Thursday, October 5

Throwback: When an Umpire adjudged debutant Denis Compton LBW to attend nature’s call

Denis Compton. (Photo by Express/Express/Getty Images)

Denis Compton was well known for his batting exploits as he scored 5807 runs across 78 Tests at an average of 50.06 and aggregated nearly 40000 runs in his first-class career. He was a handy bowler as well picking up 622 wickets in 515 FC games at 32.27 average. However, on his first-class debut in 1936, Compton was restricted to No.11 position. He represented Middlesex in the County game at the Lord’s against the visiting Sussex team.

Sussex, who batted first after winning the toss, were bowled out for only 185. Compton bowled four overs and picked up the wicket of Henry Parks (50) who was involved in a 74-run stand with James Langridge (53). Compton, who had turned 18 a week before his FC debut, joined George Allen when the hosts were 162/9 following a 6-wicket haul by Maurice Tate.

The duo of Allen and Denis added 36 runs for the 10th wicket as Middlesex got into the first-innings lead and were assured of 5 points in case of a draw.

The umpire couldn’t hold on

At this stage, Jim Parks raised an appeal after he struck the pads of Denis Compton. Umpire Bill Bestwick didn’t hesitate to raise his finger and end Compton’s debut innings on 14. Jim Parks was none other than the elder brother of Henry Parks who was the first FC wicket of Denis. The umpire’s decision seemed to be quite wrong as it made the non-striker George Allen unhappy as well.

The umpire later revealed to the batters that he was desperate to attend a nature’s call and couldn’t contain himself anymore. Bestwick told them that had he not closed the innings at that point, his bladder could have burst. The decision luckily didn’t make an impact on the result as Sussex ended the 2nd day on 189/3 after conceding a 13-run lead. The final day’s play was washed out and Middlesex and Sussex earned five and three points respectively.

Confusion in names

Denis Compton, in his book End of an Innings which released in 1958, mentioned the umpire as Bill Reeves who never stood in a County match as umpire post the 1921 season. However, the book Denis Compton: The Authorized Biography by Tim Heald released in 2015, cleared the confusion over names. In this book, the author revealed that Compton took Bill Bestwick’s name in 1993 while narrating the story.

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