26th July 1955 was the last day of the umpiring career for the great Frank Chester. It was his 48th test as an official and was a world record at that time.
It is interesting to know that Chester started as a young first-class batsman before the First World War and was a very promising player till the war broke out. Wisden identified him as the “youngest professional regularly engaged in first-class cricket’’ in 1913 when Chester was playing for Worcestershire. An all-rounder based on his playing style he played 55 first-class matches from 1912-1914. He was a left-handed middle-order batsman and a slow left-arm bowler who started his cricket career as a teenager. With his 108 against Somerset and at the age of 17, he became the youngest player at that time to score a county century, a record unbroken till the 1950’s. Dr. W G Grace personally congratulated him on a hundred scored at lords in 1913. He scored four hundred and his highest score was 178 against Sussex in 1914.
And then Chester volunteered in the First World War. He went on to join the Royal Field Artillery in a battery commanded by Major Allsopp, captain of the Worcestershire Second Eleven. He participated at the Second Battle of Loos and as the causality of the war lost his right arm below the elbow in July 1917. With this his cricket playing career was over but his love for cricket drove him to opt for umpiring as a way to stay connected. He debuted as an umpire in 1922 in a first-class county match. An artificial arm was used to make the necessary signals during the match. His first test match was in 1924 between England and South Africa. He was a fearless umpire and a man of words.
Once he remained firm to his decision in a match between England and West Indies in 1950. Sonny Ramadhin bowled Doug Insole off his pads but Chester decided to give it a leg before wicket rather than bowled claiming that the ball touched Insole’s pads first and then hit the stumps. There was another famous incident involving the great Don Bradman post which Bradman commented, “It was one of those miraculous pieces of judgment upon which I base my opinion that Chester was the greatest of all umpires.”
Chester was never a fan of the raucous appealing of the visiting Australians in 1948 and 1953, and he further did not stand in the Ashes after the first Ashes test in 1953. By the time he retired in 1955, he stood in over 1000 first class matches and 48 test matches which was a record till a certain Dickie Bird broke it. His venture in umpiring lasted for 31 years and he is still a legendary name in the history of the game.