CRICKET IN MY MANHOOD—1870 TO 1877.
MOST men who have lived active mental or physical lives have had their memories taxed to remember the various incidents in them. It has been so in my case, for the doings of some years stand out more clearly than others.
The year 1870 I can remember as being one of my best; indeed, I may say it saw me almost in my best batting and bowling form. Nine times I scored over a hundred runs in an innings, the majority of them in first-class matches.
For the M.C.C. I played 12 innings, and averaged 55.6; for Gloucestershire County, who played first-class county matches for the first time that year, I played 4 innings, and averaged 91.2; for the Gentlemen v. Players I played 4 innings, and averaged 85.1; and altogether during the season I batted in 33 innings in first-class matches, scored an aggregate of 1,808, and averaged 54-26.
It will be inferred from those scores that the season was everything that could be desired in the matter of weather. And so it was. Wickets were dry and fast the greater part of it, and I scored at a great pace. My defence had grown stronger, and my hitting powers had improved also.
On the 9th and 10th of May a match, Left-handed v. Right was played at Lord's; but the Left-handed were not in it. The match was noteworthy from the fact that Carpenter, Hayward, and J. Smith again appeared on that ground, and it looked for the moment as if the North and South had once more clasped hands and blotted out the past. The South v. North, at the same ground on the 6th and 7th June, confirmed the good feeling; for all the Northern cracks, with the exception of Freeman, were present, and he was only absent on account of the first match played by the North of England eleven, at Dewsbury, of which Iddison he and were joint secretaries. That was G. Parr's last appearance at Lord's; he was 44 years of age, and scored 41 in fine form.
An important change in the laws affecting bowlers was passed at a special meeting of the M.C.C. on the 4th of May. Before that date a bowler could change ends once only in an innings. The alteration now enabled him to change twice; but he was not allowed to bowl more than two overs in succession. The new rule was first carried into effect in the M.C.C. and Ground v. Yorkshire match at Lord's on the 30th and 31st May.
M.C.C. and Ground v. Nottinghamshire, at Lord's on the 13th, 14th, and 15th June, will be memorable for the unfortunate injury to Summers, one of the most promising players that Nottinghamshire had produced for years. They batted first, and scored 267, of which Daft made 117. The M.C.C. scored 183 first innings, of which I made 117 not out. We had to follow our innings, and I resumed after ten minutes' interval, and was bowled first over for a duck by J. C. Shaw. Messrs. I. D.Walker, J. W. Dale, and C. E. Green came to the rescue, however, and we totalled 240. Nottinghamshire won a close match by two wickets. The injury to Summers occurred early in the second innings. The first ball bowled to him by Platts was a little bit short, and it bumped and hit him on the head, and concussion of the brain followed. Platts was in no way to blame, for the ball did not bump higher than many I had to play in the same match; but unfortunately Summers treated the blow too lightly, appearing on the ground next day in a hot sun, and afterwards travelling by rail to Nottingham, which shook him terribly, and developed symptoms which subsequently proved fatal.
It used to be said that the Gentlemen were seldom fully represented in the Gentlemen v. Players' matches: but it was the opposite that year, for the Players' eleven was far from being representative; and the consequence was, that the first was drawn very much in the Gentlemen's favour, while the second was won. In the match at the Oval, I scored 215 out of a total of 513 in the second innings so far, the highest individual performance yet recorded in those matches and Mr. W. JB. Money played two brilliant innings of 70 and 109 not out. In the return match at Lord's, I scored 109 in the first innings. It was my brother Fred's first appearance for the Gentlemen, and he was fairly successful with the ball; but he failed with the bat, having two ducks to his name in the first match, and only scoring 8 and 3 runs in the second.
A very good match was played at Beeston, Nottingham, on the 18th, 19th, and 20th August, between the Gentlemen of the North and the Gentlemen of the South, which showed Messrs. A. N. Hornby, I. D. Walker, and my brother Fred at their best. The North batted first, and scored 287; Mr. Hornby's contribution being 103, in which there were one 8 and seventeen 4's. As usual, I commenced the batting for the South. I played what I thought a brilliant 77, and nearly every one of the eleven said so too; but I. D. Walker afterwards scored 179, and Fred carried out his bat for 189, very little was, therefore, thought about my performance. My lot, however, was not quite so unhappy an one as Mr. G. Strachan's. For six hours he sat patiently with the pads on, waiting for I. D. or Fred to come out, and when his turn came he had to be content with two balls: the first he hit for 2; the second he was c and b Hornby. I ought to have said that Fred hit thirty-four 4's in his score; I. D. Walker, one 5 and twenty-five 4's; and that the other eight batsmen scored 19 runs amongst them.
