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Lionel Tennyson’s remarkable first-class introduction – Almanack

Lionel Tennyson
by Almanack Archive 3 minute read

Lionel Tennyson scored prolifically in his maiden first-class season for Hampshire, earning him a call-up for the MCC’s tour of South Africa later in the year. He was subsequently named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1914.

The Hon. Lionel Hallam Tennyson, grandson of the poet, was born in London on November 7, 1889. It is scarcely too much to say that Tennyson’s success as a batsman was the most surprising feature of last season’s cricket. Rarely indeed has a player quite new to first-class matches done so much.

When, at the beginning of July, he appeared at Lord’s for the MCC against Oxford and made scores of 20 and 110, he was, except to his personal friends, quite an unknown quantity as a batsman. All that I personally could recall about him was that he had been in the Eton XI in 1907 and 1908, gaining his place in the first year as a fast bowler. That little was thought of his batting at that time is clear from the fact against Harrow, at Lord’s he went in last.

In 1908 against Harrow, he scored 13 and 26, and had an average of 22, but he left Eton without having made any decided mark. Going up to Cambridge he scored 38 and 51 not out in the Freshmen’s match in 1909, but though his batting received favourable notice in The Field, he was not thought good enough for a trial in any of the University’s first-class fixtures.

After one year at Cambridge he joined the Coldstream Guards, and the cricket public heard no more of him till he suddenly burst upon the world last July. His 110 for the MCC was a brilliant display of hitting, but the Oxford fieldsmen were so kind to him that even those who saw the innings scarcely realised its full significance. Very soon afterwards, however, Tennyson was being talked about all over the country, his batting for Hampshire astonishing everyone. He started for his county with an innings of 28 against Worcestershire, and then in successive matches he scored 38 and 116 against Essex at Leyton, 111 and 4 against Notts at Trent Bridge, and 96 and 19 against Yorkshire at Harrogate. The result of all this fine batting was that within just a month of his appearance for the MCC at Lord’s he was quite a celebrity. It was not to be expected that he would keep up such extraordinary form, but after some moderate scores he finished his season’s work by getting 83 and 46 against Gloucestershire at Bournemouth.

Altogether he scored 702 runs for Hampshire in seventeen innings, with an average of 43, and in the first-class averages for the year he stood fifth, only Mead, Hobbs, George Gunn, and EL Kidd being in front of him. In the circumstances it was not surprising that, a vacancy occuring though the defection of FL Fane, the MCC gave him a place in their team of South Africa.

Whatever the future may have in store for Tennyson their can be no doubt that his batting last season made a great impression. Hobbs said that he was good enough to play for the Gentlemen, and both PF Warner and GL Jessop spoke in very high terms of him. He is essentially a brilliant bat, hitting well all round the wicket but depending in the main on his powerful driving. He may or may not have the qualities that make for permanent success, but no ordinary batsman could have scored for Hampshire as he did. He is fortunate in having time to spare for the game, and as he has been made vice-captain of Hampshire a good deal is likely to be seen of him in 1914.

Apart from five Tests against South Africa in 1913/14, Tennyson featured in the 1921 home Ashes series, in which he scored three fifties from five innings and captained the side in three matches.

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