CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1897

Tom Richardson

THOMAS RICHARDSON -- beyond all question the most famous of contemporary bowlers -- was born at Byfleet, in Surrey, on the 11th of August, 1870. After making a considerable reputation at Mitcham, he first found a place in the Surrey Eleven, in 1892, the year in which Surrey, after seeming certain to only take second place, wound up by beating Notts for the Championship. It was not at first realised that Surrey had discovered the most deadly fast bowler since Freeman, but Richardson did enough in 1892 to make his future position in the county eleven pretty secure. No great opportunity was afforded him in the chief county matches, but against the counties then treated as below first-class rank, he proved extremely destructive, and his record for Surrey for the whole season, came out at 101 wickets for just over 13½ runs each. It cannot do Richardson any harm now, to say that when he first came into important cricket, his delivery was, to say the least of it, dubious. Indeed personally--our views being confirmed at the time by the opinions of many famous batsmen--we have no doubt that he threw a great deal. The fact that he went through the tour of Mr. Stoddart's Team in Australia, in the winter of 1894-95, without, so far as we have heard, his action being even questioned, is the best proof of the alteration in his style. The season of 1893 took him at once to the top of the tree and, as everyone knows, he has from that time to the present moment been the first of English bowlers. Lohmann's enforced absence from England through illness, gave him in 1893 a great opportunity, and he emphatically made the most of it, taking in the county championship matches for Surrey, 99 wickets for something over 14 runs each, and coming out in the first-class averages of the year with a record of 174 wickets, at an average cost of 15.70. Since then he has never looked back, his greatest season being that of 1895, when in first-class matches he took the almost unprecedented number of 290 wickets for less than 14½ runs each. Nearly all his work was done for Surrey, no fewer than 237 wickets falling to him in county matches alone. Out in Australia Richardson at first found the exceptionally fast and easy grounds very trying, and we believe it is a fact that his first three wickets in the Colonies, cost him about hundred runs each. So far from being disheartened by early failures, however, he persevered with the utmost pluck, and had the satisfaction, through a splendid piece of work, of rendering possible the victory in the conquering test match at Melbourne, which was gained in the end by the wonderful batting of Brown and Albert Ward. Last season Richardson did not equal his record of 1895, but on the dry wickets of May, June and July, he was as much as ever the best bowler in the country. When the rain came, however, he seemed a little overdone, and on some occasions - notably in Surrey's two matches against the Australians - he was less effective than might have been expected. His greatest feats last summer were certainly performed in the England matches at Lord's and Manchester. On the last day at Old Trafford, he bowled unchanged for three hours, and nearly won a match in which England had followed on against a majority of 181 runs. The characteristics of Richardson's bowling are too well known to require detailed description. It is generally agreed that no bowler with the same tremendous speed, has ever possessed such a break from the off. Personally no professional cricketer in England enjoys greater popularity with the general public and among his brother players.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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