Another good bit of scoring was 166 for first wicket by Fred and myself, for the United South v. Twentytwo of Sleaford with R. Iddison, at Sleaford, 9th, 10th, and 11th June. It is curious how some innings leave a greater impression than others. That one is vivid to me on account of an accident which happened to one of the Twenty-two. He was fielding at short-leg to Iddison's lob-bowling, and was standing a little in front, about twelve yards from the wicket. Iddison would have him closer in, and eventually he was placed four yards nearer. I did not say anything at the time, but could not help thinking the position would have to be abandoned before Fred and I had finished batting.
Iddison pitched the first or second ball of the over a little too far up, and I stepped out and hit it on the full pitch. It went straight to the unfortunate fieldsman, hit him on the ankle, and then travelled far enough to enable us to run four. "He must be hurt," I thought; but he did not show it. He was a rare plucked one, and never winced; but, as Jas. Lillywhite said, "It is not in cricket human nature to hide that stroke, and I'll keep my eye on him;" and, sure enough, when the fieldsman moved to the long-field at the end of the over, and thought no one was looking, he began to rub vigorously. We saw little of him next day, and I believe he was laid up for some time afterwards. I think it cured Iddison of placing a man so near when bowling lobs.
Yorkshire was the most successful county that year, entirely owing to the very fine bowling of Freeman and Emmett. Lancashire showed a slight improvement; but Nottinghamshire, Kent, and Sussex did not come out favourably; while Surrey had an unprecedented run of ill-luck. I threw all my energies into Gloucestershire matches, and felt specially gratified at the results of our first year's play. We played Glamorganshire once, Surrey twice, M.C.C. and Ground once, winning them very easily. The first match we played was against Surrey, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th June, on Durdham Downs. Our eleven was made up entirely of amateurs, while Surrey played ten professionals and one amateur. It was the closest match we played, and created considerable interest in Gloucestershire. Quite a large crowd turned out, and we had some difficulty in getting them to stand far enough back. I remember that in the first innings Pooley, who was batting very well, would not go on until they were moved. Eventually they did go, and he said he could now hit out to leg to his heart's content; but the change worked in another way it enabled long-leg to go farther out, and the first or second ball bowled Pooley hit into his hands, to the delight of the spectators.
Reference to the batting averages will show that Messrs. W. B. Money, A. N. Hornby, I. D. Walker, and W. Yardley were in great form. Nearly every innings played by them was full of dash, and they scored at a great pace against all kinds of bowling. Mr. Hornby, in particular, hit very hard, and exceeded the hundred eight times during the season, two of them in first-class matches. That feat I performed, as I have said, nine times, five of them in first-class matches; the highest and best being 215 for the Gentlemen v. Players, at the Oval.
The year 1871 was my most successful year with the bat. I was twenty-two years of age, and had played against every first-class bowler in England. Nearly all nervous feeling at the commencement of an innings had left me; but I guarded against over-confidence, and invariably played the first over or two carefully until I got my eye in. Grounds had improved wonderfully everywhere, and I aimed at placing every ball, however straight and good the length of it; for that was about the only way to score at all rapidly against the crack bowlers of the day, who could bowl over after over every ball on the wicket.
In the middle of May, I scored 181 for M.C.C. v. Surrey; and I kept up my form right to the end of the season, exceeding the century ten times, all of them in first-class matches. The weather was rather unfavourable, and occasionally the ground caused the ball to kick badly; but I never lost patience, and in one or two matches in particular I very much desired to score largely, Willsher, H. H. Stephenson and John Lillywhite had benefit matches that year, and I was anxious to do well for them; for they had done excellent work for the game for many years, and were highly respected by all classes of cricketers. Willsher was unfortunate in the matter of weather in the match Single v. Married, played at Lord's on the 10th, 11th and 12th July, on his behalf; but I scored 189 not out for him, and got up another match in September, which helped considerably to increase the fund. In the second match, W. G. Grace's XI. v. Kent, I scored 81 not out first, and 42 not out second; and W. Yardley played a magnificent innings of 126 not out in the second innings of Kent.
