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When one sits down to write the history of Kent county cricket for the past thirty years and more, one must have a feeling that time flies, and that one wishes it did to fly quite so quickly, and yet in looking over the numerous scores and reports one is reminded of many pleasant incidents, many exciting matches, many brilliant performances which had escaped one"s memory, but what one must always remember are the friendships made which as far as I am concerned are some of the best and truest of my life. In looking back over these past 30 years one fact stands out prominent, and that is that the success to which the county has at length attained is in a large degree due to the energy, the ability, the foresight, the thoughtfulness of one man. Though no doubt he would say that he has been loyally backed up by lovers of county cricket both in and out of the field, yet I have no hesitation in saying that to Lord Harris we chiefly owe the proud position in which the county now stands. As Lord Harris has been a real and true friend to me from the earliest days when we were together at the same house at Eton, I am glad to have this opportunity of testifying to a fact which I believe no one would wish to deny.
There can be no doubt that the conditions and prospects of county cricket for some ten or fifteen years before the amalgamation of the two East and West Kent Clubs was anything but satisfactory. There was never anything approaching ill feeling, or even jealousy between the two clubs, but neither was there that spirit of patriotism and cordial co-operation between them so necessary and essential to the successful management of a county club. The county matches were under the control of the western part of the county and received very little support from the Beverley or Canterbury club; indeed, so bad was their financial position, that on one occasion a county match, I think Kent v. Yorkshire at Gravesend, was on the point of being abandoned owing to there being a lack of funds sufficient to pay the professional. A member of the club who happened to be present advanced the sum required. As regards players Willsher and Bennett were the only reliable professional bowlers, and there was very little inducement for young professionals to come forward. As regards amateurs, Mr. W. South Norton, a thoroughly sound cricketer and most excellent captain, Messrs. Kelson, Troughton, Lipscomb, and Biron may be mentioned.
In 1870 the much desired amalgamation of the East and West Kent Clubs took place. This was done at a meeting held at the Bull, Rochester, presided over by Lord Harris, father of the present peer, and attended by many cricket supporters from both sides of the county. The scheme then carried has remained unaltered up to the present time, and has turned out a complete success. The affairs of the club have been admirably managed by a strong and influential committee, with a president chosen annually from East and West Kent in turn.
In 1873 Lillywhite says Kent has of late years dropped back in the race for supremacy in a way altogether unworthy of a county that boasts such a lofty history, and again Kent suffers from feuds, faction, and indifference. In this year the county played six matches and the following names appear, G. McCanlis, Willis, Croxford, W. Penn, W. Yardley, Lord Harris, J. C. Crawford, R. Lipscomb, G. E. Coles, F. F. Crawford, H. J. Hayman, Captain Fellowes, Captain Renny-Tailour, Willsher, and W. Coppinger. The county won the matches against Lancashire at Gravesend, and against Surrey at the Mote, Maidstone. G. McCanlis and Willis (our ardent old friend Captain McCanlis supporter of county cricket, who is looking so keenly after our young cricketers at Tonbridge) were head of the averages, and Edgar Willsher was our mainstay as a bowler. It may be remarked here that Lord Harris first played for the county in 1870, and in 1874 he became hon. secretary for county matches. In 1874 Kent only played four matches and won one. In this year we find Messrs. Foord-Kelcey and Absolom with Draper and Remnant playing for the county for the first time.
In 1875 Kent played eight matches and won two. The following new names appear, Messrs. V. K. Shaw, F. A. MacKinnon, F. Penn, F. Stokes, and among the professionals Collins, Palmer, Hickmott, George, and last, and by no means least, George Hearne, the first member of a family who have done so much for Kent both with bat and ball. I should also like to testify to the example which they have always set, not only as keen, excellent cricketers but as high principled and honourable members of an eleven of which any county might be proud. This was the last year Edger Willsher played for the county. He had played twenty-six years, scored 3,356 runs and captured 785 wickets. These figures show the great value he was to the eleven, and what a serious loss his retirement was.
