Jack Hobbs graces Glenpark

Jack Hobbs is undoubtedly one of the finest players ever to have played the game of cricket, indeed Wisden granted him the accolade of being one of the five best players of the 20th century. In a first-class career spanning from 1905 to 1934, he scored 61,760 runs and 197 centuries, records which it can be said with confidence will never be broken. He played 61 Tests for England and in that time, he was comfortably the leading Test run-scorer. With Herbert Sutcliffe of Yorkshire, he formed one of the greatest opening partnerships of all time. For all these reasons Jack Hobbs was known as 'The Master'.

When it was announced several weeks in advance that Hobbs would be a member of HB Rowan's XI to play Greenock on Tuesday 25th June 1935, there was a real buzz of anticipation amongst cricket enthusiasts in the district that such a famous player would grace Glenpark. Harry Rowan was a noted benefactor of the game, he donated the Rowan Cup for play in 1923, and for many years he organised a select side to play against club and school sides. In 1935, he agreed to bring a team to Greenock and the scene was set for a memorable encounter.

Hobbs, who was now 53 years of age, had announced his retirement from the first-class game in February 1935 but continued to play on occasionally and agreed to turn out one more time for Rowan's team.

Greenock bat first

Play was scheduled to start at 5pm and the Greenock Telegraph warned spectators to get to the ground in good time for the first ball. They initially reported that Greenock would bat first so that all spectators would definitely see Hobbs batting but on the day of the game they retracted that claim. It should be remembered that for the vast majority of these spectators, Hobbs and his deeds was something that they had read about in the papers. Perhaps they might have seen a glimpse of him in cinema newsreels and a very lucky few might have seen him play in England but for many this would be the first and last time that they would see him in the flesh.

In the event, Greenock's skipper, Norman Adam won the toss and chose to bat.

Keeper injured

At 5.10pm, Greenock's usual opening partnership of John Kerr and Arthur Neill faced the bowling of Alf Smith from Kilmarnock and Watt of Clydesdale. Smith, who was a Scottish internationalist, had enjoyed a lot of success against Greenock in the past with his ability to vary flight and pace and turn the ball both ways, indeed he had taken 7 for 47 the previous Saturday as Kilmarnock pulled off a surprise win at Glenpark. He and Watt kept Kerr and Neill reasonably quiet at first with the first 30 runs taking forty-five minutes.

When the score reached 36, Jardine of Clackmannan, who had replaced Watt, struck the keeper McBeath of Poloc over the heart with a delivery that reared up and caused him to collapse. He was taken to the pavilion but fortunately there were no lasting problems and he was able to return to take his place in the field. It is probably worth noting that concerns had been raised previously about the condition of the square at Glenpark and the pitch used for the match with Kilmarnock had played very poorly. Remedial work had to be carried out at the end of the season to remove a ridge at the Fox Street end and ensure a more equitable playing surface.

Kerr reaches half-century but Neill falls just short

The scoring rate gradually increased with the half-century being reached in seventy minutes. Kerr was taking the lead and a boundary off Smith brought him his half-century, scored in ninety minutes. Just after this the hundred was brought up by Neill and then Kerr hit Smith over the wall into Bedford Lane. Finally with the score on 117, the partnership was broken, Kerr being bowled by Jardine for a fine 61, which included one 6 and five 4s. There can be little doubt that he was determined not to be overshadowed by the Master.

Arthur Neill seemed sure to reach his own half-century but was denied this by one run when Smith took a great catch off his own bowling to dismiss him with the score on 121. Hollingdale and Jack Barclay took the score up to 147 before Norman Adam applied the closure after the Greenock innings had been in progress for two hours and ten minutes.

Hobbs in form from the off

Hobbs had fielded in a Rowan's XI cap, which had apparently disguised him to the majority of the 1500 spectators who had squeezed into the ground but when he came out to bat he had switched to an England cap and was given a great ovation from the crowd as he walked to the crease.

Off the third ball of the opening over, he drove Hollingdale to the offside boundary and he accorded the same fate to George Tough's first and fourth balls in the next over. Hobbs and Jones, a Scottish internationalist from Stirling County, took the score quickly to 37 before the latter edged a rising ball from Hollingdale into the safe hands of Kerr, fielding in the slips.

Not long after this, Hobbs narrowly avoided being stumped off Tough's bowling - did the umpire show him some latitude given the size of the crowd who had come to see him? We will never know. Johnston of Ayr had replaced Jones and his muscular style of batting took a hefty toll of Greenock's change bowlers, McCrea and Walker. At the other end Hobbs endeared himself to the spectators with his easy-flowing strokes and reached his 50 by hitting Walker out of the ground. It took only eighty minutes for the century to be reached and an easy win for Rowan's XI appeared likely.

Jim Agnew gets Hobbs' scalp

But when the score had reached 110, Hobbs was well beaten and bowled by young Jim Agnew. He had made 62, with one 6 and nine 4s, and his dismissal, as the Greenock Telegraph stated, "was greeted with a roar of cheering, partly for Agnew's achievement and partly as a salute to a very fine innings by a very fine batsman". Despite suffering from a knee problem which inhibited his footwork, Hobbs had hit up 62 with seemingly little effort. The Telegraph noted that "his correct timing and accurate placing were models of perfection".

It appears that a good number of the spectators left the ground at this point, content that they had seen the Master at work. They did not see McIndoe and Smith quickly removed and Johnston bowled by Smith at 127 nor did they see Dallachy and Jardine overtake Greenock's total before time was finally called with Rowan's XI on 168 for 5. In truth, the result was the last thing that the spectators had in mind, they just wanted to see their hero.

It is also worth speculating that Hobbs was equally determined not to be overshadowed by John Kerr and was therefore quite content to give up his wicket once he had overtaken Kerr's score. Whether or not there is anything in this will of course never be known.

Hobbs photoshopped

The two veterans, Hobbs and Kerr, who was just three years younger than Hobbs, were the stars of the game and this iconic photograph shows the two of them together.

That this photograph is an early example of photoshopping can be seen from this grainy image of the original photograph.


John Kerr   b Jardine 61
A Neill c and b Smith 49
Hollingdale not out 6
JD Barclay not out 22
AT Carnie      
PJF Williamson      
WN Walker      
JM Agnew      
GH Tough      
TH McCrea      
RN Adam *+      
Extras     9
TOTAL    43 overs 147 for 2
Bowler O M R W  
A Smith 15 5 28 1    
WW Watt 7 1 19 0  
JC Jardine 8 0 22 1  
GG Crerar 6 0 28 0  
JG Johnston 5 0 22 0  
IB MacKinlay 2 0 19 0  
HB Rowan's XI
JB Hobbs   b Agnew 62
JB Jones c Kerr b Hollingdale 12
JG Johnston   b Tough 45
JM McIndoe c McCrea b Hollingdale 0
A Smith st Adam b Hollingdale 0
JW Dallachy not out 25
JC Jardine not out 19
GG Crerar      
WT McBeath      
IB MacKinlay      
WW Watt      
Extras     5
TOTAL      168 for 5
Bowler O M R W  
Hollingdale 18 3 54 3    
GH Tough 13 2 45 1  
TH McCrea 4 0 22 0  
WN Walker 3 0 25 0  
JM Agnew 3 0 17 1