North v. South, at the Oval on 31st July, 1st and 2nd August, was the match played on behalf of Stephenson; and I shall not readily forget his disappointment when I was given out l.b.w. to J. C. Shaw the first ball bowled in the match. I was rather disappointed by it also; for there was a tremendous crowd present, and the wicket and the weather were perfect. "Keep up your heart, H. H.," I said; "I shall take care that it does not occur in the second innings." Fortunately the weather kept favourable all through, and I started my second innings about 4.30 the second day. After the first over or two I began to hit at a rare pace, and I paid particular attention to J. C. Shaw. At the close of the day's play my score was 142 not out, and only two wickets had fallen for 195. Stephenson was happy that night; and he was happier next morning, when the sun shone brilliantly and another large crowd came to witness the finish. I was out for 268, in a total of 436, at 4 o'clock on the third day, and had hit three 5's and twenty-eight 4's. Stephenson was immensely pleased, and presented me with a gold ring.
The Gentlemen v. Players was the match on behalf of John Lillywhite. It was played on the old Hove Ground at Brighton, 14th, 15th and 16th August, in splendid weather; and with the third ball of the match J. C. Shaw clean-bowled me. Lillywhite's heart was sad indeed, particularly as he it was who gave me out l.b.w. to Shaw in the first innings of Stephenson's match.
"I am terribly sorry, Lillywhite," I said; "I did want to do well for you."
"Better luck next time!" he replied.
I cannot explain it; but, personally, I was not hopeful, and said so. Lillywhite did not share my misgivings; for he took two sovereigns out of his pocket, put them into my hand, and said:
"You take these, and pay me a sixpence back for every run you make in the second innings. I call it a fair bet."
It was the greatest compliment I have ever had paid to my batting skill; and my fears vanished as I realised the fulness of it. You may guess how I laid on after the first over or two to wipe out the eighty runs which were required to pay off the two pounds. I commenced my second innings at three o'clock on the second day. The first wicket fell for 35, then my brother Fred joined me, and we raised the total to 275 before we were parted; and scored 240 in two hours and a half. After the first hundred runs, I forgot all about the bet. At the end of the day's play, the total was 353 for three wickets; my score being 200 not out. I had a great reception when I reached the pavilion, Lillywhite being particularly warm.
"I'll trouble you for five pounds on account," he said.
"All right, Lillywhite, here it is," I replied; "but if you do not let me off for the rest of the bet, I shall knock down my wicket first over to-morrow!"
He made a virtue of necessity and cried "Quits!" I added 17 runs to my score next day.
No part of my cricket experience has given me more pleasure than my batting success in benefit matches. I always hoped to do something extraordinary on those occasions; and it is particularly gratifying to me to-day to remember that I nearly always accomplished it.
George Parr played his last match that year. He had been before the cricketing public for 27 years; and he finished his brilliant career at Trent Bridge on the 29th, 30th, and 31st May, in a manner worthy of his best days, scoring 32 not out, and 53 for Nottinghamshire v. Fourteen Gentlemen of Nottinghamshire.
In the Gentlemen v. Players' matches, the former had the best of it, winning one, while the other two were drawn slightly in their favour.
Amongst the counties, Gloucestershire held its own. Sussex did exceptionally well, but Surrey was again at the bottom.
I made a first appearance on four grounds that year, and scored well on all of them. At West Brompton I scored 118 in my only innings, and I do not remember having played there since. At Fenner's Ground I played for Gentlemen of England v. Cambridge University, and scored 162 in my only innings. Mr. W. N. Powys had a great reputation as a fast bowler then, and he was expected to slaughter us. He did not. Mr. C. I. Thornton, for the University, hit 20 off one over of Mr. D. Buchanan's. At Trent Bridge I scored 79 first innings and 116 second against Nottinghamshire: the latter score was the first century scored on that ground. At Maidstone I scored 81 not out first, and 42 not out second, and did not play on it again until 1890, when I scored 109 not out, and 37.
And I played my last match on the old Hove Ground, Brighton, and scored 0 first, 217 second. It was on the same ground that I scored 170 and 56 not out for the South Wales Club in 1864, and I said good-bye to it rather regretfully.
