Greenock's tie with Uddingston in dramatic finish

Matches between Greenock and Uddingston in the period between the two World Wars were always keenly contested affairs. Principally, this was because the Lanarkshire side could reasonably be considered to be the pre-eminent side in the Western Union. In the twenty inter-war years of the Union, Greenock won or shared the title on five occasions while Uddingston and Clydesdale won four, but Uddingston were runners-up on no fewer than eight occasions whereas Greenock rarely mounted a challenge in the years when they did not win.

The two sides had also contested the first three finals of the Rowan Cup, with Uddingston winning the first two before Greenock triumphed in 1925 when they also won the Union, to become the first side to achieve that double feat. And Uddingston had been by far the dominant club in the league in the years leading up to World War One although the makeup of the league in these years varied whereas after the war it was the same ten clubs that contested the competition.

Uddingston bat first

On Saturday 23rd May 1931, Uddingston travelled to Glenpark, having won their first three games of the season while Greenock had yet to win, having drawn two games and lost to Poloc. What followed was a match which swung back and forth as both innings followed the same course. The Greenock Telegraph summed it up as follows

"When Greenock and Uddingston come together there are usually sparks flying, and this year's visit of the Villagers to Glenpark will be long remembered. It was the most amazing match witnessed at Greenock for many years, and a large crowd was thrilled by the abrupt and dramatic finish."

Uddingston won the toss and elected to bat first. The start was delayed by 15 minutes by a brief shower but no further rain materialised. The start from Irving Turner, who had been professional at Uddingston for five years before being reinstated as an amateur at the start of the season, and Tennent was slow, only six runs being scored from the first eleven overs bowled by Hollingdale and Douglas Adam during which Tennent was dropped behind the stumps when he was just one, a miss that would prove costly.

Dramatic collapse after hundred partnership

As the innings progressed, the pair began to up the scoring rate and various bowling changes were tried to break the partnership, without success. They had taken the score to 105 before being parted when Arthur Neill took a swirling catch off the bowling of George Tough to dismiss Tennent for 42. Hollingdale was then brought back for a third spell, this time at the Fox Street end and the whole complexion of the game changed.

Turner was caught behind for 73 off the bowling of Hope while Hollingdale dismissed Stark through another excellent catch, this time by Ferguson, and trapped Macfarlane in front. The professional then took four wickets without a run being scored. Hope caught Richard Howorth, the young Uddingston professional, who came from Bacup in Lancashire, Chambers was a second catch for Ferguson, Tevendale was bowled outright and the skipper George Burt gave the bowler a return catch. From a position of some strength Uddingston had fallen to 129 for 8 in no time at all.

Izat and Watson now staged a slight recovery and had taken the Uddingston score up to 148 when Burt applied the declaration, a sporting one which left Greenock two and a quarter hours to get the runs for victory. For Greenock, Reg Hollingdale took 6 for 29, his best analysis since joining the Club at the start of the season from Sussex where he had played on and off since 1925, and a foretaste of what he would achieve over the next seven seasons.

John Kerr sets up Greenock for victory

John Kerr and Norman Walker opened Greenock's innings, hoping to meet with the same success that they had achieved in the friendly played earlier in the week against Watsonians when they had put on 121 for the first wicket. But they were not so fortunate this time, their partnership amounting to exactly 100 runs fewer as Turner had Walker caught by Chambers for 9 with the score on 21.

This brought Robert Ferguson to the crease, a batsman who could best be described as mercurial. At times he was capable of the most sublime strokeplay but too often he gifted his wicket away before getting properly settled. On this occasion, however, he buckled down with Kerr and together they brought up the half-century after one hour's play.

The two batsmen continued in the same vein and the hundred was crossed without any further loss. Kerr had done most of the scoring, while Ferguson was content to give him the lead. Even when the veteran, he was after all 46 years of age, was finally bowled for 72, an innings containing eight boundaries, when the score was 113, Greenock seemed set fair for victory.