In 1876 Lord Harris became captain as well as hon. secretary, and Mr. J. J. Lancaster became assistant secretary. Kent played ten matches and won four. Mr. W. B. Pattison and Mr. A. Penn appeared for the first time. Mr. A. Penn was, however, only able to play in one match owing to an accident, which was very unfortunate as, judging from his performances in after years, his bowling would have been most useful.
In 1877 Lord Harris was rewarded for the trouble he had taken and the energy he had shown in his efforts to revive county cricket, for in that year Kent played twelve matches, won seven, lost four, drawn one. Lillywhite says Lord Harris"s energetic administration has already brought the Kentish eleven into the front rank. Mr. Frank Penn had an average of 40, and was called the champion batsman of 1877. This is an interesting fact to notice considering the large averages of the present day, especially as Lillywhite says Except Mr. W. G. Grace, no player for years past has attained so high an average and aggregate in the records of county cricket.
The Hon. Ivo Bligh, Mr. Herbert Leney, and Mr. L. Stokes appeared this year for the first time. A rather amusing story may be recorded about the Lancashire v. Kent match at the Mote, which the latter county won by one wicket. I did not play very many times for the county, but happened to be playing in this match and was the last man to go in when five runs were required to win. I had to receive the last ball of the over. As I passed Lord Harris I remarked We will not run this next ball; to which his Lordship replied No fear. I gave a half chance to Pilling at the wicket and survived my only ball. Lord Harris got a run off the last ball of the next over from Watson, and then steered a ball from Appleby through the slips for four and won the match. Captain McCanlis"s last year. He scored during his career for the county 1,123 runs and took sixteen wickets. His services to the county since his retirement have been as valuable as they were during the ten years in which he played.
In 1878 Kent played twelve matches, won six, lost four, drawn two. The cricket was notable for a remarkable bowling performance by Mr. A. Penn, who, in the match Kent v. Sussex at Brighton, sent down thirteen overs and three balls, eleven maidens, for three runs and six wickets. Mr. C. M. Cunliffe, Mr. A. W. Fulcher, Mr. C. F. Tufnell, Mr. R. S. Jones, Mr. F. H. Mellor, and Mr. F. S. Ireland made their first appearance.
1879 was a bad year for Kent, as they played ten matches, won two, lost seven, drawn one. Lord Clifton, O"Shaughnessy, and Bray played for the first time; also Frank Hearne, a brother of George, a brilliant bat and magnificent field who did many good performances for his county before his health obliged him to leave Kent and reside in South Africa. Mr. C. A. Absolom"s last year. He played for nine years, got 1,644 runs, and took 89 wickets. He was also a very fine short slip.
In 1880 Kent played ten matches, won five, lost three, drawn two, Mr. Cunliffe took 51 wickets for less than 13 runs apiece. This was his last year as his health failed. He was a great loss, a slow bowler, pace very deceptive, with a great curl in the air. Even in these days of curlers I have been told that no bowler curled as much as Mr. C. M. Cunliffe. Mr. M. C. Kemp, Mr. W. H. Patterson, Collins, and Wootten played for the first time.
Kent played ten matches in 1881, won three, lost seven. Mr. E. F. S. Tylecote and Mr. J. Pattison appeared for the first time. This was Henty"s last year. He had played for seventeen years and took 200 wickets, and during those years it must be remembered that he had to keep to Mr. R. Lipscomb and Mr. Foord-Kelcey on wickets which were not so good as those of the present day, so his record was a very meritorious one. He died, poor fellow, about fifteen years after of consumption.
In 1882 Kent played nine matches, won two, lost six, drawn one. This year was chiefly notable for a brilliant performance by Lord Harris and Lord Throwley (the latter playing of the first time) who, in the Kent v. Sussex match at Gravesend, put on 208 runs for the first wicket. This year also Kent played the Australians for the first time at Canterbury and were beaten by seven wickets. In addition to Lord Throwley, Mr. Cecil Wilson, Mr. F. Lipscomb, and Mr. F. M. Atkins played for the first time.