The early part of the season of 1872 was unsuitable for heavy scoring, and the bowlers had the best of it until the end of June. Snow, sleet, and frost in May did not help the grounds, and scores up to the middle of the season were smaller than they had been for years. Like other batsmen, I suffered by it, and did not do so well as the previous year. I scored the century twice in May once for the M.C.C., the other for the United South; but my best displays began on the 1st of July, for the Gentlemen v. Players, at Lord's, and during the succeeding eight days I scored at a rate that I have rarely equalled and but once exceeded in my career. In two matches for the Gentlemen v. Players. in one week, I scored in three innings 77, 112, and 117; and two days later I made 170 not out for England v. Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire.
I was again fortunate in benefit matches. For Gloucestershire v. Yorkshire, at Sheffield, 29th, 30th, and 31st July, for the benefit of Roger Iddison, I made 150, and with Mr. T. G. Matthews put on 208 runs the first day, our wickets still standing at the end of it. For the South v. North, at the Oval the end of July, I played for Griffith's benefit, and scored 114.
Eight times I scored over a hundred runs in an innings, and at the end of the season my batting results were:
For M.C.C.—13 innings, 528 runs, average 40.8.
For Gloucestershire County—6 innings, 284 runs, average 47.2.
For Gentlemen v. Players—3 innings, 306 runs, average 102.
For South v. North—6 innings, 285 runs, average 47.3
For Gentlemen of England (Canadian Tour)—11 innings, 540 runs, average 49.1
In First-class Matches—26 innings, 1,485 runs, average 57.
In all matches—63 innings, 3,030 runs, average 48.
For the United South Eleven, principally against Twenty-two's, I scored 316 runs for 8 innings: average, 39.4. I also played for Twenty-two of Melton Mowbray against the All-England Eleven, and for Sixteen of Grantham v. The United North Eleven. My brother Fred and Jas. Lillywhite played for Melton Mowbray in the same match, and we caught Carpenter napping when he was batting for the Eleven. Lillywhite was bowling and I was wicket-keeping, and Fred, I believe, was fielding at long-leg; anyhow, Carpenter hit one to leg, for which he ran two. Immediately he turned for the third run I ran out about ten yards to meet the ball, and caught it first bound; and while he was trotting quietly up the pitch in fancied security, with his back to me, I let fly at his wicket. I could throw in those days, and was not surprised when the middle stump went flying out of the ground. The surprise was on Carpenter's side, the laugh on ours.
"Well, well! there's no fool like an old fool," said he. "To think I should have played cricket all these years, and get out in that way!"
Surrey came out excellently in county contests that year, and headed the list: Kent dropped to the bottom.
Lancashire made good progress also, and was much indebted for its success to two bowlers W. Mclntyre and Watson. So well did those two perform, that Mr. A. Appleby, almost at his best, played a comparatively small part in bowling for his county. Mr. Hornby, too, was a host in himself, batting with great dash and invariably scoring. Daft and Selby did great things in batting for Nottinghamshire; and Mr. W. Yardley was very successful also. He had one exceptional experience at Lord's on the 20th and 21st May, playing for the South v. North: he was out first ball in both innings, earning his spectacles in a way that he will not readily forget!
An experiment was made at Lord's on the 9th May, in the match M.C.C. v. Next Twenty. The wickets were fixed an inch higher and slightly broader than the law prescribed. The experiment was not a success.
The year 1873 was my tenth of first-class cricket, and my best display of all-round form. I could show a higher batting average in 1872; but my bowling average was not so good, although! captured exactly the same number of wickets. The early part of the season was very wet, and batting generally was not up to the standard of previous years. Two amateurs Messrs. Frank Townsend and J. M. Cotterill took a high position, and Messrs. C. J. Ottaway, I. D. Walker, A. N. Hornby and C. I. Thornton were consistently good; but the number of batsmen who averaged 25 runs per innings was below that of 1871. The proportion of amateurs in the list was greater than ever. Daft and Jupp were now the only two professionals who could be classed with the best of the amateurs; for at last the years began to tell upon Carpenter, and his wonderful skill was beginning to desert him. Emmett proved that he could handle the bat as well as the ball, and Charlwood and Lockwood were doing excellent work also.
