CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1933

Alex Kennedy

ALEXANDER STUART KENNEDY, was born on January 24, 1891, in Edinburgh. Leaving school, he joined the nursery staff on the County Ground at Southampton in 1905. There was no one acting as coach to the Hampshire colts in those days and Kennedy actually gained his first real knowledge of cricket from watching the county players at practice and bowling to anyone who wanted a net.

During the next two years he took part in a lot of country house cricket in and around Southampton, but mostly at Brockenhurst Park. About this time C.B. Llewellyn was playing for Hampshire and to him almost alone Kennedy owed whatever instruction he received in the art of flight and length bowling.

Llewellyn took great interest in his young protégé and gave him every encouragement. Kennedy spent many hours at the nets trying to perfect his control of length by aiming to pitch the ball on a piece of paper.

Kennedy played his first match for Hampshire early in July in 1907 when he was sixteen and a half years of age and he enjoyed the distinction, although taking only seven wickets in two games, of heading the county bowling averages that season. Although showing promise the young cricketer did not get a regular place in the eleven until 1909.

In that year and the next as well he obtained thirty-one wickets and marked improvement came in 1912 when he first took a hundred wickets for his county and was nominally top of the bowling averages. He was not quite so successful in 1913 but, in 1914, the last season before the war, he obtained 148 wickets for twenty runs apiece.

Following the season of two-day matches after the war, Kennedy, taking 164 wickets for just over seventeen and a half runs apiece, headed the county bowling averages in 1920 and in the following season he shared with Newman the honour of being the best all-rounder in the side. He hit two innings of over a hundred and was again top in bowling with a slightly better record than Newman.

He achieved the distinction of scoring a thousand runs and taking over a hundred wickets, repeating this performance in 1922 and 1923, but he fell away a little the next summer without, however, losing much of his skill or effectiveness as a bowler.

From that time down to and including last season when he obtained 134 wickets for less than nineteen runs apiece, Kennedy, if not quite so successful as a batsman, has only on rare occasions failed to take a hundred wickets in a season.

From the few figures I have given it will readily be gathered that since he secured his place in the Hampshire eleven, Kennedy has, over a long period of years, been one of the best county bowlers in the country and, as in the case of Astill, it is a little difficult to understand why such a fine bowler and more than useful bat has never appeared for England against Australia.

Perhaps some explanation for this may be found in the fact that some years ago when he was at the height of his powers there were rumours that his action was not above suspicion.

Bowling with his hand very high, almost indeed directly above his head, Kennedy relied for his success on accuracy of length combined with an in-swing which, fortified by spin off the pitch, made him, on his day, a very difficult bowler against whom to prevail. It was this high delivery with a real or apparent flick which gave rise to the idea his action was open to question.

Very naturally he resented in most strenuous fashion the accusation but, unfortunately for him, there remained in the minds of the successive selection committees the germ of the suspicion. This probably has stood in the way of his being picked for a representative match in this country or for an England team going out to Australia.

In the winter of 1924-25 he visited South Africa, where for several years he had undertaken coaching engagements, with the unofficial team taken out by the Hon. L.H. Tennyson. He took 21 wickets in the five representative matches and 79 in all matches, being, with Geary, the most successful bowler on the side.

During his career he has appeared on many occasions for the Players against the Gentlemen and was in the Lord's match in 1914, 1919 and 1922. His most lively recollection, however, of this particular fixture is that of the Oval in 1927 when he took all ten wickets in the Gentlemen's first innings for 37 runs and two in the second innings for 21 runs. A great but unlucky bowler!

© John Wisden & Co