Grace, Hobbs, Bradman and who else? (1963)

Six giants of the Wisden century

Neville Cardus

I have been asked by the Editor of Wisden to write appreciations of six great cricketers of the past hundred years. I am honoured by this invitation, but it puts me in an invidious position. Which ever player I choose for this representative little gallery I am bound to leave out an important name. My selection of immortal centenarians is as follows:-- W.G. Grace, Sir Jack Hobbs, Sir Donald Bradman, Tom Richardson, S.F. Barnes and Victor Trumper.

But where -- I can already hear in my imagination a thousand protesting voices (including my own)--where are Ranji, Spofforth, Rhodes, J.T. Tyldesley, who, in one rubber v. Australia, was the only professional batsman in England thought good enough to play for his country on the strength of his batting alone? Where are Macartney, Aubrey Faulkner, O'Reilly, Keith Miller, Woolley, Lindwall, Sir Leonard Hutton? And where are many other illustrious names, Australian and English?

I'll give reasons why my six have been picked. There have been, there still are, many cricketers who possess the gifts to bat brilliantly, skilfully and prosperously. There have been, there still are, many bowlers capable of wonderful and destructive arts. But there have been a few who have not only contributed handsome runs and taken worthy wickets by the hundred, but also have given to the technique and style of cricket a new twist, a new direction.

These creative players have enriched the game by expanding in a fresh way some already established method. One or two of them have actually invented a technical trick of their own.

Sadly for their posterity, they have often been the experimental unfulfilled pioneers, such as B.J.T. Bosanquet, who was the first bowler to baffle great batsmen in Test cricket by means of the googly. J.B. King, a Philadelphian, demonstrated the potentialities of a swerving ball. My immortal six were at one and the same time masters of the old and initiators of the new.


W.G. GRACE

In recent years his great bulk has seemed to recede. Others following long after him have left his performances statistically behind. In his career he scored 54,896 runs, average 39.55 He also took 2,876 wickets, average 17.92 He scored 126 hundreds in first-class matches, a number exceeded by Sir Jack Hobbs, Hendren, Hammond, Mead, Sutcliffe, Woolley and Sir Leonard Hutton.

None of these, not even Sir Jack, dominated for decades all other players, none of them lasted so long, or wore a beard of his commanding growth. In the summer of 1871 his aggregate of runs was 2,739, average 78.25. The next best batsman that year was Richard Daft, average 37.

A Hobbs, a Bradman, a Hutton, a Compton might easily any year amass more than 2,000 runs, averaging round about the 70's. But some other batsmen will be running them close, as far as figures go, averaging 50, 60 and so on.

Grace, in 1871, achieved an average which was proof that he stood alone in consistent skill, twice as skilful as the next best! His career ranged from the age of 17, in 1865, until 1908, when he was nearing sixty years. He had turned the fiftieth year of his life when for the Gentlemen v. the Players at Kennington Oval he scored 82 and one of the attack he coped with magisterially was none other than S.F. Barnes, approaching his best.

All these facts and figures tell us no more of the essential W.G. than we are told of Johann Sebastian Bach if all his fugues, cantatas, suites, and even the B Minor Mass, are added up.

In a way he invented what we now call modern cricket. His national renown packed cricket grounds everywhere. He laid the foundations of county cricket economy. The sweep of his energy, his authority, and prowess, his personal presence, caused cricket to expand beyond a game. His bulk and stride carried cricket into the highways of our national life.

He became a representative Victorian, a father figure. People not particularly interested in cricket found the fact of W.G.'s eminence looming into their social consciousness. The Royal family (in those days too) inquired from time to time about his health -- a formal request, because W.G. was seldom, if ever, unwell.

We must not remember him as the Grand Old Man of his closing years. He was an athlete, a champion thrower of the cricket ball, a jumper of hurdles. Yet, though I have seen portraits of him taken in early manhood, in his late teens in fact, I have never seen a portrait of a beardless W.G. Is such a one in existence anywhere?

Ranjitsinhji wrote in his Jubilee book (or C.B. Fry wrote it for him) that "'W.G.' transformed the single stringed instrument into the many chorded lyre" which, translated, means that W.G. elaborated batsmanship, combined back-and-forward play for the first time, and perfected the technique of placing the ball.

When he began to play cricket, round-arm bowling had been the fashion for some thirty years. He inherited a technique formed from an obsolete attack and soon he was belabouring over-arm fast bowling at ease--often on rough wickets. He murdered the fastest stuff right and left.

He kept his left leg so close to the ball when he played forward that an old professional of the late 1900's told me (long after his retirement) that W.G. never let me see daylight between pads and bat. "Ah used to try mi best to get'im out on a good wicket, then suddenly summat 'give' in me, and we all knew it were hopeless." If W.G. kept religiously to a rigid right foot in his batting, we must take it for granted, from the greatness he carved out of the game, that this principle suited all the needs and circumstances of cricket as he had to meet them.

