Foxes Flashback - CS Dempster's Test debut
CS (Stewie) Dempster
The best batsman to play for Leicestershire (so far)? We have drawn up a shortlist and the New Zealander Stewie Dempster has to be close to the top. On January 10th, 1930 he received the first ball bowled in New Zealand’s first test match and two weeks later shared in an opening partnership of 276. His contribution was 136 and he became the second batsman to score a Test century for his country, closely following his opening partner.
He had a brilliant tour of England in 1931, and we have the bat that he used to score his second test century at Lord’s in the ‘Grace Road’ collection. He was undeniably a great batsman who had limited opportunities. His test batting average of 65.72 puts him in second place to Sir Donald Bradman, for those who have played 10 or more test innings.
‘Crusoe’* wrote that during the 1930s no batsman hit the ball harder on the off-side, not Bradman, not Hobbs. He would smack the ball against the pavilion rails from a quiet looking forward defensive stroke and ‘kill’ the slow spinner with a quick foot and a confident heart. He was one of the best cover point fielders.
There was great excitement in Leicestershire when it was announced he was coming to play for the county. This was possible thanks to the millionaire businessman Sir Julien Cahn, and the original intention was that he would be the ‘assistant’ secretary, and play as an amateur. In fact this never happened and he managed Cahn’s Leicester furniture store and played for his team when required.
After spending a year qualifying, he captained Leicestershire for three seasons and then irregularly in 1939 when Cahn increasingly wanted his services and he played mainly in home matches for the county during that season.
In all he played 69 matches for Leicestershire, scoring 4,659 runs with a top score of 207 not out, and an average of 49.04 and 18 centuries. His top score was 207 not out against Cahn’s team, and his Championship best was 165 not out against Yorkshire in his final season.
Sadly, the team did not do well during his time at Aylestone Road. Under Astill’s leadership the club had finished 6th in 1935, in the next four years it was 15th, 16th, 15th and 17th. They were troubled days for the county, and they were a young and inexperienced team.
During his time with Leicestershire he seems to have struck up a good relationship with the club secretary, Geoffrey Webb, and was best man at his wedding, which seems to have been quite a ‘society’ occasion.
He remained in England during the second World War, and played occasionally for the ad hoc county side that operated at that time. In his only appearance at Grace Road in 1943, he shared in a big partnership with the great Learie Constantine. He returned to New Zealand in 1946, and though selected to play against England in 1947 he cried off at the last minute through injury and was never chosen again.
*’Crusoe’ was RC Robertson-Glasgow, Cricket Correspondent of the ‘Morning Post’.