Joseph Hardstaff (Nottinghamshire), one of the most stylish batsmen now before the public, was born at Kirkby-in-Ashfield on July 3, 1911. A son of Joe Hardstaff, who did much excellent work as a batsman for Nottinghamshire and is now a leading umpire, he showed, when a small child, signs of cricket ability which his father very naturally encouraged and helped to foster. After playing for the Nuncargate club, Hardstaff became associated with the Annesley Colliery team from which several other Nottinghamshire players have graduated into first-class cricket. Harold Larwood introduced him to the notice of the county authorities and at the age of sixteen Hardstaff joined the staff at Trent Bridge.
Showing great keenness to learn, Hardstaff eagerly absorbed the advice of James Iremonger, whose coaching materially assisted the pupil's development. When at the age of nineteen Hardstaff appeared for the first time in the county eleven he hit 53 not out against Lancashire, and as he became more reliable more frequent opportunities of playing with the first team were given to him. In 1934 he improved out of all knowledge, hitting four hundreds, scoring 1,714 runs and finishing second in the Nottinghamshire batting list with an average of 40.80. The following year he played for England against South Africa and going to Australia and New Zealand with the M. C. C. team of 1935-36 he proved himself the outstanding batsman of the tour; in all matches he obtained close upon 1,400 runs at an average of 53.76. At Sydney, against an Australian XI, he played innings of 230 not out and 63.
Consistent batting during the 1936 English season made his choice for the tour to Australia the following winter a practical certainty. On his second visit to the Antipodes, however, Hardstaff for a long time failed to do himself justice and it was difficult to account for his falling-away, but he did not lose heart and in the Fifth Test he batted four hours and scored 83 of a first innings total of 239. The experience on the tour did him all the good in the world. Last summer he surpassed all previous performances by scoring 2,540 runs and finishing second to Hammond in the English batting averages. The most successful batsman of the Tests against New Zealand, he made a hundred both at Lord's and the Oval and in five innings scored 350 runs. In County games he three times scored over 200, and against Kent at Canterbury reached three-figures in fifty-one minutes--the fastest piece of scoring for years.
Hardstaff stands erect as a sentinel at the crease; he is a batsman of beautiful style with footwork that makes scoring strokes look almost casual and placing easier still. In off-driving and hitting through the covers, he has few superiors among present-day English batsmen and his exceptional wrist-work adds to the effectiveness of his forcing strokes. As an out-field he is brilliant.