All out for 0. In 4 Overs.

Most amateur cricketers have known days where everything that could go wrong did go wrong. But few, if any in the Scottish game, have experienced such a calamitous collapse as that which befell Ross County CC in the 1960s.

There’s no glossing over the sorry reality: on an afternoon in Strathpeffer in May, 1964, they were bowled out for 0 in the space of four overs by their opponents. It was one of the few proven instances of a side’s scorecard containing more zeroes than you’ll find on Bill Gates’ personal fortune. And, despite the passing of time, the sorry events from that day’s carnage have reverberated for more than half a century.

There was little indication of the drama in store when Elgin batted first and amassed 145 for 5 from their 37-over spell at the crease. Their normally prolific willow-wielder, Bernard Woolfson, made a duck, but his colleagues chipped in with 20s, 30s and 40s. Woolfson, a man born in Beccles near Norwich, watched from the sidelines with a tangible sense of frustration. But eventually, he would have the last laugh.

There were entirely different emotions among the County brigade. “We’re still trying to forget it, but we keep getting reminded about it,” said their president Peter Bowen. “We have a pretty healthy set-up, we have won a variety of honours in our history and there was one match where we hit more than 300. But that day in 1964 still gets all the attention. Believe me, it’s not funny at all to be on the receiving end of a horror like that.”

The innings lasted just four overs. Woolfson, who worked as a Post Office sales representative, opened the bowling in tandem with Dave Murray, a Forestry Commission employee in Elgin. Soon enough, the cries of “Timber” were ringing out across the ground, while the County fans were as quiet as Trappist monks.

Woolfson took a wicket with his first delivery and another with his second. Murray subsequently followed that up with a wicket-maiden and Ross County had slumped to 0 for 3 in 12 balls. Life was only going to get worse.

“It probably goes without saying that they didn’t play very well, but it was still a remarkable state of affairs,” said Scott Campbell, Elgin’s record-holding wicket-taker with no less than 1557 league victims, who actually missed the rout of Ross County with a viral infection. “My mates joked it was as well I wasn’t playing, because I would have conceded some runs, but they didn’t need me that day, that’s for sure.”

Elgin were certainly in indomitable mood as the contest hastened towards a conclusion. Woolfson continued to wreak havoc with the first, fourth and sixth deliveries of his second over and the hapless County line-up had subsided to 0 for 6. The end was nigh. Indeed, it was a lot quicker than anybody could possibly have envisaged 20 minutes earlier.

“Bernard was more of a batsman than a bowler, but he put it in the right place and you can’t argue with his figures [five for nothing from a brace of overs],” said Campbell. “Dave, on the other hand, was one of our best performers at that stage and as things got worse, they were like rabbits in the headlights.”

At the outset of the fourth over, Murray lived up to that reputation, taking wickets with his third and fourth balls. The hat-trick never quite materialised, but he wrapped up proceedings by bowling Neil Frazer with the very next delivery. And that was it. Since Ross County only had ten players, they were gone without anybody mustering a single run.

It’s easy to mock their plight, but many of us have been in nearly as much strife. I still remember my club’s one and only appearance on the front page of the West Lothian Courier when we set off in pursuit of an apparently simple target. “Atlas thought they were in for an early finish after bowling out Westquarter for 24,” said the report. “Well, they got their wish….but only because they were skittled for 15!”

Andrew Ward, who covered this tussle in his absorbing book “Cricket’s Strangest Matches” was magnanimous on County’s behalf. “Observers pointed out that they hadn’t had much luck,” he wrote. “One batsman hit his own wicket, two others played on to their stumps and they had no run of the ball.”

But, in the big picture, this was the sporting equivalent of a group receiving “nul points” at the Eurovision Song Contest. “We have the card on the wall on the clubhouse to remind us how bad things were that day,” said Bowen.

“But life has moved on and we have plenty of things to be positive about. We have two teams, we are going into the schools in the area, and we have a Cricket Festival every summer. We have to focus on the future of the game, not the past.”