It is stupid to argue that he couldn't have scored heavily against bowlers of 1963. He mastered the bowling problems presented in his period. Logically, then, we can demonstrate that he would have mastered those of today.

W.G.'s mastery over speed compelled bowlers to think again. Thus, ironically, he was the cause of the first extensive developments of spin. A.C.M. Croome played with Grace (later he became cricket correspondent of The Times, one of the most learned). "The first season I saw Grace play," he wrote, "was 1876. In August he scored 318 v. Yorkshire. Earlier in the week he had made 177 v. Nottinghamshire, and on the previous Friday and Saturday 344 at Canterbury v. Kent. He scored 1200 runs in first-class cricket during that month of August, yet he found time before September came to run up to Grimsby and score 400 not out for United South against twenty-two of the district. That would be a normal month for him if he could begin again today, knowing that even bowlers and wicket-keepers know now all about the 'second line of defence,' and enjoy the advantages of true wickets, longer overs and shorter boundaries.

He conquered the entire world and range of the game -- 15 centuries v. the Players, so that in 18 years of his reign the Players won only seven times. He scored 1,000 runs in May 1895, within two months of his 47th birthday, scored two hundreds in one match v. Kent; took 17 wickets in one and the same match v. Notts; and took all ten wickets in an innings v. Oxford University.

He was cricket of his period personified; he was one of the eminent Victorians; he had the large girth and humanity of the foremost Englishmen of his epoch. Nobody before him, nobody following greatly in his train, has loomed to his stature or so much stood for cricket, or done as richly for it.


SIR J. B. HOBBS

Sir Jack is the only cricketer of whom we might fairly say that he directly descended from W.G. fully-armed, like Jove. It was Hobbs who first challenged the Old Master's primacy as Centurion, passing his record of 126 hundreds, and going as far as 197 in first-class cricket.

He commanded in his earliest years a technique inherited from W.G. and his period, adding to it the strokes and protective method evolved from having to cope with the more or less modern swinging and googly attack.

It is not generally realised that Hobbs learned to bat in an environment of technique and procedure very much like those in which W.G. came to his high noon. The attack which Hobbs as a young man had to face day-by-day was more or less concentrated on the off-stump or just outside it. Bowlers were allowed to use only one ball through a team's innings; as a consequence they were obliged to make the best possible use of an old one by means of spin, variations of length, pace and direction, or by sheer pace. Only a few were developing back of the hand trickery in the early 1900's -- Bosanquet, Vine of Sussex and Braund were three of these.

Yet in 1907 when South Africa sent a team to England containing at least four back-of-the-hand spinners -- Vogler, Faulkner, Gordon White and Schwarz -- Hobbs, then aged 24 and half, was able to find the answer to the new witchery (as the old cricketers called it then) and teach the remedy to others.

Hobbs was, of course, not the only batsman to demonstrate how the googly should be played. Johnny Tyldesley, Jessop, R.H. Spooner, Braund and George Gunn mastered it up to a point. But Hobbs gathered together in his method all the logical counters for the ball that turned the other way. Moreover, on all sorts of pitches, fast, slow, sticky or matting, here or in Australia or in South Africa, even on the horrible spitting and kicking pitches of Melbourne after rain and hot sun, he asserted his mastery.

Confronted by every manner of attack so far conceived and rendered practical by the mortal skill of bowlers in every kind of circumstance, in fine weather or foul, Hobbs reigned supreme. He must be named the Complete Batsman, the Master of all, a later W.G. in fact.

His cricket extended from 1905 to 1934. He opened an innings for England when he was within four months of his 48th birthday. In his career he scored 61,237 runs, average 50.65. Like W.G. he added to the batsman's armour and so, by forcing the attack to resort to fresh ideas, he gave cricket a new twist.

Pad play among the Victorians was not done. It was a caddish professional, don't you know, from Nottinghamshire, named Arthur Shrewsbury, who began to exploit pads as a second line of defence. Hobbs seldom, until towards the end, used pads merely obstructively. He perfected footwork which brought the batsman not only to the line of the ball, spin or swerve, but behind it.

We can divide the reign of Hobbs into two periods, each different in general method from the other. Before the war of 1914 he was quick on the attack on swift feet, strokes all over the field, killing but never brutal, with no strength wasted or strained, most of the strokes governed by the wrists, after the body's balance had provided the motive power.

After the resumption of cricket in 1919, when he was moving towards his 37th birthday, he entered his second period, and cut out some of his most daring strokes. He ripened to a classic. His style became as serenely poised as any ever witnessed on a cricket field, approached only by Hammond (another great player I have been obliged to omit from my Six!).

The astonishing fact about Hobbs is that of the 130 centuries to his name in county cricket, 85 were scored after the war of 1914-18; that is, after he had entered middle-age. From 1919 to 1928 his seasons' yields were as follows--the more his years increased, the more he harvested:

19192,594runs,average60.32
19202,827""58.89
1921321""78.00
(a season of illness)
19222,552""62.24
19232,087""37.78
19242,098""58.16
19253,024""70.32
19262,949""77.60
19271,641""52.93
19282,542""82.00

From his 43rd to his 48th birthday Hobbs scored some 11,000 runs, averaging round about the sixties. Yet he once said that he would wish to be remembered for the way he batted before 1914. "But, Jack," his friends protested, "you got bags of runs after 1919." "Maybe," replied Hobbs, most modest of cricketers, "but they were nearly all made off the back foot."