But a colt appeared that year who was to raise the standard of professional batting far above everything yet reached. Arthur Shrewsbury made his first appearance at Trent Bridge Ground on the 14th and 15th of April, playing for Twenty-two Colts against Notts County. He was 17 years of age, and scored 35 by scientific cricket, against A. Shaw, J. C. Shaw, M. Mclntyre and F. Morley, four of the very best bowlers of that or any time. His defence was perfect, and his patience, for so young a player, exceptionally good. A month later at Lord's he confirmed the good opinions formed of him, scoring 4, and not out 16 for Fifteen Colts of England v. M.C.C.The amateurs were to receive quite as valuable a recruit in their ranks before the season was over. Mr. W. W. Read was but 17 years of age when he was considered good enough to represent his county. Before the season was over, he played for Surrey v. Yorkshire at the Oval on the 11th and 12th of August. Few cricketers have delighted the cricketing public more than Mr. W. W. Read and Shrewsbury during the last ten years. For their counties and in representative matches they have won many a great victory, and
The Gentlemen v. Players' matches were great victories for the former that year. The first was played at Lord's, and was won by the Gentlemen by an innings and 55 runs; the second at the Oval, which was won by an innings and 19 runs; and the third at Prince's, which was won by an innings and 54 runs. The results were entirely owing to the superiority of the Gentlemen in batting. Mr. Hornby played a grand innings of 104 in the match at Prince's, and in my three innings I scored 158, 163, and 70.
Four matches were played between the North and South; the South winning 2, losing 1, and 1 was drawn. Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire divided honours in county cricket. The Gloucestershire eleven was composed entirely of amateurs; Nottinghamshire, of professionals only.
Individual scores of a hundred runs and over in an innings were made about 230 times; and the number to my credit was seven, all of them in first-class matches. At the end of the season I took a team out to Australia. It was the third which had gone there, and, while we found cricket generally much improved, there was little doubt that England was still considerably ahead of Australia in playing the game, though very little in enthusiasm over it. I had the pleasure of meeting three players then who afterwards created great reputations Messrs. H. F. Boyle, F. R. Spofforth and C. Bannerman. Of course, neither showed the form then which he displayed in later years.The season of 1874 opened favourably: the weather was delightful, and continued so the greater part of it; and the consequence was, that the bat had again the best of
MR. W. W. READ.
Shrewsbury was considered good enough to represent his county; but no one was surprised that he failed to do much the first year. It takes more than one year's experience to master, or even fight successfully against, first-class bowling, as I found to my cost when I began to play in the great matches; and a very successful colt may be a very indifferent county representative for some time. The same may be said with regard to Mr. W. W. Read.
Another and fine all-round cricketer commenced his brilliant career that year, and made his mark very quickly in first-class matches. I refer to Mr. A. G. Steel, whose performances with both bat and ball have been the admiration of the thousands who have had the pleasure of witnessing them. I shall have occasion to speak at some length about him farther on; but I cannot help saying here, that I never envied a county the possession of any cricketer so much as I envied Lancashire the possession of Mr. A. G. Steel. He was 15 years of age when he played his first match at Lord's on the 29th and 30th July for Marlborough College v. Rugby School, and scored 41 not out first innings.
The Players made rather a better fight against the Gentlemen that year, winning one match out of the three played, and losing the other two by 48 and 61 runs. Only one individual innings of a hundred runs was scored in the six innings played by both sides, and that fell to my credit.
One of the closest and most exciting matches of that year was the North v. South, played at Prince's on the 4th and 5th June for the benefit of the Cricketers' Fund. The South in its second innings had 27 runs to make to win, with five wickets standing, and yet lost by 3 runs.
I was again successful in a benefit match, scoring 167 for Gloucestershire v. Yorkshire at Sheffield on behalf of Luke Greenwood.
University cricket was now a different thing from what it had been ten or twenty years before; and very rarely were the Gentlemen without one or two University players in their eleven when they met the Players. A match entitled "Gentlemen of England who had not been educated at the Universities v. Gentlemen of the Universities, Past and Present" was played at the Oval on the 15th and 16th June. A University education has always been considered a distinct aid to success, mentally and physically; but this match did not show that University men were better cricketers than non-University men, for their representative eleven got severely beaten by an innings and 76 runs. But then their opponents had among them such players as A. N. Hornby, I. D. Walker, V. E. Walker, A. Appleby, G. F. Grace, and myself.
