Denis Compton and that 1947 Season

50 innings, 3816 runs, an average of 90.85 and a highs score of 246. 18 hundreds on the season. 635 overs bowled, 73 wickets at 28.12 apiece. That was Denis Compton's 1947 season. A season of the kind that we'll never experience again.

An interesting note on that season. Denis wad under contract to Wisden who provided him with his cricket bats. Any spectator during that season would have seen a bat embossed with the Wisden trademark despatching bowlers to the boundary with a flashing display of style.

However, Denis disliked the Wisden bat when it was delivered, so much so, he asked a North London bat maker by the name of Warsop to make him a new one. Frank Warsop tended to make all the bats for Middlesex from his north London factory, he designed one perfect for Dennis and didn't stamp it with the Warsop name. Instead, he embossed it with the name and trademark of Wisden. Denis got the bat he wanted and Wisden were none the wiser and still got the exposure they wanted.

The 1947 season is something to behold. It's the year that Denis became a household name. He was already a star of the game, but it was 1947 where he started to become a star in a sense that we know today.

Although England were completely outplayed during their tour of Australia to start 1947, Compton ended the series on a personal high with a century in the first and second inning of the 4th test in Adelaide, form that he would bring home to dominate domestic cricket with that summer. With the country only 2 years removed from a horrific war, with rationing still 7 years away from ending and with cricket still finding its feet after the conflict, Comptons season brought happiness to so many.

The great cricket writer Neville Cardus wrote of that summer:

Never have I been so deeply touched on a cricket ground as in this heavenly summer, when I went to Lord's to see a pale-faced crowd, existing on rations, the rocket-bomb still in the ears of most, and see the strain of anxiety and affliction passed from all hearts and shoulders at the sight of Compton in full sail ... each stroke a flick of delight, a propulsion of happy, sane, healthy life. There were no rations in an innings by Compton

Fans would line the streets in the hope of gaining entry to see the great Compton come to bat. The South African's who toured England that summer would complain about the intense heat experienced, but Compton would always express his love and joy in playing in such conditions. Despite South Africa having a deep place in his heart, with Denis often commenting that there was no other country he enjoyed touring as much as South Africa, he would often punish their bowling. The summer of 1947 was one such occasion as he rattled off 6 centuries against the tourists for England and Middlesex.

I've only ever seen the odd piece of footage of Compton's batting, but the descriptive reporting that was so prevalent before the invention and widespread distribution of TV's means you almost don't need to see it to appreciate it. From his famous sweep shot to the late cuts. From dancing down the wicket to pull and drive down the ground to a perfectly timed cut shot. You can imagine Denis, hair perfectly sculpted (using Brylcreem no doubt) smiling that smile of his as ball after ball disappears over the boundary to rapturous applause.

It wasn't just the way that Compton made his runs that drew 30,000 spectators to Lords on a sunny Saturday afternoon, but also the speed of which he made his runs. Like against Leicester, where Middlesex required 66 runs in 25 minutes, Compton and Edrich knocked these off within 7 overs with 4 minutes to spare. Later in July he would score a remarkable 129 against Essex in just two hours, followed later in the season by a 178 against Surrey in just over 3 hours. What a spectacle that would have been for a population still recovering from the war with national morale ebbing with every ration book stamp received.

Compton had a flair that was very un-English at the time. It may be why the Yorkshire crowd who enjoyed the fundamentally sound traditional batting of Len Hutton failed to warm to him initially. It was often referenced that the warm applause and idol-like status he enjoyed in the south wasn't mirrored in Yorkshire until he got beamed on the chin against Australia and returned with his head strapped to grind out runs against a dangerous Aussie attack of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller.

You have to remember that the 3816 runs were made on a dodgy knee. Compton had suffered a football injury previously and his knee was starting to give him a lot of issues in 1947, the same knee of which the kneecap was removed in 1955, which is now preserved in the Lord's museum. All those runs, all that time in the middle, 635.4 overs bowled and plenty of time standing in the slips, it's hard to actually comprehend how he kept going.

Test cricket has always been the true test of a batsman and although Compton made a lot of runs in county cricket, his record in tests throughout 1947 is something to behold. 15 innings, 1159 runs, 82.79 average with six centuries. Denis would never have a season like that again in test cricket but still finished his career with a test average north of 50.

There was a story that during the 1947 season, the News of the World wrote to Denis offering him £2,000 to write a column for them, which is the modern-day equivalent of just under £80,000. However, Dennis received so many letters that year, he never opened it and never saw the opportunity, which is what led to him being represented by what we'd now call an agent.

Compton's 1947 season will and should always be remembered by cricket fans around the world. It was important for the record books, but it was more important for a nation that needed to heal. Compton went some way to bringing enjoyment back to a country that had experienced and still experienced a lot of hardship.


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