26th August, a day of some very quick scoring in First-Class cricket history.
Percy George Herbert Fender was a very celebrated English cricketer during the 1920s and 30s. He was one of the greatest captains for Surrey and someone who should have played more than the 13 Test matches for his country. An all-rounder, Fender played First-Class cricket from 1910 to 1935 scoring 19034 runs with an average of 26.65 and took 1894 wickets at 25.05. His Test record was moderate; however, he was the mentor for future England captain Douglas Jardine and passed his observation to him that ‘Bradman looked uncomfortable in short pitch bouncers aimed at his body. This played a key role in Jardine designing the bodyline way of attack during the 1932-33 Ashes to regain the Ashes from Australia.
On 26th August 1920, 99 years to this day Fender put his name on the record books by registering the most authentic fastest ever century in First-Class cricket. He reached his century against Northamptonshire in just 35 minutes which is still the least amount of time taken to reach a hundred. Obviously, there were other instances played under ‘contrived’ circumstances (Wisden), where the fielding side deliberately bowled poorly to push the batting side for a declaration.
Fender scored 113 runs with 16 fours and five sixes and remained not out. The unbroken stand between Fender and Alan Peach lasted for 42 minutes and it added 171 runs in the team’s total. Although the balls were not known, it can be assumed that max 14-18 overs were possible which means the partnership was built at a run rate around 10 runs per over. Some estimates also suggest that Fender’s innings took something around 40 to 46 balls.
63 years later, Steve O’Shaughnessy famously equaled Fender’s feat in 1983 when he reached his hundred in 35 minutes. But even he was not amused as the innings came against ‘joke bowling’, with David Gower and James Whitaker bowling deliberate full-tosses and long-hops in tandem to get a declaration. Fender, 91 at that time duly sent a telegram congratulating O'Shaughnessy.