In 1883 Kent played twelve matches, won three, lost seven drawn two. The Rev. R. T. Thornton, Mr. Leslie Wilson, Mr. Stanley Christopherson, Mr. F. Marchant, and Pentecost appeared for the first time. This was the last year in which Mr. W. Foord-Kelcey played for the county. He came into the eleven when Kent was very weak in bowling talent. He played for the county for ten years and tool part in sixty-two matches, in which he got 202 wickets for 19.36 runs a wicket. A very valuable performance and one which, in my opinion, might have been still greater if the off-side theory had been in vogue as it is at the present day.
1884 was a year to be remembered by all lovers of county cricket for Kent beat Australia at Canterbury by 96 runs, and was the only county which defeated them that year. A story of interest may be told in connection with this match. On the first day the game was going against Kent, but on Tuesday morning a lady supporter of the Kent eleven received some white heather from Scotland. She gave a piece to each member of the eleven and from that moment the match turned in Kent"s favour. Kent played eighteen matches, won eight, lost nine, drawn one. Mr. A. J. Thornton, Mr. J. N. Tonge, Herbert Hearne, and Alec Hearne, the latter a brother of George and Frank, made their first appearance for the county. For twenty-three years has Alec played for his county, and is prepared to go on as long as his services are required or to stand down to let the young ones have a chance. The success of his county is his only consideration. No one has ever seen him out of temper or not playing the game. His influence among the young professionals has been of the best, and his assistance and advice to young captains of great advantage to his side. His performances speak for themselves. Up to the end of the season of 1905 he had played 682 innings, scored 13,344 runs or an average of 21.66, while he had bowled 54,367 balls and taken 1,030 wickets.
In 1885 Kent played eleven matches, won six, lost three, drawn two. Edgar Willsher dies in this year. Mr. J. T. Lancaster died this year and his son Mr. A. J. Lancaster succeeded him-a worthy son of a worthy father. They both had the best interests of county cricket at heart, and carried out their duties in a conscientious manner and to the entire satisfaction of the K. C. C. Committee. Mr. W. Rashleigh played for the first time.
In 1886 Kent played fifteen matches, won six, lost six, drawn three. They defeated the Australians at Canterbury by ten wickets. Wootton took ninety-seven wickets for 16.19 runs. Mr. MacKinnon did not play again for the county. Steadiness was his forte and he invariably went in first. Curiously enough, with the exception of his first year, his average was largest during the last two years, while the only score above 100 which he made was in the year before he retired.
In 1887 Kent played sixteen matches, won three, lost eight, drawn five. Walter Hearne played for the first, and Mr. Tom Pawley for the last time. The latter was not a very regular member of the eleven, but in years to come his services as a keen supporter of county cricket and as general manager became invaluable to his county.
In 1888 Kent played fourteen matches, won seven, lost five, drawn two. Mr. C. J. M. Fox"s first year when he had an average of 25.63, the largest he had during the six years he played for the county. Walter Wright also played for the first time.
In 1889 Kent played thirteen matches, won seven, lost five, drawn one. Walter Wright took ninty-three wickets for 12.21, the best analysis he had during the twelve years he played for the county. Mr. J. Le Fleming appeared first for the county this year. At the end of this season Kent cricket suffered a great blow as Lord Harris was appointed Governor General of Bombay, and so his services were lost both in the field and on the committee for five years. As a matter of fact he did not play many times for his county on his return, taking part in only three matches in 1896 and one in 1897 and 1906. As his Lordship during the period he played for the county scored 7,800 runs, besides being captain of the eleven, and for many years hon. secretary it goes without saying that his loss to his county was a severe one.