What was described as an "American Invasion" took place early in the month of August. Eighteen American Baseball Players (who visited us with the idea of introducing the game of baseball) played seven cricket matches, and showed that they knew something of that game as well as baseball. Unfortunately they had been much underrated, and the engagements made on their behalf were against very third-class teams. They won four out of the seven played, and the other three were drawn. There was one individual score of 50, but 25 was nearer the form of the best of them; and only once did the total of their innings reach as high as 130. Their fielding was exceptionally smart; and though their efforts to create a love for baseball were not rewarded, their skill was undoubtedly appreciated.
The All-England, United South, and United North Elevens were still travelling all over the country; but county cricket was taking a greater hold, and they did not excite so much interest as they used to. With the United South, I visited Ireland for the first time, and against Twenty-two of Leinster my brother Fred and I did a good performance, scoring 272 runs. My 153 was, so far, the highest innings made against a twenty-two; and I had now scored the century in England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and Australia.
Cricketers all over the country had occasion to grumble at the weather in 1875. It was both wet and miserably cold the greater part of the year, and wickets everywhere were sticky and very often unplayable. Batting averages went down considerably, and bowlers got great break on the ball. Slow and medium round-arm bowlers had their opportunity, and improved to some extent, and batsmen who had only been used to straight fast were a little bit abroad in playing them. Alfred Shaw at times did what he liked with the ball; and I shall never forget his wonderful performance for Nottinghamshire v. M.C.C., at Lord's, on the 14th and 5th June—166 balls for seven runs and seven wickets, six of them clean bowled, my own among them. It took me an hour to make 10 runs, and I thought and still think as much of that hour's play as I do of many an hour in which I scored close upon a hundred. Mr. G. Strachan did a very fine performance with the ball also. For the Gentlemen v. Players, at the Oval, he with 21 balls got 5 wickets, and no runs were scored off him.
That year was my greatest success with the ball; the sticky wickets suiting my bowling as nicely as the fast suited my batting, and I captured 192 wickets during the season, for an average of 12.166 runs. I had never done so well before, nor have I since.
Batting, as I have said, suffered in consequence. One young player, Mr. A. J. Webbe, however, came to the front with a rush, and played two or three very fine innings during the season. For the Gentlemen v. Players, at Lord's, in the second innings, he and I put on 203 runs for the first wicket, and his defence and patience were perfect. He was 20 years of age at the time.
Two great bowlers dropped out of first-class cricket that year J. C. Shaw and E. Willsher. Freeman had dropped out a year or two before; so that three of the very best bowlers we have ever had had now left the ranks. I question if we have had three such really good fast bowlers since. Just about that time medium-pace bowling began to be cultivated, and very fast was neglected by both amateur and professional.
The Players won one out of the three matches played against the Gentlemen and one was drawn. The North v. South matches were not quite so interesting as in former years. When only two matches were played, the interest and excitement were great; but this year as many as seven were played in different parts of the country, and the public and the players themselves got tired of them.
County cricket flourished, and Nottinghamshire came to the front again.
My batting average dropped down to 32 that year, the reason being the weather. Quite naturally, critics thought "I had gone off;" but in my heart I did not think so, for I felt as fit as I ever felt in my life. Two or three times that remark has been made about Messrs. A. N. Hornby, W. W. Read, Shrewsbury, and myself; and I have been rather amused when one or the other scored a hundred runs the next match.
Charming weather prevailed during the greater part of the season of 1876, and at the end of it batting averages were very much higher than they had been for years. The bowlers had a very trying time, and were unfeignedly glad when the last ball was bowled. It was a year of exceptional batting performances for me, though my average was not quite so high as in two or three years I have already given. About this time I began to find that, in batting in particular, it took me longer to get into form and condition than in previous years. Increase of years and increase of weight may possibly account for it. I was close upon 28 years of age, and in weight about 15 st.
During the month of May I played 8 completed innings, scored 163 runs; average, 20.3. In June I played 12 completed innings, scored 464 runs; average, 39.5. In July I played n completed innings, scored 637 runs; average, 57.10. In August I played 10 completed innings, scored 1278 runs; average, 127.8. The month of August of that year was, I believe, the highest run-getting month in my whole cricket career; and I sincerely hope I shall not be considered egotistical in touching at some length upon one or two of the matches played.