His baptism to first-class cricket happened under the eye of and in the actual presence of W.G. -- on Easter Monday, 1905, at Kennington Oval in a match between Surrey and the Gentlemen of England. He made 18 in his first innings, tieing with Ernest Hayes for top-score.

Next innings, his genius announced itself plainly: 88 in two hours. Next morning The Times ventured a prophecy: Hobbs had done well enough to justify the belief that he will prove a useful addition to the Surrey XI.

The truth about his career cannot be emphasised too often. In every changing circumstance of the game, on every sort of pitch, against every form of bowling as it developed during the quarter of a century of his mastery, he went his way, calmly in control, never arrogant, full of the spring and pride of early manhood, then quietly enjoying the ripeness that is all.

Twice he asserted his command on difficult turf, with the Australians hungry for a victory close at hand. Twice, with Herbert Sutcliffe, he frustrated them -- at The Oval in 1926, and at Melbourne in 1928.

At Melbourne, England needing 332 to win, were trapped on a Melbourne gluepot. The general idea in the crowd and amongst cricketers was that England would do well to scrape or flash 80 or so all out. The score was 105 for one when Hobbs was leg-before. The match was won by England, Sutcliffe 135. And Hobbs was the architect.

We nearly lost him in 1921. He was attacked by acute appendicitis during the Test match v. Australia at Leeds. He was rushed to the operating table. The celebrated surgeon, Sir Berkeley (later Lord) Moynihan, told Hobbs afterwards, "You couldn't have lived five hours."

I never saw him make an uneducated stroke. When he misjudged the nature of a ball he could, naturally enough, make the wrong right stroke. He not only enlarged and subtilised the art of batsmanship; he, like W.G. widened and strengthened cricket's appeal and history.

He was in his 44th year, let us remember, when he passed W.G.'s roll of 126 centuries. The game will retain the image of him in its Hall of Fame -- the twiddle of his bat before he bent slightly, to face and look at the attack; the gentle accurate to-an-inch push for a single to get off the mark, the stroke so nicely timed that he could, had he wished, have walked it. The Trumperesque Hobbs of the pre-1914-19 days, lithe, but his slender physique, concentrated and yet graceful! Then the vintage Hobbs, the Master of our time, biding his own, and often getting himself out as he reached his hundred.

Every honour that the game -- and the nation -- could bestow came to him, not the least of all, in lasting value, the pride and affection of cricketers the world over.


TOM RICHARDSON

I choose Richardson as one of my Six, not on the supposition that he was the greatest fast bowler of the century, though certainly he was in the running.

I take him as the fully realised personification of the fast bowler as every schoolboy dreams and hopes he might one day be himself. Richardson was, in his heyday, a handsome, swarthy giant, lithe, muscular, broad of shoulder, and of apparently inexhaustible energy.

He bowled fast, with a breakback obtained by body action and the swing of the upper part over the left leg at the moment of release, the right hand sweeping away nearly at a right angle to the line of flight. He could bring the ball back inches on Sam Apted's most heavily rolled grassless stretch of turf.

Herbert Strudwick loves to tell how when he first kept wicket for Surrey, Richardson pitched a very fast one rather outside the off-stump. Strudwick moved, naturally enough, towards the off, in anticipation. But the ball, beating the bat, just missed the leg-stump and went for four byes to Strudwick's excusable amazement.

Richardson didn't go in for swing or seam refinements. In his period it wasn't possible for any fast bowler to do so. Only one and the same ball was at his service during the batting side's longest innings.

Moreover, the seam of a cricket ball wasn't as pronounced in Richardson's day as it is in ours. We need to bear in mind this fact -- that Richardson had to get through most of his thousand overs a season using an old ball.

In the four summers of 1894-7 he bowled some five thousand eight hundred overs and -- take your breath -- took 1,005 wickets:--

OversRunsWicketsAverage
1894936.32,02419610.32
18951690.14,17029014.37
18961656.24,01524616.32
18971603.43,94527314.45

Between the English seasons of 1894 and 1895 he bowled, in Australia, 3,554 balls, taking 69 wickets at 23.42 each; and after his haul of 273 wickets at home in 1897 (and his 1,600 overs), he went to Australia again and, bowled at last to his knees, took only 54 wickets, average 29.51.

Yet on his return to England the great giant achieved an herculean revival, his season's plunder amounting to 161 wickets, average 19.54, in more than twelve hundred overs. All done, remember, or nearly all, with a seamless ball.

In his career, extending from 1892 to 1905, his performances, in statistics, work out at 2,105 wickets, average 18.42, from nearly 16,000 overs.

