The Duke of Edinburgh, our finest cricketing royal, turned 97 in June. As he nears his century, it’s time to salute his marvellous contribution to a princely pastime.
As Prince Philip nears his own century, it’s the perfect time to look back on his life of cricket.
In the year 1949, Philip was crowned as the MCC president. He famously led a victorious English invitation XI against Hampshire, piloting his own helicopter all the way from Balmoral to Bournemouth.
Coming on just before lunch-time, the toff’s teasing line and length claimed a wicket to break a century stand.
He acquired “the perfect action” according to no less a judge and one of the greatest cricket batsman Don Bradman. A dozen remarkable runs made for a cracking cameo, putting trenchant Telegraph correspondent EW Swanton in raptures: “Strokes of a pedigree not normally seen on English pitches.”
The First Gentlemen v Premier Peer captured the public imagination and attracted an Arundel audience of 30,000; one of Test match proportions.
Disparate guests included John Betjeman, the Kray twins and Kim Philby – fielding Third Man, perchance? Writer Miles Kington was surprised to find totty in attendance but Lord Mountbatten assured him: “These girls are great women in their own right… the Duchess of Northumberland, the Lady Devonshire.”
An amazed Kington interjected, “These are their titles?” “No,” came the reply. “They are the pubs they work at.”
Anyway, the reprobates occasionally donned whites. In a boozy beano against the Essex village of Tolleshunt d’Arcy, they collapsed just after the lunch. Philip, out after only scoring the obligatory “one off the mark”, complained of gamesmanship, having been plied with champagne.
Prince Philip – A great all-rounder of the game and a team player
The classy all-rounder graced a local derby in Kent for Mersham Le Hatch against Aldington. He dismissed three commoners but one of the blighters later behaved abominably.
Rather than tossing up a juicy half-volley (correct etiquette) the oaf whipped down a demon delivery. The Duke was struck on the pads and given out LBW, unfortunately.
He was still fuming four years later while holding forth at a league conference: “That is the sort of umpiring that should be definitely looked into.”
On the eve of that occasion, he also stated, “Cricket can only flourish if it is played by civilised people.”
As “twelfth man” for the jocular Lord’s Taverners, he livened up their 1951 Grosvenor House ball by organising a knock about on the dance floor… shades of Wodehouse’s Drones club. Endless organisations sought royal recognition.
As he put it: “One of the reasons that make it so difficult to explain cricket to the people of other countries is that they assume it is just another game.”
When the Duke was asked, “Is there anything about cricket you’d like to change?” he replied, “I only wish that some of these trousers fitted better.”