It is now well known how Kent County scored 473 runs in its first innings against the Gentlemen of the M.C.C. at Canterbury on the 10th August Lord Harris being the top scorer with a grandly-played 154 and then got the M.C.C. out the day after for 144. The M.C.C. had to follow its innings a few minutes before five the same evening, and Mr. A. P. Lucas and myself started the batting. Every one believed that the match was now a hopeless thing for the old club I and I was exceedingly anxious to get off that night, so that I might reach Clifton next day, and have a quiet Sunday's rest before meeting Nottinghamshire on the Monday. It was no use trying to play carefulty; so I made up my mind to hit. I risked a little more than usual, helped myself more freely than I would have done under different circumstances, and everything came off. The 100 was scored in forty-five minutes, and when stumps were drawn at 6.45 the total was 217 for four wickets, made in an hour and fifty minutes. My share was 133 not out; extras, 17.
Saturday was one of the hottest days of a very hot month; and I thought I might as well put my best foot forward in the early morning. My partner was Mr. P. C. Crutchley, and he being in the scoring mood also, we kept the ball travelling at a great pace. The ground was in rare order, and from noon to luncheon-time we put all we knew into our hitting, only stopping for a few minutes while I borrowed a bat, having broken the one which had served me so well. The new bat was a good one, but much too small in the handle for me, and the pace slackened slightly; however, during the luncheon-hour the Hon. Spencer Ponsonby Fane very kindly got hold of some thick twine, which he wrapped round it and brought it up to the right size. Tired nature began to tell its tale during the afternoon: but relief came from the officers' tent in the form of champagne and seltzer; and at it we went again, and were not parted until we had put on 227 runs, and raised the total to 430 for five wickets. The opinion of the Kent Twelve, Mr. Absolom's in particular, was, "that it had been a very hot day!" The total was 546 before I was out, my score being 344, made in 6 hours and 20 minutes, without a chance.
I had to travel by train to Bristol on Sunday; but by Monday morning the effects of it had worn off, and when I started the Gloucestershire innings against Nottinghamshire I felt very fit. I scored 177 in 3 hours and 10 minutes; and in it there were one 7, two 6's, one 5, and twenty-three 4's. My wicket went to the credit of Selby, and showed the value of a change, however indifferent the bowler. Alfred Shaw and Morley had been trying all they knew, and failed; so Seiby was called upon. He said he did not want any long-leg to his bowling; so my brother Fred promptly hit his first ball in that direction, and we ran 7 for it. The same over I hit him in the same place for 6; but in attempting it a second time, I got under the ball and was caught at long-on rather square. I believe the fieldsman was Barnes. He was in his right position at long-on when Fred and myself hit the 7 and 6 to long-leg, and had to go after the ball; for there was no boundary on the sloping side of the College Ground in those days. He quietly took his position almost square with the wicket and brought off the catch, and remarked afterwards that "he knew something about placing the field to a third-rate bowler, if Selby did not." Our total score was 400. Daft and Oscroft batted in magnificent form the first innings, but could not save the follow on; and on the evening of the third day Gloucestershire were left with 31 to win, which E. M. and Fred hit off in 25 minutes.
The Nottinghamshire men on the home journey met the Yorkshire Eleven travelling down, and told them to look out for squalls at Cheltenham. Tom Emmett laughed, and said the "big 'un has exhausted himself, and cannot do the century trick thrice in succession. If he does, I mean to shoot him, in the interests of the game; and I know there will be general rejoicing, amongst the professionals at least!"
I do not think I ever played on a better wicket than the one which had been prepared at Cheltenham, and I was not surprised that runs came at a great pace. At the end of the first day the score was 353 for four wickets: Mr. Moberly, 73 not out; myself, 216 not out; and when we were parted about two o'clock next day, the total was 429; Mr. Moberly having batted in his very best form for 103. It was rather a curious coincidence that the long stand should have been made by the 6th man and myself both in this and the Canterbury match. Our total was 528, and my score 318 not out. Yorkshire made 127 for seven wickets.
I can say little about my 400 not out, for United South v. Twenty-two of Grimsby, that has not already been said. I can just remember that the Twenty-two thought our team rather a weak one; that the wicket was perfect; and that the grass was closely cut for about forty yards square, but the rest of it a little bit long. Holmes, one of the eleven, had occasion to grumble when he was given out l.b.w. to a ball that was far from being straight; but consoled himself the third day when the same umpire served one of the Twenty-two just as badly. "A perfectly fair umpire," he said, "but decidedly incompetent." I did not feel half so tired at the end of my Grimsby score as I did after the Canterbury or Cheltenham scores.