He, like most fast bowlers of the 1890's, was expected in dry weather to bowl all day, or the better part of it. Fast bowlers of the 1890's shared the White Man's burden in hot weather, and were given rest (now and again) when the rain swamped the ground so much that they couldn't stand up.

Wickets were not covered in the 1900's. At Old Trafford, in 1902, when Victor Trumper scored a century before lunch, Lockwood was unable to bowl or get a foothold until mid-afternoon. He then came on and took six for 48.

Lockwood, of course, opened the Surrey county attack with Richardson. Ranjitsinhji maintained that Lockwood was the more dangerous fast bowler of the two. "On a good wicket Tom's speed and breakback needed watching, but I knew what was coming. With Lockwood I had to keep awake for his slower ball. Lockwood was temperamental, an artist, moody. One day his fires were sullen and slow. Batsmen played him with impunity--poor innocents, cultivating their gardens on the slopes of a Vesuvius, which next day erupted."

In Australia, Lockwood was a dead failure -- his Test figures for his only rubber in Australia were 124.5 overs, 31 maidens, 340 runs, five wickets. But in Australia, under the hottest suns experienced there during the century, Richardson's labours were heroic, unparalleled.

Today they would probably be considered servile. In the service of Stoddart's team of 1894-95, in five Test matches he bowled more than 300 five-ball overs for 849 runs and 26 wickets. At Sydney, December 1894, when Australia scored 586, Richardson sweated and toiled for 53 overs for five wickets and 181 runs.

The greatest of his lion-hearted endeavours was at Manchester in the Test Match there of 1896. He bowled 68 five-ball overs in Australia's first innings of 412. On the third and last day, Australia needed 125 to win -- England having followed on.

Richardson nearly won the match. For three hours he attacked without an over's rest, taking six of the seven wickets which fell before Australia scraped home. A missed catch frustrated Richardson at the pinch. His devotion -- and his will-power and stamina -- is faintly indicated by his figures for the match:--

110 overs 3 balls, 39 maidens, 244 runs, 13 wickets.

The one favour granted to Richardson, but hardly a compensation for bondage to an old ball -- was the pace of the wickets he bowled on; they usually had a certain hardness and resilience.

Strudwick, again, is witness; he tells that often he had to take Richardson standing back to him, of course, and standing pretty well high up, near his middle. Richardson seldom, if ever, bounced a ball deliberately. He was a good-natured soul,loving a pint of ale and a good laugh at the long day's end.

In Richardson's period, bowlers exploited off theory on hard, dry pitches, hardly a fieldsman on the other side of the wicket excepting mid-on. When I was a small boy I saw J.T. Tyldesley pull square a short ball from Richardson, the only loose one on a scorching sun-streamed afternoon. The stroke dropped short of the boundary, was retrieved an inch or two from the edge and thrown back to the middle by -- believe it or not -- Richardson.

The Surrey mid-on had seen the ball pass him and was content to let it go. Richardson who had been attacking with his long striding run for hours and thought differently.

He was indeed the ideal fast bowler, aiming at the stumps, always on the attack. His leap before the right arm wheeled over was superb in poise. Never did he send down a defensive ball. He would have been too proud.

"He tried," A.C. MacLaren told me, "to get a wicket every ball. Honest Tom!" Let us remember him by those two words of MacLaren's tribute -- Honest Tom.


VICTOR TRUMPER

It is futile to ask who was the greatest batsman? There are different orders of greatness. Talent, even genius, is conditioned by the material circumstances in which it is developed.

Victor Trumper was the embodiment of gallantry as he made his runs. He was a chivalrous batsman, nothing mean or discourteous in any of his movements or intentions at the wicket. "He had no style," wrote C.B. Fry of him, "but he was all style." But the most handsome compliment ever made to him, or to any other cricketer, was A.C. MacLaren's: "I was supposed to be a batsman of the Grand Manner. Compared to Victor I was a cab-horse to a Derby winner."

His stance was relaxed, but watchful, a panther ready to spring. Yet this panther simile suggests a certain cruelty and hungriness. Trumper scored his runs generously, as though out of an abundance of them in his possession. He, so to say, donated runs over the field, bestowing them like precious jewels to us, to the crowd, to the bowlers even. He wasn't, as Bradman was, a killer. His strokes didn't stun or insult a bowler.

I have seen bowlers applaud the glory of Trumper's strokes; he put them, with the rest of us, under an enchantment. Do I exaggerate? I confess that whenever I write about Trumper I am in danger of exhausting a store of superlatives. So I'll be content for the moment to quote from the formal restrained prose of the M.C.C.'s Cricket Scores and Biographies:--

"For Trumper the English season of 1902 was a triumphal progress, and those who were fortunate to witness his amazing brilliance will never be able to forget the unrivalled skill and resource he displayed. On 'sticky' wickets he hit with freedom, whilst everybody else were puddling about the crease, unable to make headway and content if they could keep up their wickets."

