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A profile of Daniel Day, one of the forgotten superstars of the early Victorian era
The disappearance from the England side of some distinguished figures, still in their thirties, reminds us that first-class cricket in increasingly a young man's game. We all know of notable exceptions to this observation, but the general tendency is unmistakable.
Though anything is possible in cricket, it is at least improbable that a cricketer in these days will begin by making his mark in his late thirties and go on to perform his principal feats in his forties. William Clarke did more than this, but, setting him aside as a phenomenon in any age, let us consider instead the career of Daniel Day.
This often-forgotten cricketer was born at Streatham in June, 1807, when Lord Frederick Beauclerk and "Silver Billy" were batting against John Wells and William Lambert in Dorset Square, and Napoleon was beating the Russians at Friedland. He died two months after Surrey had first won the County Championship, in the year of Queen Victoria's Jubilee.
A heavy man for his medium height, Day was a fine, accurate fast-medium bowler, making the ball come quickly off the pitch, with a turn from leg. Though he was never in the same class as a batsman, he had a good, steady, forward style, and it is surprising that he made no greater impression in his young days while he was playing for various Surrey clubs - Streatham, Croydon, Camberwell, Dulwich and Carshalton. As early as 1827, when only 20, he preceded the Camberwell-born Felix in inventing "tubular guard gloves," which he patented and had manufactured at Mr. Wilson's india-rubber factory in his native Streatham, thus foreseeing the general adoption of round-arm and its effect on bowling.
He himself was cultivating a comparatively high action. Eight years later Felix introduced his gloves, at about the same time as the legalisation of round-arm, and apparently with greater success, since his invention is remembered whereas Day's has been largely forgotten.
Meanwhile, Daniel Day continued to play in what was for him relatively minor cricket until 1842, when he began his Hampshire connection, and, playing for that county against the M.C.C. at Lord's, took 10 wickets besides scoring 70. In that year he was also tried for England against Kent at Bromley, but little use was made of him as a bowler, and he "migrated" to Southampton - a town with which he was to be associated for the rest of his life. Having gained the support of Sir Frederick Bathurst, Sir J. B. Mill, Thomas Chamberlayne and others, he opened under their patronage the Antelgpe Inn and the famous ground of that name. In 1845 he went further afield, took the Woolston Hotel on the Itchen, near Southampton, converted the adjoining field into a cricket ground and obtained promises of support from the South Hampshire Club. It was on his own ground that he took 10 wickets for 63 against a good Petworth side; and now, when he was nearing 40, his abilities began to be appreciated more justly in his own county. Surrey had just established themselves at Kennington Oval, and, in 1846, in their first county match on that ground, they were opposed by the powerful Kent team.
Daniel Day was invited to join the attack and he did more than anyone else to win the match. Martingell, a younger man, also bowled well, but 12 wickets fell to Day, and Kent, dismissed for 83 and 56, lost by 10 wickets. He was roped in for the return match at Aylesford, which was drawn with the Kent score at 29 and the last pair together; two gentlemen - W. J. and E. Banks - having absented themselves after the luncheon interval. Day took 8 wickets.
In these encounters, Felix, though qualified for Kent since the removal of his school to Blackheath, played for the county of his birth. He painted a portrait of Daniel Day, a few copies of which were lithographed for private circulation.
Day also played a decisive part in the tie between Kent and Surrey at the Oval in 1847. The scores drew level when Kent still had 3 wickets to go, but then Brockwell had Martin caught, and Day bowled Whittaker and had Belton lbw without any addition to the total. He had taken 9 wickets and was chosen to play for England against Kent at Lord's in Alfred Mynns' testimonial match. This time he did not come off, and Mynn was very appropriately the hero of a Kentish victory.
In 1848 Day took 10 wickets for Surrey against the M.C.C. at Kennington Oval, but, even when he took none at all, he was often extremely difficult to score off. He soon became a regular member of Clarke's All England XI, and he and Clarke, playing against Kent at Cranbrook in 1851, sent down 32 overs to Fuller Pilch and Ned Wenman without a run being hit off them. He made a more positive contribution that year to Surrey's victory over Nottinghamshire in the first match played between the two counties, his 7 wickets in the first innings being almost entirely responsible for the dismissal of a powerful visiting side for 48.
Sometimes he was out of luck owing to circumstances which he was powerless to control. On his only appearance for the Players against the Gentlemen, in 1850, when he was 43, he took no wickets because he did not bowl. Clarke and John Wisden bowled unchanged with devastating effect, and all that Daniel Day could contribute was a catch: he was a very good short slip.
"Day," said Lord Bessborough, "did not come into notice till he was getting on in years, but he was a very fine bowler, perhaps none better in his time, very accurate in pitch and with a fine rise and spring upon the ball. Altogether his was a very fine, bold style."
These years of belated recognition were a period of great cricketing ability for Day in Hampshire. He spent a considerable amount of money between 1845 and 1851, when, finding apparently that he was seeing little return for it, he took the East Hampshire Cricket Ground at Southsea. Arriving late on the scene as an active force in big cricket, he devoted much of his energy to the making of cricket grounds, usually with hospitable inns attached. It was on one of his grounds that the United England XI played their first match, against Twenty Gentlemen of Hampshire in August, 1852.
The Southsea venture lasted only two years, and then he returned to Southampton, as he always did in the end. There was a period in the late 1850s when his combined inn-keeping and cricketing took him north to Newcastle, to superintend the Northumberland Club, but in 1859 he was back in Southampton, where he opened the Britannia Hotel on the Marine Parade. Southampton must possess quite a number of hotels which owe their origins to the enterprise of Daniel Day. There he eventually settled down, and there he died on November 22, 1887, at the age of 80.
By his directions, his bat, worm-eaten with age, his pads, and his walking-stick were placed in the coffin with him - so that he went further than his fellow Surrey man, John Bowyer, whose bat was nailed to his coffin lid. This reminds us that Harry Bagshaw, of Derbyshire, was buried in his umpire's coat with a cricket-ball in his hand, as recently as 1927. How many cricketers of our time will carry their devotion so faithfully to the grave?
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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