Collapse imperils Greenock

Ferguson and Pat Williamson now came together and the score continued to mount. With 35 minutes left to play, just 20 runs were needed. Ferguson was caught by Tennent for 28 but even that dismissal did not seem to represent a problem as by now only 14 runs were required. But Hope and Hollingdale were both dismissed without scoring by the rejuvenated Tom Watson. 136 for 5 and nerves were beginning to show. Arthur Neill and Norman Adam managed six runs between them but then Howorth dismissed them both. 142 for 7 and never mind nerves showing, alarm bells were ringing and loudly.

One run later, Williamson gave a catch to Chambers and immediately after that Bisset was run out for zero attempting a non-existent run. It looked all over for Greenock as Uddingston were now completely on top. As the Telegraph put it "The Villagers were now as keen as mustard, and there were claims to the umpire in every over. This was not to the liking of the crowd, who voiced their disapproval, both in unison and individually."

Agonising finish for Greenock spectators

Fortunately for Greenock they had two experienced campaigners at the crease in the skipper, George Tough, and Douglas Adam, to get the six runs required for victory. A single by Tough was followed by two runs from Adam, loudly applauded by the crowd. Then Tough hit the ball through the fielders up to the pavilion - a safe two to tie the scores.

The batsmen ran two, turned and then started on the third run to win the game. But they fatally hesitated before deciding to risk all for the victory. By now Macfarlane had fielded the ball and his throw to the bowler's end was sufficiently accurate to enable Watson to throw the stumps down with Tough well short of the crease. The game was tied.

If ever a match demonstrated the glorious uncertainty of cricket, it was this one. Both sides had periods of ascendency, both sides had collapses of epic proportions and at the climax of the game all results were possible. Uddingston deserve great credit for refusing to accept defeat but Greenock would reflect on a game that they had thrown away.

Uddingston claim the title

Uddingston went on to win the league from Poloc. They lost only two games, one of which was the return game with Greenock at Bothwell Policies when they bowled Uddingston out for just 56. And yet despite taking three points from the champions, Greenock finished second bottom, mainly because they drew six games on top of the tie with Uddingston. In each of these games, they had batted first and were well on top of their opponents in the second innings but could not bowl them out. In addition, six games were lost, in four of which they were bowled out for less than 100.

But from that position of mediocrity and with little or no change in personnel they won the league the following season. Funny old game, cricket.



AC Tennent c Neill b Tough 42
FI Turner c Bisset b Hope 73
RM Macfarlane lbw b Hollingdale 0
JC Stark c Ferguson b Hollingdale 3
TA Chambers c Ferguson b Hollingdale 9
Howorth c Hope b Hollingdale 1
JG Tevendale +   b Hollingdale 0
WG Izat not out 5
GP Burt * c and b Hollingdale 0
TW Watson not out 14
JH Allan      
Extras 1nb   1
TOTAL     59 overs 148 for 8
Bowler O M R W   Fall of Wickets
Hollingdale 20 12 29 6   1-105
GD Adam 14 3 37 0   2-116
W Hope 15 4 39 1   3-119
GH Tough 5 0 16 1   4-123
John Kerr 2 0 10 0   5-129
WN Walker 3 0 16 0   6-129
John Kerr   b Watson 72
WN Walker c Chambers b Turner 9
RK Ferguson c Tennent b Howorth 28
PJF Williamson c Chambers b Watson 15
Hollingdale lbw b Watson 0
W Hope   b Watson 0
A Neill c Macfarlane b Howorth 5
RN Adam c Watson b Howorth 1
GH Tough * run out 4
DB Bisset + run out 0
GD Adam not out 2
Extras 9b 3lb   12
TOTAL     46.4 overs   148 all out
Bowler O M R W   Fall of Wickets
TW Watson 20.4 5 54 4   1-21
Howorth 17 4 30 3   2-113
FI Turner 1 0 8 1   3-135
JH Allan 6 0 25 0   4-136
WG Izat 2 0 19 0   5-136