The season of 1902 was the spin-bowler's dream of heaven. Rain and hot sun day by day. Wickets uncovered. When the pitch dried the ball whipped in, whipped away, reared and kept low, changing direction and pace, sometimes startling the bowlers themselves. And in 1902 Trumper had to cope with the greatest spinners the game had so far evolved -- Rhodes, Blythe, Haigh, Wass (fast from leg stump to the off), Walter Mead, J.T. Hearne, S.F. Barnes, to name a few. In this year of 1902 Trumper scored 2,570 runs, average 48.49, with eleven centuries. His rate of scoring was round about 40 an hour, and 1902 was his first experience of vicious English wickets, for in 1899, his first visit to this country, the summer had been dry.

In the upstairs tea-room at Kennington Oval hangs a photo of Victor showing him jumping out to drive, yards from the crease, bat aloft behind him, the left leg prancing like a charger's in the Bayeux tapestry.

A certain England batsman, vintage 1950, looked at this picture in my company and said, "Was he really any good?" "Why do you ask?" was my natural question. "Well," said this International, "just look where he is -- stumped by yards if he misses."

This sceptical England batsman had never in his life been so far out of his crease. But Trumper was stumped only once in all the 89 Test innings of his career. And only five times was he lbw.

Like Hobbs, he led the way to the counter-attack of the googly bowling, a new problem to harass batsmen of his period. In Australia, 1910-11, against the superb South African back-of-the-hand bowlers, such as Vogler, Schwarz, Pegler and Faulkner, his Test scores in the rubber were 27 (run out), 34, 159, 214 (not out), 28, 7, 87, 31 and 74 not out -- 661 runs, average 94.42. Let me quote Jack Fingleton: "He teased Percy Sherwell, the South African captain. When a fieldsman was shifted, Trumper deliberately hit the next ball where the man had been... Later, somebody commiserated with Sherwell at having his captaincy and his fieldsmen torn to tatters while Trumper made 214. Whereupon Sherwell said, 'Ah, don't talk about it. We have seen batting today.'"

For six balls apparently alike in pitch, or pace or spin, Trumper could produce six different strokes. His footwork was quick, graceful and effortless. With the easiest swing of the bat he could drive an extraordinary distance. His cutting and his leg glancing were performed by wrists of rare flexibility. "He played a defensive stroke," wrote C.B. Fry, "as a last resort."

At Old Trafford, in 1902, A.C. MacLaren lost the toss for England on a slow wicket which, he knew, would turn difficult by mid-afternoon. Lockwood was unable to get a sure foothold until shortly before lunch. So MacLaren's plan was, as he himself put it, to keep Victor quiet for an hour or two. Then, with the pitch developing tantrums, Australia could be disposed of at ease. MacLaren's reserve bowlers were Rhodes, F.S. Jackson, Tate and Braund, and they were ordered to operate defensively. "I set my field with the inner and outer ring," said MacLaren. Some of the best cricket brains and skill in England concentrated to keep Victor quiet. At lunch Australia's score was 173 for one, Trumper a century.

So easily did Trumper bat, though his rate of scoring frequently equalled Jessop's, never for a moment did he make an impression of violence or hurry. His every movement was lovely to see.

Against Victoria for New South Wales at Sydney, in 1905, on a bowler's wicket, he scored 101 out of 139 in fifty-seven minutes. On a Melbourne gluepot, in 1904, he scored 74 out of Australia's all out total of 122 v. England -- England's bowlers being Rhodes (who took 15 wickets in the match for 124), Hirst, Relf and Braund.

In 1913, playing in a match at Goulburn for the benefit of J.A. O'Connor, Australian Test cricketer, Victor scored 231 in ninety minutes. In 1899 he scored 300 not out v. Sussex in five hours. In 1902 he scored 62 out of 80 in fifty minutes v. England at Sheffield.

His achievements in high-class Grade cricket in Sydney have become historic. For his team, Paddington, in 1897 and 1898, he averaged 204, with 1,021 runs, when he was only twenty years old.

These statistics, chosen at random, tell their tale. But not by counting Victor's runs, not by looking at any records, will you get the slightest idea of Trumper's glorious cricket. You might as well count the notes of the music of Mozart.

He was sadly on his way to a fatal illness when he came to England in 1909, for the last time, but a flash of the dauntless Victor came out at The Oval in an innings for Australia of 73, scored against D.W. Carr (googly), Barnes, Woolley, Rhodes, and Sharp. And, as we have noted, his genius burnt in wonderful flame and colour against South Africa in Australia in 1910-11.

But it was burning itself out. He died, only 37 years old, in June 1915; and the Sydney streets were packed with sorrowing crowds as the funeral passed by.

He was good-looking, clean-shaven (a rare and boyish thing in those days), weighing 12 stones, and 5 feet 10 inches of height. He was, as everybody vowed who came his way, even the bowlers, a quiet but delightful companion. The gods of cricket loved him, so he died young.


