Pooley's tale givena timely retelling

An 1873 scandal reminds us that betting misdeeds are nothing new

The Hansie Cronje case is by no means the first of its kind in cricket. In 1817 Marylebone Cricket Club kicked bookmakers out of Lord's over match-fixing allegations, and only slightly more recently Surrey suspended Edward Pooley for allegedly throwing a game in order to win a bet.

Pooley, a batsman-wicketkeeper, was a colourful, charming rogue who was only 5ft 6in tall. But in 1873 he was dismissed after Surrey had lost to Yorkshire at Sheffield by eight wickets in under two days.

Pooley was sacked amid rumours of gambling and his story has now been told in a biography by the Surrey scorer, Keith Booth.

According to one report, Pooley claimed he had backed himself and team-mate Henry Jupp to score more runs than the Yorkshire pair of Andrew Greenwood and Ephraim Lockwood. Pooley scored the most runs and champagne was consumed at breakfast on the second day.

Sadly, the whispering went on for the rest of that day and the situation was not helped by Pooley's non-appearance on the field, no doubt due to the effects of the bubbly. It was alleged that he had thrown the match for £50 and he was dismissed for the remainder of the season.

Booth has unearthed a letter written by Pooley to the Surrey committee in which he lists his version of events.

"I understand I am charged with three things," he wrote. "First, that I did not try to win the match; second, that I did so because I had bets against my side; third, that I used abusive language to the captain."

He pleaded guilty to this last, but on the others he explained: "...the first of these charges, I do assure you was owing to my being unwell on the morning of the second innings and being thoroughly out of sorts and I most positively deny... intentionally giving any advantage to the other side.

"As regards the bet, I took one bet of five shillings (25 pence) to half a crown (12.5 pence) that five Yorkshire players did not get 70 runs. I backed Mr Boult against Hall and myself against the same player for half a crown; R Humphrey and Jupp against Lockwood and Emmett for the same amount and T Humphrey against A Hill, so according to my bets the imputation is that I sold the match for half a crown."

And he ends by saying: "I ask you now gentlemen if you will kindly reconsider a judgement that takes the bread out of my mouth and family... It is impossible for me to enter any new business with confidence or credit with a cloud hanging over me."

Booth concludes that "the probability is that the bets were on the first innings, that Pooley won, that a bottle of champagne was involved on the second morning which was not unconnected with his being abusive to the captain and not taking the field after lunch."

The author says no evidence has been uncovered of a £50 bet against Surrey winning the match. The committee kept Pooley hanging on for a further three months before formally reinstating him in February 1874, but only after he had apologised for his behaviour.

His Own Enemy, The Rise and Fall of Edward Pooley by Keith Booth (Belmont Books, 6 Kingswood Drive, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5NB; £13.50 inclusive of p&p).

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