There is another match I must say a word about the North v. South, played at Nottingham for Daft's benefit. The South had a very good team, and so had the North, and every one was anxious that the match should turn out a real success. The weather was on its best behaviour; and I was upset at only scoring 16 first innings; in fact, neither side did much the first day: the first innings closing thus North, 102; South, 155. The third day was the exciting one. Splendid batting on the part of Messrs. A. N. Hornby, R. P. Smith, Lockwood, and Daft himself, made the North score 242 in the second innings, and left the South 190 to win, and 3f hours to do it. "Rather a heavy task," was the general opinion. Mr. A. J. Webbe and myself hit 100 runs in 66 minutes; then he left at 101, for 41 a real good bit of batting. Mr. I. D. Walker 20, and my brother Fred 10 not out, enabled us to score the necessary runs. They were made in 2 hours and 25 minutes; and I had the satisfaction of scoring 114 not out for one of the most popular and scientific cricketers of his or any age.
The Gentlemen v. Players' matches were decidedly in favour of the Gentlemen that year. Two were won by them, the other drawn. The North v. South matches were played as usual; the South winning 1, and 2 were drawn; and the All-England, United South of England, and United North were busy all the season.
Individual innings of 300 runs and over in an innings were scored 3 times; of 200, 14 times; of 100 runs, more than 400 times.
I had the pleasure of seeing Gloucestershire at the head of the counties again. My batting and bowling performances during the season showed that I had played:
|For M.C.C ...||7||494||70.4|
|For Gentlemen v. Players ...||5||309||61.4|
|For South v. North ...||7||474||67.5|
|For Gloucestershire County ...||11||890||80.10|
|In first-class matches ...||42||2622||62.18|
Bowling in first-class matches:
|1550.1 ...||638 ...||2388 ...||0 ...||124 ...||19.32|
MR. A. J. WEBBE.
For some years Gloucestershire and Middlesex had been called the counties of amateurs, and it was entirely owing to their great batting skill that they had held their own against what may be called the professional counties. We have only to refer to the batting averages to find that the professionals were still very far behind the amateurs in that branch of the game. The fact seems to have impressed itself rather strongly upon the Lancashire and Surrey Committees about this time; for we find their elevens with a good sprinkling of amateur talent in them, by which they were much benefited. Mr. A. N. Hornby, at the head of the Lancashire eleven; Mr. G. Strachan, at the head of Surrey; and Lord Harris, at the head of Kent, were infusing vigour into their teams, and producing good results. Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, while possessing the very best professional bowling talent of the day, were lacking in amateur batting, and did not do so well as they would have done ii they had possessed both.
The Gentlemen v. Players, North v. South, and University contests were quite as interesting and exciting as county contests; but at last the All-England Eleven, United South, and United North began to lose their attractions; for no one thought of going out of his way to watch the skill of a first-class professional bowler pitted against indifferent country batsmen, when he could witness county matches fought out from start to finish by the very best professional and amateur talent. The All-England Eleven played two or three matches in 1876, but very little afterwards, and died out for lack of gate support. The United South lived two or three years longer; but after 1877 my medical studies demanded more of my time, and I could only play for Gloucestershire, M.C.C., and in the great matches. I believe the United South played its last match at Stroud in 1880.
Messrs. W. W. Read, A. P. Lucas, A. J. Webbe and F. Penn had now taken a very high position amongst the amateurs, and batted in very fine style. Mr. W. W. Read and Jupp, for Surrey v. Yorkshire at the Oval, scored 206 for first wicket, the second highest yet recorded in a county match; and Mr. J. M. Cotterill and myself put on 281 runs between the fall of the first and second wickets for the South v. North at Prince's. Individual performances of 200 runs in an innings were scored 10 times, and the century was scored more than 500 times. G. Hearne, Mycroft, Morley and myself were very successful with the ball. For M.C.C. and Ground v. Oxford University, Morley bowled 33.1 overs for 14 runs and 13 wickets a feat that has not often been surpassed.
For Gloucestershire v. Nottinghamshire at Cheltenham, at the end of the match, I bowled 25 balls for no runs and 7 wickets.