S.F. BARNES

Most cricketers and students of the game belonging to the period in which S.F. Barnes played were agreed that he was the bowler of the century. Australians as well as English voted him unanimously the greatest.

Clem Hill, the famous Australian left-handed batsman, who in successive Test innings scored 99, 98, 97 v. A.C. MacLaren's England team of 1901-2, told me that on a perfect wicket Barnes could swing the new ball in and out very late, could spin from the ground, pitch on the leg stump and miss the off.

At Melbourne, in December 1911, Barnes in five overs overwhelmed Kellaway, Bardsley, Hill and Armstrong for a single. Hill was cleaned bowled by him. The ball pitched outside my leg-stump, safe to the push of my pads, I thought. Before I could 'pick up' my bat, my off-stump was knocked silly.

Barnes was creative, one of the first bowlers really to use the seam of a new ball and combine swing so subtly with spin that few batsmen could distinguish one from the other. He made a name before a new ball was available to an attack every so many runs or overs. He entered first-class cricket at a time when one ball had to suffice for the whole duration of the batting side's innings.

He was professional in the Lancashire league when A.C. MacLaren, hearing of his skill, invited him to the nets at Old Trafford. "He thumped me on the left thigh. He hit my gloves from a length. He actually said, 'Sorry, sir!' and I said, 'Don't be sorry, Barnes. You're coming to Australia with me.'"

MacLaren on the strength of a net practice with Barnes chose him for his England team in Australia of 1901-2. In the first Test of that rubber, Barnes took five for 65 in 35 overs, 1 ball, and one for 74 in 16 overs. In the second Test he took six for 42 and seven for 121 and he bowled 80 six-ball overs in this game. He broke down, leg strain, in the third Test and could bowl no more for MacLaren, who winning the first Test, lost the next four of the rubber.

Barnes bowled regularly for Lancashire in 1902, taking more than a hundred wickets in the season, averaging around 20. Wisden actually found fault with his attack this year, stating that he needed to cultivate an off break. In the late nineties he had appeared almost anonymously in the Warwickshire XI.

Throughout his career he remained mysteriously aloof, appearing in the full sky of first-class cricket like a meteor -- declaring the death of the most princely of batsmen! He preferred the reward and comparative indolence of Saturday league matches to the daily toil of the county tourney.

Here is one of the reasons of his absence from the England XI between 1902 and 1907. He didn't go to Australia as one of P. F. Warner's team of 1903-4 and took no part of the 1905 England v. Australia rubber. The future historian of cricket may well gape and wonder why, in the crucial Test of 1902, Barnes didn't play for England at Manchester, where the rubber went to Australia by three runs only.

Barnes had bowled for England at Sheffield in the third and previous Test, taking six for 49 and one for 50. It is as likely as conjecture about cricket ever can be likely that had Barnes taken part in the famous Manchester Test of 1902 England wouldn't have lost the rubber by a hair's breadth.

He was in those days not an easy man to handle on the field of play. There was a Mephistophelian aspect about him. He didn't play cricket out of any green field starry-eyed realism. He rightly considered that his talents were worth estimating in cash values.

In his old age he mellowed, yet remained humorously cynical. Sir Donald Bradman argued that W.J. O'Reilly must have been a greater bowler than Barnes because he commanded every ball developed in Barnes's day -- plus the googly. I told Barnes of Bradman's remark. "It's quite true," he said, "I never bowled the 'googly.'" Then with a glint in his eye, he added, "I never needed it."

Against Australia he took 106 wickets, average 21.58. Only Trumble and Peel have improved on these figures in Tests between England and Australia (I won't count Turner's 101 wickets at 16.53 because he bowled in conditions not known to Barnes and Trumble).

Barnes had no opportunities to pick up easy victims. He played only against Australia and South Africa and, in all Test matches, his haul was 189 at 16.43 each. On matting in South Africa when South Africa's batsmanship, at its greatest, was represented by H.W. Taylor, A.D. Nourse, L.J. Tancred, J.W. Zulch, in 1913-14, he was unplayable, with 49 wickets in Tests at 10.93 each.

Yet against this fantastically swinging, bouncing, late-turning attack, Herbie Taylor scored 508 runs, average 50.80, perhaps the most skilful of all Test performances by a batsman. He was a man of character (and still is). At Sydney on the 1911-12 tour, J.W.H.T. Douglas opened the England attack using the new ball with Frank Foster. Barnes was furious. He sulked as he sent down 35 overs for three wickets and 107 runs (in the match he took only four for 179). England lost by 146 runs.

At Melbourne, Australia batted first and Barnes this time had the new ball. We all know with what results. Australia suffered defeat -- and also in the ensuing three games. The destruction wreaked by Barnes, and all his great days, was mostly done by the ball which, bowled from a splendid height, seemed to swing in to the leg stump then spin away from the pitch, threatening the off-stump. Barnes has assured me that he actually turned the ball by finger twist.

