Frank Mitchell

MITCHELL, MR. FRANK, died at his home at Blackheath, London on October 11, aged 63. A triple Blue, representing Cambridge University at Cricket, Rugby Football and Putting the Weight, Frank Mitchell enjoyed the distinction of playing cricket for both England and South Africa. He gained six caps for England as a Rugby forward and captained his University in both these games against Oxford. So readily did he adapt himself to all sports that he kept goal at Association Football for Sussex.

Born on August 13, 1872 at Market Weighton, Frank Mitchell went to St. Peter's School, York, where he captained the eleven in his last two seasons before going to Brighton as a schoolmaster. During some two years at Brighton he played good club cricket and made many runs. Going up to Cambridge, an older man than most undergraduates, he soon attracted attention with innings of 143, 203 and 136 for Caius College. He did well in the Freshmen's Match of 1894 and on first appearing for the University scored 67 against C. I. Thornton's team and a little later made 75 and 92 against Yorkshire. Gaining his Blue he remained in the side four seasons, but never did himself full justice against Oxford, his aggregate for seven innings in the University match at Lord's being 136. Cambridge were very weak in bowling when Mitchell went up and, fairly fast, he came out at the head of the averages with 21 wickets at 21 runs apiece. Fifth to go on in Oxford's first innings, he dismissed four batsmen for 44 runs but after that season he was seldom called upon.

In 1896, when captain of Cambridge, he helped to make cricket history by instructing E. B. Shine, his fast bowler, to give away extras so that Oxford should not follow-on. Three years before F. S. Jackson, in the great match at Lord's, acted in the same way with the aid of C. M. Wells and then rule 53 was altered to 120 runs instead of 80 for the follow-on. The second case of a Cambridge side avoiding the ordinary course of the game as defined by the Laws caused a storm of protest. Members in the Pavilion stood up and shouted Play the game and play cricket. Frank Mitchell himself said that one irate gentleman threw a pair of field glasses at him. Such was the effect on the nerves of the Cambridge eleven that they began their second innings most disastrously and, despite a recovery, they eventually suffered defeat by four wickets. G. O. Smith--still more famous as an Association centre-forward--by scoring 132, took the chief part in hitting off 330 runs, which at that time was a most exceptional performance. In commenting upon the match Wisden said: We defended F. S. Jackson and C. M. Wells for what they did and, believing that even in its amended form Law 53 is ill adapted to modern cricket, we think Mitchell was quite entitled in the interests of his side to take the course he did. Opposite views were expressed during correspondence in The Times but the authorities eventually changed the Law so that the side batting first and leading by 150 runs should have the option of enforcing the follow-on or themselves going in a second time.

Frank Mitchell first appeared for Yorkshire in 1894 and, though he met with limited success following his fine play at Fenner's, most good judges, including W. G. Grace, had strong faith in his future. Lord Hawke took him to South Africa in the winter of 1898 and so well did he play that he was given a regular place in the Yorkshire eleven next summer; then he proved a model of consistency. Scoring 1,502 runs in County fixtures he finished up a good third to F.S. Jackson and George Hirst. At Leicester in 1899 he and Wainwright put on 329 for the fifth wicket when Yorkshire had made a bad start, his score of 194 being his best for the county. After a year in South Africa, Mitchell in 1901 headed the Yorkshire batting with an average of 46.17 for an aggregate of 1,801, including seven centuries, four of them, two not out, in consecutive matches. He far surpassed George Hirst, T. L. Taylor, J. T. Brown, Denton and Tunnicliffe all of whom scored over 1,200 runs. This form brought him recognition as one of the Five Cricketers of the Year in Wisden. His last appearance for Yorkshire was in 1904; altogether for the county he scored 4,090 runs with an average of 34.35. If not very polished in style, he had great qualities and became an accomplished batsman on any kind of wicket. Essentially an off-side player, he drove with tremendous power. Altogether during his first-class career in England and for England Touring Teams in South Africa he scored 8,438 runs with an average of 32.45.

After his first experience of South Africa he served in the Yokshire Dragoons during the Boer War and following his best season in England he was almost lost to Yorkshire. Returning to South Africa he became Secretary to Sir Abe Bailey and played for the Transvaal. In 1904 he captained the South African side which came to England and eight years later he was in charge of the side that took part in the Triangular tournament. Broken as it was by various changes in his life, Mitchell's first-class cricket career then ended, but two years later he played for M.C.C. in one match, scoring 17 and 66 at Fenner's against his old University. So Cambridge was the scene of the start and finish of Mitchell as a first-class cricketer.

Mitchell played Rugby football for Cambridge University from 1893 to 1895 and for Blackheath. He gained International honours in 1895 and 1896 as a forward when England put in the field particularly strong packs. Frank Mitchell took a team to America in 1895; two years later he went there with a side captained by B. J. T. Bosanquet and in 1901 made his third visit to the United States under P. F. Warner.

During the Great War, he rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel in the West Riding R. F. A. and was mentioned in despatches. He wrote Rugby Football, in the Badminton Library, and did considerable journalistic work.

© John Wisden & Co