CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1947

Laurie Fishlock

The first player to complete 1,000 runs when big cricket was resumed last season, LAURENCE BARNARD FISHLOCK stood out as England's best left-hander, for Paynter had retired and Leyland was finishing his distinguished career. Fishlock's sporting history is a tale of a great enthusiast for games, and he climbed to the top by sheer perseverance. Born at Battersea on January 2, 1907, he inherited a love for cricket from his father, and as a youngster he played for All Saints' Choir, Battersea, in League cricket in the London parks, at Herne Hill, Wandsworth and Battersea. At his elementary school his talent was recognised and he was chosen for representative matches, but did not intend to take up games as a professional. After a spell at a technical school he spent seven years as an engineer, meanwhile earning such distinction with Dulwich Hamlet F.C. as an outside-left that he gained his England amateur cap. In the summer Fishlock played cricket for a wandering club, Crusaders, which developed W. H. Livsey, the old Hampshire wicket-keeper; but there was little money in those days for engineers and he decided to become a football professional with Crystal Palace while still retaining his job. Soon he found that football clashed with his work and he wanted a steady summer income. So without any personal recommendation he wrote to Surrey for a trial and owing to the promise he showed as a left-arm medium pace bowler he was taken on the staff.

Kennington Oval was well known to him because as a youngster he used to spend all his spare time there watching the great players. His special favourite was Jack Hobbs and when stumps were drawn each evening he used to proceed with his friends to the nearest park and endeavour to put into practice the various strokes he had seen executed by the masters. In 1930 he joined Surrey and spent four seasons with the Minor Counties side before appearing in the first eleven.

In bowling Fishlock never advanced, but he progressed up the batting order until he opened the innings. His greatest day was in 1934 when he went in first with his hero, Jack Hobbs. Next season he hit his first century for Surrey against Warwickshire at the Oval and in 1936 he showed such wonderful form that he was chosen for two Tests against India and given a place in G. O. Allen's team for Australia in preference to Paynter. Subsequent events proved that the selectors made a grave error in leaving Paynter behind, especially as Fishlock did not accomplish what was expected of him. In his first match in Australia he hit 91 against Western Australia who included Grimmett, but some failures followed and Fishlock, over anxious to justify himself, lost confidence. By this time the Tests had begun; but when he might have overcome his bad patch he fractured a bone in his right hand while batting. That put him out of action for six weeks, and the tour was almost over before he could play again, then he promptly hit a century in a country game.

Fishlock returned to Surrey as good as ever in 1937 and scored three centuries against Yorkshire; two at the Oval where he made 113 and 105. Few cricketers have accomplished such a feat against the Northerners. By the time war came in 1939, Fishlock had volunteered for the Police Reserve; but ability as an engineer led him to resuming his former occupation and he spent the six years of hostilities in London making temperature oil and air gauges for the R.A.F. He also became a physical training instructor in the Home Guard. He played in some wartime cricket and appeared in two of the Victory matches against Australia in 1945.

Despite his brilliant form last summer the selectors did not forget his 1936-7 failures in Australia and he was not picked for the trials at Lord's and Canterbury; but up and down the country players and public agreed that he was among our seven best batsmen. One example of Fishlock's worth to Surrey in 1946 occurred in the match at Derby. Surrey stood in danger of an innings defeat when Gover, last man, joined Fishlock with the total 157 for nine wickets. Fishlock then took his score from 86 to 151, the last stand adding 79, and Surrey set Derbyshire to make 123 for victory. Next Fishlock excelled himself in the field. He caught Denis Smith at deep-square leg; moved up to short leg where he caught Townsend, ran out Hodgkinson, and caught Rhodes at forward short-leg; so instead of being overwhelmed Surrey almost turned the tables. Only twenty days remained before the date for the team to sail to Australia when M.C.C. announced that Fishlock, along with Edrich and James Langridge, would complete the side.

Of medium height, Fishlock is essentially a front of the wicket batsman. His most attractive strokes are the cover and straight drives and, like all left-handers, he scores freely in the neighbourhood between square and long leg, by quick judgement and fast running he gets full value for every stroke. His experience and training as a footballer make him an ideal outfield, and many batsmen have learned that it is unwise to try and steal a single when he is about, close to the wicket.

© John Wisden & Co