The wonder of his career is that he took 77 of his 106 Australian Test wickets on the wickets of Australia when they were flawless and the scourge of all ordinarily good bowlers. He clean bowled Victor Trumper for 0 at Sydney in the 1907-8 rubber, then Fielder and J. N. Crawford in the following Test, dismissed Trumper for a pair, so Trumper was out for 0 in three successive Test innings.

Barnes remained a deadly bowler long after he went out of first-class cricket. So shrewdly did he conserve his energy that in 1928 when he was in his mid-fifties, the West Indies team of that year faced him in a club match and unanimously agreed he was the best they had encountered in the season.

For Staffordshire, in his fifty-sixth year, he took 76 wickets at 8.21 each. Round about this period a young player, later to become famous in International company, was one of the Lancashire Second XI playing against Staffordshire. His captain won the toss and the Lancashire lads went forth to open the innings against Barnes.

As this colt was No. 6 in the batting order he put on his blazer and was about to leave the pavilion to watch Barnes from behind. But his captain told him to go back to the dressing room and get on his pads. "But," said the colt, "I'm not in until number six and I'd like to look at Barnes." His captain insisted. The young colt returned to the dressing room. "And there," he said "there were four of us all padded up waiting. And we were all out in the middle and back again in half an hour."

Barnes had a splendid upright action, right arm straight over. He ran on easy strides, not a penn'orth of energy wasted. He fingered a cricket ball sensitively, like a violinist his fiddle. He always attacked.

"Why do these bowlers today send down so many balls the batsman needn't play?" he asked while watching a Test match a few years ago. "I didn't. I never gave'em any rest." His hatchet face and his suggestion of physical and mental leanness and keenness were part of Barnes's cricket and outlook on the game. He was relentless, a chill wind of antagonism blew from him on the sunniest day. As I say, he mellowed in full age and retirement. He came to Lord's for Test matches heading for his ninetieth year, leading blind Wilfred Rhodes about.

As we think of the unsmiling destroyer of all the batsmen that came his way, let us also remember Barnes immortalised in that lovely verse of Alan Ross:

Then, elbows linked, but straight as sailors

On a tilting deck, they move. One, square-shouldered as a tailor's

Model, leans over whispering in the other's ear;

'Go easy, Steps here. This end bowling'

Turning, I watch Barnes guide Rhodes into fresher air,

As if to continue an innings, though Rhodes may only play by ear.


SIR DONALD BRADMAN

Sir Donald Bradman (hereinafter to be named Bradman or The Don), must be called the most masterful and prolific maker of runs the game has so far known. He was, in short, a great batsman. Critics have argued that he was mechanical. So is a majestically flying aeroplane.

The difference between Bradman and, say, Victor Trumper as batsmen, was in fact the difference between an aeroplane and a swallow in flight. But it is nonsense to say that Bradman's batsmanship was without personality or character, or nature, or that it was in the slightest anonymous. He had a terrifically dynamic style. It was thrilling to see him gathering together his energy at the last second to hook, a stroke somehow reminding me of a boxer's swinging stunning right.

Like all great players, he made his strokes very late. He didn't move at all until the ball was on him; then the brilliant technique shot forth concentrated energy -- and the axe fell. All the strokes were at his command. After he had appeared almost for the first time in an Australian State match, J.V. Ryder, Australian captain, was asked, "How does this young Bradman bat?" And Ryder, a man of few but eloquent words, replied: "He belts the hell out of everything he can reach."

Bradman's achievements stagger the imagination. No writer of boys' fiction would dare to invent a hero who performed with Bradman's continual consistency. Nobody would even suspend disbelief as he read such fiction. Between 1927 and 1948 he scored 28,067 runs. (The war interrupted his genius at its high noon.)

In his career as cricketer he scored these 28,067 runs with an average of 95.14, an average for life twice as high as that of most other master batsmen. He made 117 centuries in 338 innings, forty-three times not out -- a century every third time he walked to the wicket. He scored 6,996 runs in Test matches, average 99.94.

He scored 1,000 runs between April 30 and May 31 in an English season. He scored 1,000 runs in a season sixteen times. He scored 974 runs in one and the same rubber v. England. He scored a triple Test match century -- 309 -- in a day. He scored 13 centuries in the English season of 1938. He scored six centuries in consecutive innings. He hit thirty runs in one over. He scored two centuries in the same Test match, v. India.

Moreover, I think he knew at the time that he was about to do these extraordinary things; for he planned everything. No cricketer has had a quicker, shrewder brain than Bradman's.

At Leeds in 1934, Australia bowled England out on a beautiful turf for 200. Then, at the afternoon's fall, Australia lost three wickets for 39. That evening Bradman cancelled dinner with me, saying he was going to bed early as, next day, it would be necessary for him to score 200 at least! I reminded him that on his previous Test appearance at Leeds, in 1930, he had scored 334. The law of averages is against you pulling-off another big score here tomorrow in a Test, I said. He replied: "I don't believe in the law of averages." Next day he set about scoring 304.

The extraordinary point of this innings is that until this Leeds Test, Bradman had battled in the rubber with a certain lack of concentration, as though the effects of the Jardine-Larwood bodyline assaults on him of 1932-33 were still shaking him.