T Manley b Oliver 28
B Woolfson b Henry 0
J Wright b Niven 43
F Muir lbw b Niven 8
J Leithhead not out 36
W Phiminster b Niven 6
R Draggan not out 12
Extras 12
TOTAL (for 5 wickets) 145


B Kenny c Phiminster b Woolfson 0
G Shiels c Stewardson b Murray 0
J Hendry b Woolfson 0
W Oliver b Woolfson 0
J Niven hit wicket b Murray 0
R Hannant lbw b Woolfson 0
I Taylor b Woolfson 0
S Bull not out 0
J Northcliffe b Murray 0
N Frazer b Murray 0
Extras 0
TOTAL (All Out) 0


  1. Neil Drysdale says

    I’m assuming this is incredibly rare? I’ve played in teams in Scotland which were bowled out for 15 and 24 – I was 13 not out in the latter!

    What are your own club’s best and worst days?

  2. Dr Goatboat says

    St Ignatius Primary B, we made 10 against Sacred Heart, on their own dung heap at Somerton in Adelaide. Around 1962 if I recall.
    I must add I top scored with 4, a “pull” to square leg for 4.
    I still remember the smile on the umpire’s face as I smote the ball. Funny how these things stay with you…

  3. Keiran Croker says

    In my first year of Club cricket for Bedford Ringwood H.S. Under 16’s in 1972 we were bowled out for 12 by South Ringwood.
    However this game is memorable for me for my bowling performance. With South cruising at about 2 for 200 in response I was thrown the ball for the first time. After 2 overs I had 0/19. My Captain persisted and I finished with 7/29 off 7 overs of leg spin. We bowled them out for about 250.
    We did better in our second dig making 30.

  4. An old mate played a country carnival match in which his side accumulated two. Bradmanesque against zero. As the pub only opened at eleven, they had some time to kill.

  5. Neil Drysdale says

    I’ve now heard from an Aberdeen team who were skittled for just 4. And these were all wides from the first ball of the match!

  6. charlie brown says

    My team was all out for 4. Extras and a guy by the name of Fuller each scored 2. It was 1973. I was captaining the Richmond Under 12 team against Wiseman’s Ferry in the Hawkesbury District cricket association comp. I opened the batting and didn’t see the first ball bowled to me by my opposing number Mackintosh. It thudded into my pad before I could complete my back swing. An indigenous leftarm quick by the name Doyle shared the wickets with Mackintosh. We fared better in our second innings scoring 36 but still lost outright! i wonder what happened to those 2 lads who would be in their mid-50s now?

  7. charlie brown says

    correction!! I think my memory may have failed me. Sadly the all out for 4 is definitely correct but I reckon the opposition might have been Freemans Reach.

  8. Matt Watson says

    Oak Park under 14s got bowled out for 25.
    I made a massive 1 batting at third drop.
    The first ball I faced was so fast it turned the bat in my hand.
    I’d never seen anything like it.
    Our captain C Shaw made 9, a real captain’s knock.
    Years later, one of their bowlers, a fella named Wheaton, split my bicep with a ball I could not see.
    Of all the bowlers in junior cricket I played against, I thought he’d go far…
    I wonder?

  9. Neil Drysdale says

    There are lots of good stories in here. Hopefully, all the teams had a chat and a beverage afterwards.
    In Scotland, we grew used to the beverages being hot! I remember one freezing cold day in Edinburgh where we were skittled out for 37 and the game was over in less than two hours.
    Afterwards, our coach, Bill Ritchie, came into the lounge bar. One of our team, Fred Robson, was compiling a 50-plus break on a snooker table.
    Hamish Wright, meanwhile was peppering a dart board with treble 20s. And Ally Scott was performing a mean version of “Born to Run” on a keyboard, which had been set up for that night’s function.
    Bill looked around him, shook his head and then said quietly: “There’s a lot of talent in this team….”
    “Now, if only some of you b******s could play cricket!”

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Haven’t been involved in a score anywhere as low as that, we bowled a team out for 25 once and we were all out for 47 in a Grand Final the lowest I can think of.
    In my club’s history book, written in 1986, there is the story of two rival clubs in the competition we were playing in. In a game in the early 1930’s, Pirron Yallock bowled Pomborneit East out for 4, with all 4 coming from leg byes.

  11. In under 14s my team Forest Hill bowled the other mob out for 12. Our opening bowler swung the ball like Massie and took 9-for. Would probably have been 10-for but they were one player short.

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