In 1890 Kent played fourteen matches, won six, lost three, drawn five. Martin took 116 wickets and Wright 103. Mr. Patterson, whose average for eight innings was 50.33, captained the eleven with Mr. Marchant but, as the former could not play in the earlier matches, the more difficult duties of selecting the eleven at the beginning of the season fell on Mr. Marchant who could not get the assistance of some of the amateurs till later in the year. This was Jim Wootton"s last year. He had played for eleven years, scored 1,037, runs and took 628 wickets. He was also a very fine field at cover-point, though he lacked the quick return of such a man as Mr. Royle. Mr. Stanley Christopherson played for the last time. He had played for seven years, had bowled 8,833 balls and taken 179 wickets. He was never downhearted or depressed and his services to his county were lost all too soon. Pentecost also played his last match this year. He had played for nine years and secured 124 wickets. Though not a very brilliant wicket-keeper he was a very plucky one.
In 1891 Kent played seventeen matches, won six, lost five, drawn six. Mr. Marchant was top of the batting averages and Martin took 112 wickets for 13.51. Mr. G. J. V. Weigall played for the first time. This was the Jubilee year of Canterbury week and on the Thursday more than 7,000 people were present and the takings at the gate and stands exceeded £300, though the rotten state of the wicket prevented the cricket from lasting more than fifty minutes. The subscribers to the county club increased this year from 689 to 880, while it is interesting to not that in 1877 there were only 330, and whereas the income from subscriptions in 1891 amounted of £838, in 1906 the number of members had risen to 3,042 and the subscriptions to £2,377.
In 1892 Kent played sixteen matches, won two, lost nine, drawn five. A disappointing season during which Mr. W. L. Knowles and Mr. H. C. Stewart played first for the county. A change name over the scene in 1893 when sixteen matches were played, six won, four lost, and four drawn. The Rev. F. Meyrick-Jones, Messrs. E. M. Blair, T. N. Perkins, and S. Castle made their first appearance, but the county had a special piece of good fortune this year, for on July 27th Mr. J. R. Mason played his first county match. I cannot speak too highly of Mr. Mason either as an all-rounder cricketer or as a judge of the game. While quiet and modest in demeanour, he inspires the greatest confidence in those who are playing on his side. I must relate a little anecdote about him. When he went down to Eton to play for Winchester, the boys made anxious enquiries as to how they were to get J. R. M. out. They were told that if they bowled him a long hop to the off they might possibly get him caught at third man. This came off, but after he had got 100 runs. Perhaps this was the origin of the off theory.
In 1894 Kent played eighteen matches, won six, lost seven, drawn four, one abandoned. Walter Hearne took 116 wickets for 13.29. Easby played for the county for the first time.
In 1895 played eighteen, won three, lost eleven, drawn four. A disastrous year chiefly owing to the loss of Walter Hearne, who put his knee out, and to the want of a regular wicket-keeper at the beginning of the season. That the loss of Walter Hearne was serious can easily be understood when it is known that in the last three years in which he played for the county he took 93, 46, and 116 wickets. Messrs. R. O"H. Livesay, B. D. Bannon, G. J. Mordaunt, W. M. Bradley, and F. H. Huish made their first appearances, the two latter of whom were destined to take an important part in the successes of our county in future years. This was George Hearne"s last year of county cricket. The immense value of his services is clearly shown by the fact that he played for twenty-one years, scored 7,344 runs, and captured 577 wickets. Mr. M. C. Kemp also did not play again. He had played for sixteen years, scored 1,636 runs, and stumped and caught 165 men. He was also a fine judge of the game and always cheerful.
In 1896 played eighteen, won five, lost nine, drawn four. Mr. C. J. Burnup and Mr. E. B. Shine played for the first time. Lord Harris returned to England but only played in five innings, though he scored 119 against Somersetshire. A new departure was taken this year which was to have an important bearing on the future of the cricket of our county. It was referred to in the annual report. Your committee wish to draw attention to the fact that a nursery for young cricketers will be established early next season at Tonbridge.