At Nottingham and Lord's, he played fast bowling with a rhetorical slash, a quite wild impetuosity. Now, at Leeds, in a serious hour for Australia, he could summon back at one call the old cool, premeditated craft and foresight.

I asked him once, in Melbourne, to give me some idea of how he did it all. "Every ball for me is the first ball," then, he added, taking away my breath, "and I never think there's a possibility of anybody getting me out."

The critics say he couldn't bat on a turning pitch. Hedley Verity held the opposite opinion -- from experience. It is a fact, though, that The Don seemed occasionally not to face up to a sticky pitch, on principle. He argued that wickets should be covered from rain, especially in his own country. It wasn't fair that a side should bat in perfect run-getting conditions one day. Then next day, the other side could be trapped on a spitting pitch.

Bradman had all the attributes needed to cope with the spinning, kicking ball --swift feet, and an eye rapid and comprehensive. Against Larwood's devastating body-line attack, dangerous to breastbone and skull, Bradman in the Tests scored 396 runs, average 56.57. Jardine reduced his powers temporarily by half; but no other mortal batsman could have coped with Larwood as Bradman coped with him.

In spite of Larwood's velocity and menace -- seven fieldsmen on the leg-or on-side -- Bradman was driving or punching to the vacant off-side bowling coming like lightning from a spot on or outside the leg stump, often rising shoulder high.

He first came to England in 1930, twenty-one years old. He began at Worcester with 236 in four and a half hours, twenty-eight boundaries. To Leicester he proceeded, to score 185 not out. Then, on the soft wicket v. Yorkshire, he scored 78. And a newspaper placard announced, 'Bradman fails'.

It was in 1930 that he exhibited, I think, the most wonderful batsmanship of his life, when during the Lord's Test match he came to the wicket after Ponsford had got out. In two hours and forty minutes before half-past six, he cut, drove and hooked the England attack, to the tune of 155.

J.C. White, the untouchable, was brought on immediately to keep The Don quiet. White's first ball, a good length, was slapped to the on-boundary, near the clock at the Nursery. Bradman leaped yards out of his crease; and the crack of his bat sent the Lord's pigeons flying in affrighted circles.

It was at Lord's, in 1938, during the M.C.C. v. Australians match that the effervescent J.W.A. Stephenson, a splendid opening bowler, appealed for lbw against Bradman, and Bradman had not yet got into double figures. Stephenson leapt skywards as he appealed. The near thing was negatived.

If the reply had been in the affirmative, I imagine Stephenson would have been the first into and beyond the barrier. Bradman went on to amass 278. He was ruthless. None the less, he didn't ever fail to respond to a bowler's challenge.

Nobody ever saw Bradman show mercy to a loose ball. If he went on the defensive, there was good reason. At Trent Bridge, in 1938, Australia followed-on after they had scored 411 in response to England's 658 for eight (declared). McCabe made history with a marvellous and gallant 232. But the pitch grew dusty and the closing day had a severe ordeal waiting for Bradman.

Early that day Bradman wrote home to the young lady he was later to marry, telling her that a job of work had to be done, but, he guessed, all would have turned out well for Australia long before his letter reached her. Bradman then set forth to Trent Bridge and saved the day by batting nearly six hours.

Never, as I say, did he play with sterile negation. He was a Test cricketer of our contemporary temper, realistic and without cant. He reacted to the environment in which he found himself.

He hadn't to play, as Trumper was obliged to play, in this country, in games limited to three days. If he didn't throw his wicket away as Trumper frequently did on reaching his hundred, the reason was that he played in a different economy of the game than Trumper ever knew.

If and when Bradman stayed at the wicket all day he not only put his team in a position pretty secure from defeat but into a position from which the Australian bowlers could attack, with time to bring in victory; also he was holding the crowd in thrall.

He was a born batsman, out of a remote part of his beloved Australia, never coached academically; consequently he was free to give rein to his innate and rare gifts. He was born, too, with a good brain. Nobody has excelled Bradman's cricket sense, his intuitions and understanding. He must be counted among Australia's cleverest, most closely calculating cricket captains.

After he had scored a triple century on a warm day at Leeds in 1930, he came from the field apparently cool, no sign of perspiration, not a buckle out of place, flannels immaculate, and, as the crowd roared him home, he seemed withdrawn and impersonal. People said that he lacked emotion. Maybe he was content to be the cause of emotion in others -- in bowlers, for example.

"Stripped to the truth," wrote Robertson- Glasgow, in a brilliant appreciation of Bradman in Wisden, "he was a solitary man with a solitary aim." Personally I have found in Sir Donald plenty of friendliness and humour. But, then, I was never called on to bowl or play cricket against him!

Discussing him entirely from the point of view of a writer on the game, I am happy to say that he was for me a constant spur to ideas. A newspaper column couldn't contain him. He was, as far as a cricketer can be, a genius.


© John Wisden & Co