Charles Stowell Marriott belongs to the unfortunate breed of ‘One Test Wonders’.
Despite being one of the best leg break bowlers ever to come out of England, Marriot’s career partly overlapped with that of Tich Freeman and Frank Woolley, both of whom played for both England and his county Kent. That national call, therefore, remained elusive.
Marriott was a huge turner of the ball. He had a high loose arm action where the bowling arm came from behind the back at the delivery stride. Combined with this action, his cunning flight and ability to turn the ball on any surface was something that made him very valuable for the Kent side. Along with Freeman, the duo made Kent virtually invincible for about a decade.
In a career reminiscent of the times, Marriott was a teacher at Dulwich College as master-in-charge-of-cricket and only played for Kent during the school holidays from 1924 to 1937. Perhaps for this reason, or maybe because he shared his name with an Anglican priest of the 19th century, he was popularly known as ‘Father Marriott’.
Marriott was primarily a leg break bowler and did not bowl the googly often. Gideon Haigh quotes Marriott in his biography of Jack Iverson. “One day at the net I had an astonishing spell when I struck a perfect length and had everyone completely tied up including our professional, who took a turn with the bat for the last minute or two. It went to my head. When it was time to pack up, I shouted ‘one more’ and ran up determined to bowl the googly to end all googlies. What actually happened was a horrible stab of pain in my right elbow, and I found myself out of the XI for the next three matches.”
As Haigh also mentions, “Marriott scarcely bowled it (the googly) again. If he did, he bowled one in his first or second over, with the idea that the threat was enough. He considered that the injury ‘saved me just in time’ and that he ‘never felt it was worth the extra effort.”
Our story starts on the 12th of August 1933 when at the ripe young age of 38, Charlie Marriott finally gets the coveted England cap in the Third Test against West Indies at the Oval, replacing Hedley Verity who is rested. England is leading the series 1-0 by virtue of a victory at Lord’s.
England wins the toss and scores 312 runs with Fred Bakewell hitting a well compiled 107 in 230 minutes. Charlie Barnett and Stan Nichols score 52 and 49 respectively Our hero Marriott, coming in at No. 11 with a First Class batting average of 4.41 and a high score of 25, does not trouble the scorers, getting bowled by Manny Martindale (who takes 5 wickets) for a duck.
England’s opening bowler Nobby Clark soon has the West Indies reeling at 38 for 3 having cleaned up the top order with his fast left arm deliveries leaving the right hander. Clifford Roach, Ivan Barrow and Oscar da Costa, all go the same way, unable to handle the seaming English conditions, and edging catches to the slip cordon.
And then Marriott gets the ball.
He flights the ball cleverly, putting every delivery on a perfect length and spinning the ball viciously, and causes havoc among the West Indies batsmen. They have no answer to his guile, and show no great ability to tackle him.
He gets the great George Headley to step out in an effort to stamp his dominance on the spinner and miss the vicious leg break completely. Leslie Ames makes no mistake and has the bails off leaving Headley stranded well down the wicket.
That is the start of a procession which involves clean bowling Jackie Grant and Cyril Merry, getting Vince Valentine caught at point and then getting Charlie Griffith stumped by Ames, while trying an almighty cross-batted heave having stepped well out of his crease in the process.
Bowling the twelfth over in his spell, Marriott wraps up the West Indian innings for 100, having taken 5 wickets for 37 runs.
West Indies follows on, but their batting against Marriott’s mystery spin has not improved within the day. They do have a better start and progress to 77 without loss before Nobby Clark again makes the first breakthrough.
Once again, Marriott gets the ball, and proceeds to run through the West Indies attack.
He gets Roach plumb in front, unable to negotiate a flipper. He then bowls Ben Sealey and Costa with balls that spin past their bat and take off stump. This time, bowling in tandem with either Clark or Nichols hurling down the cherry from the other end, Marriott bowls an unchanged spell of 29 overs and picks up 6 wickets for 59 runs. From 113 for 2, the West Indies collapses to 195. The match is over on the third morning. Wisden says Marriott “made most of his opportunity by clever flighting of the ball, perfect length and spin.”
Charlie Marriott has made the most of his time in the sun, taking a remarkable 11 wickets for 96 runs at an average of 8.72. He becomes only the second spinner after Clarrie Grimmett to take two 5-wicket hauls in a Test match.
Alas, Marriott never gets picked again to play for England.
He remains the only man to play a single Test and take two 5-wicket hauls. His 11 for 96 is also the best match haul for anybody who has played a single Test – a remarkable record indeed.