Writing now in 1906, the extraordinary and satisfactory effect which the carrying out of this resolution has had, and how it has assisted in its results to attain the object which we have always had in view, viz: that we should be able to put into the field the best county eleven which England could produce, has exceeded our best expectations. If anyone will read through our reports, he will find year by year one refrain going through all of them, and that is that, in order to enable our eleven to compete with the best counties, we must have a nucleus of professional talent. I thing I may safely say that we have attained our object when I state the fact that from this nursery have come C. Blythe, A. Fielder, James Seymour, E. Humphreys, W. J. Fairservice, E. Woolley, H. J. W. Hardinge, and J. Hubble. Our thanks should be given to Mr. McAlpine and the members of the young players sub-committee, while the greatest credit is due to Mr. Pawley, Day, the professional at Tonbridge, and more especially to Captain McCanlis for his untiring and devoted efforts in looking after and coaching our young professionals. In this year Mr. John Crow, who had for twenty-two years held the position of scorer to the K.C.C.C. retired. He was well known for his courtesy, and for the trouble he took in looking after the comfort of the professionals when on tour. He was succeeded by Mr. Walter Hearne. Our young wicket-keeper, F. H. Huish, captured 46 wickets.
In 1897 played eighteen, won two, lost ten, drawn six. A disappointing result which was added to by the announcement that Mr. Frank Marchant had expressed a wish to resign the captaincy. Mr. Marchant had been joint captain with Mr. Patterson in the years 1890 and 1891, but was sole captain from 1892 to 1897. During those years he was not only captain in the field, but also had the management of all details in connection with the matches, as there was no general manager. That this extra duty was too much to expect the captain to carry out appears evident from the fact the a general manager was appointed very soon after Mr. Mason took over the captaincy. I have always thought that the cares of his duties materially affected Mr. Marchant"s cricket, and therefore the thanks to him for his services as captain, which were so cordially passed at the annual meeting of subscribers, were most thoroughly deserved. Mr. Marchant played for the county for a period of twenty-three years and scored 7,967 runs. A magnificent field, a brilliant but uncertain batsman, he did many excellent performances for his county, and I have always been of opinion that I should prefer to watch an innings of his when in his best form to that of any other batsman of his time. Mr. S. H. Day played for the county for the first time. Mr. F. M. Atkins played for the county for the first time. Mr. F. M. Atkins played for the last time. He had played for ten years, though not a regular member of the eleven. Mr. Leslie Wilson played his last match; he played pretty regularly for fourteen years, and scored 3,534 runs.
In 1898 played twenty-one matches, won six, lost seven, drawn eight. Mr. Mason was appointed captain, a position which he retained till 1903. Up to the end of 1905 he had scored 12,714 runs and taken 644 wickets. This year also Mr. Tom Pawley was appointed general manager, an appointment which has been attended with most satisfactory results. Mr. B. D. Bannon and Mr. R. N. R. Blaker made their first appearance for the county.
In 1899 matches played twenty-one, won seven, lost nine, drawn three. Mr. Burnup was top of the averages, scoring 1,557 runs with an average of 44.48. Mr. Bradley took 129, and Huish 79 wickets, making two records for Kent. Mr. A. H. Du Boulay, Humphreys, and Blythe played for the first time. This year our two bowlers, Martin and Wright, who had been the mainstay of our eleven in that department of the game retired. Fred Martin had played for fifteen years, scored 3,410 runs, and captured 979 wickets. He took most of his wickets with the ball which came from the leg. Walter Wright played for thirteen years, scored 2,795 runs and took 725 wickets. He curled in the air a good deal and captured most of his wickets with a ball which came with his arm.
In 1900 played twenty matches, won eight, lost four, drawn ten. Mr. J. R. Mason was top of the averages with 53.61, an also took 78 wickets, while Blythe captured 114 wickets for 18.47. Mr. E. W. Dillon, Mr. E. C. Baker, and Mr. C. H. B. Marsham played for the first time. It was also the last appearance of Mr. W. H. Patterson. For twenty years he had played, and it was a great misfortune for the county that he was unable to play more regularly, as in only three years did he take part in ten matches or more. He scored 6,902 runs. He was a most enthusiastic cricketer, an excellent field anywhere, and has been known to bowl. The batting of Mr. Patterson and Alec Hearne on a sticky wicket was a treat to see.
