quite fast. His bowling action was somewhat unusual in the sense that his left arm and leg seemed almost lifeless in comparison to their right counterparts as he ran in to bowl. He swung the ball away from the right-hander at a furious pace, and though he played only four Tests on either side of the War, his 1,555 First-Class wickets, mostly for Surrey, came at 23.63.

Gover went on to become one of the celebrated coaches in the history of the sport. His coaching centre was a pioneer of the organised cricket centres, and attracted pupils from across the world, which included Frank Tyson, Viv Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Andy Roberts, and Ian Bishop.

During the time of this incident, however, he was a raw tearaway taking field for the first time at Lord s. He must have been dying to have a go at the Middlesex batsmen, but Percy Fender opted to bat. Surrey were bowled out for 294 before stumps with four men scoring between 50 and 69 and 47-year old Jack Hobbs falling for 1.

Gover had Middlesex captain Nigel Haig caught by Fender before running through Jack Hearne s defence. Harry Lee fell at the other end, and Middlesex finished the day on 62 for 3. They were 232 behind, but Walter Robins was out there along with Patsy Hendren.

It would not be an exaggeration to call Hendren the greatest batsmen in the history of Middlesex, even if one keeps Denis Compton in mind. Only Hobbs and Frank Woolley had more First-Class runs than Hendren s 57,611, and only Hobbs had more hundreds than his 170.

Unfortunately, Gover was yet to see a lot of Hendren. In fact, given that the era was dominated by the exaggerated penmanship of Neville Cardus and his likes, it was unlikely that Gover had an accurate idea of how Hendren batted.

Earlier, that morning…

As was customary in those days, Hendren had met Gover before the match started with his characteristic broad smile. He had asked him what the youngster did on the ground. The response had been prompt: I m a fast bowler.

The senior pro had responded: Well, be careful of how you bowl at me. I m not as young as I used to be, and I don t like fast bowling too much . The first part of the sentence was true, for Hendren was 40 at the time of the match. The second past, however, was far from reality.

Once the Rest Day got over…

Gover did not have a chance to have a go at Hendren on Day One, and was perhaps itching to steam in to the great man. Alan Peach removed Robins early (presumably with a peach) when play resumed on Monday.

Gover eventually got a bowl at Hendren with four deliveries left in an over. I got ready to give him the fastest bumper he had ever received in his life, Gover would later write.

As was expected, Gover bounced; and Hendren s hook landed in the grandstand. Gover thought it must have been a fluke; he bounced, Hendren pulled, four more. The next ball was an eventless one. Gover, fuming by now, put everything behind the next ball, bending his back that extra bit. Once again it landed into the grandstand.

This was the version of Henry Blofeld. Gover s obituary in The Independent had a slightly different take on the array of strokes: Gover peppered Patsy, who unleashed his trademark hook and milked four after four from the perplexed bowler, plus a six into the Mound Stand. There were differences in the version, but the essence was the same.

As a disgruntled Gover returned to his position, Hobbs intercepted him. To quote Blofeld, he following conversation ensued:

Hobbs: Why are you bowling bouncers at Mr Hendren, son?

Gover: Because he doesn t like fast bowling.

Hobbs: Who on earth told you that?

Gover: He did, Mr Hobbs.

Hobbs: Then I am telling you that Pat is still as good a player of fast bowling as anyone I know. And what s more, young man, I d remind you he s an Irishman and every night he kisses the Blarney Stone.

The damage was done. Hendren blasted his way to a round 100 before Gover snared him. Henry Enthoven contributed 65. Gover finished with 4 for 118, but could not stop Middlesex from taking a slender 16-run lead.

Surrey were 70 for 3, but Hobbs, batting at No. 5, carved out 111 to go with Robert Gregory s 114 not out. Middlesex, set to score 284 or bat for a draw, opted for the latter after being reduced to 60 for 4, Gover taking all four wickets (including clean bowling Hendren). Robins and Enthoven then batted out time.

Brief scores:

Surrey 294 (Andy Sandham 52, Thomas Shepherd 56, Ernest Wilson 69*, Alan Peach 50; Ian Peebles 3 for 57, Walter Robins 3 for 80) and 299 for 5 decl. (Robert Gregory 114*, Jack Hobbs 111; Jack Durston 3 for 83) drew with Middlesex 310 (Patsy Hendren 100, Henry Enthoven 65; Alf Gover 4 for 118, Alan Peach 3 for 75) and 125 for 4 (Walter Robins 40*; Alf Gover 4 for 51).

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)