An Unusual Record by CH Ellis
Among the more obscure first-class records said to be held by Sussex players are those held by C.H.Ellis, the Sussex wicketkeeper of the 1860s. In 1863, in the days of underarm bowling, he took seven for 73 in June against Kent, and then eight for 96 and seven for 201 in July against Surrey, both at the old Brunswick ground on Hove seafront. Until overtaken by Tatenda Taibu, the Zimbabwean keeper, playing for Mashonaland v Midlands at Kwekwe in 2004, these were the best returns for a wicketkeeper coming on to bowl in a first-class match. In the second match Ellis also took a hat-trick; only one other instance has been found in first-class cricket, by Alan Smith, the Warwickshire keeper.
At Sussex we have rarely made much of all this – mostly it seems because no one really believed it and anyway it was seriously obscure. Recently, some doubts have been expressed by Surrey experts about these claims. So it has been researched in some detail, by Keith Walmsley the ACS chairman, who likes this sort of thing, with help from down here in Sussex. Keith has looked at several contemporary newspaper reports including the Brighton Gazette – these days old newspapers can be accessed online. We have also provided him with copies of the Sussex scorebooks from The Keep.
Keith has concluded from the various reports of both matches, and from our scorebooks, that when not bowling Ellis was the wicketkeeper, and that he started off both games designated as such. He will be writing an article about it shortly.
So Charlie Ellis is entitled to his fifteen minutes of fame after all. He was born at Ditchling in 1830 and kept various pubs around Brighton, so he was a genuine local. His seven for 201 in the Surrey game gave him another obscure record though; he was the first bowler in first-class cricket to concede 200 runs in an innings.