In 1901 played twenty-two matches, won seven, lost seven, drawn seven, abandoned one. Mr. Mason was first both in batting and bowling. Batting average 39.64, and took 92 wickets for 20.31. Mr. Frank Marchant made a successful reappearance, securing an average of 34.92. Mr. Bradley captured 112 wickets. This was Mr. Rashleigh"s last year. He played for sixteen years, and scored 4,041 runs.
In 1902 played twenty-two, won eight, lost eight, drawn six. Mr. Burnup headed the averages with 37.89, and also had the distinction of being the first Kent cricketer to score 2,000 runs during a season in first-class cricket. This season the bowling of the county was, according to statistics, second only to that of Yorkshire. Blythe secured 127 wickets at a cost of 15.47 runs each. Seymour and Fairservice played for the first time. The last appearance of Mr. H. C. Stewart and Mr. G. J. V. Weigall. The former played for eleven years and scored 2,746 runs, the latter represented his county for twelve years and scored 3,539 runs.
In 1903 played twenty-four matches, won eight, lost seven, drawn seven, abandoned two. Mr. Mason found himself compelled to resign the position of captain, and Mr. C. J. Burnup very kindly filled the vacancy. He also continued his brilliant performances for the county by scoring 1,192 runs, with an average of 32.21. Blythe took 142 wickets for 13.75. Arthur Fielder appeared for the first time as a regular member of the eleven. This was the last year in which Mr. Bradley played for the county. He had played for nine years and taken 547 wickets. His pluck and untiring energy were only exceeded by his keenness and good temper.
In 1904 played twenty-four matches, won eleven, lost five, drawn seven. Mr. Burnup was abroad and unable to captain the eleven, and Mr. C. H. B. Marsham took his place. As it is hoped that his period of office has not expired, it is merely necessary to congratulate him on having captained the champion county in 1906, and to express a hope that in coming years the record of county cricket will continue to be as successful under his guidance. Mr. K. L. Hutchings played for the first time. Mr. S. H. Day was head of the averages with 45.93, and Blythe took 134 wickets for 19.13.
In 1905 played twenty-five matches, won ten, lost ten, drawn four, tie one. Mr. Dillon was top of the averages with 48.51, and Blythe first in the bowling with 140 wickets for 20.97. Kent played a tie match with Surrey, and it is interesting to note that this is the second time, the previous match being in 1847, also at the Oval. Mr. A. P. Day played of the first time.
In 1906, played twenty-two, won sixteen, lost two, drawn four, and KENT became CHAMPION COUNTY. In these notes I have not called attention to the position of the county from year to year in the championship record. While undoubtedly it is a matter of the greatest satisfaction that our county has at length the position of premier county in England, my desire has been to record a few facts in connection with our cricket from season to season which speak for themselves, but I may say that my wish and ambition for my county is undoubtedly that our eleven should be known as one which always plays the game as it ought to be played, that each member plays for his side rather than for himself, that while rejoicing at victory, it acknowledges defeat with good feeling, rather than as champion county. In addition to their satisfaction at our being champion county, I believe that the feeling that our eleven is actuated by such motives as I have indicated has been the chief reason of the extraordinary enthusiasm which has been shown at our success, not only in the county but outside, and even beyond the seas.
Mr. Burnup who had fortunately returned from abroad was again head of the averages with 69.75, and Mr. Hutchings followed him closely with 64.66, while nine batsmen had an average of over 25. Fielder took 158 wickets for 19.74, and Blythe 90 for 19.16. It must also be remembered that Blythe could not play in seven matches owing to an injury to his bowling hand. Huish took fifty-six wickets. The fielding generally was brilliant and the catching excellent.
I must end these notes and will merely ask my readers to excuse any inaccuracies as I fear there must be some, and in conclusion I desire to record my grateful thanks to Mr. Ashley Cooper for the assistance he has rendered me, and also for allowing me to see his Form at a Glance, and other records which he has so carefully and with such trouble prepared.