CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1907

John Crawford

JOHN NEVILLE CRAWFORD, was born at Cane Hill, Surrey, on the 1st of December, 1886, and thus only completed his twentieth year while these pages were going through the press. Few cricketers have won equal fame at so early an age. He is the youngest man who has ever in first-class cricket scored 1,000 runs and taken 100 wickets in one season, accomplishing this double feat during the past year. Without instituting any comparisons, Crawford may fairly be described as the best all-round player turned out by any of the public schools since A. G. Steel was at Marlborough. In saying this one does no injustice to F. S. Jackson, who had a brilliant career at Harrow but whose batting did not reach anything like its full development until his third year at Cambridge. The parallel to A. G. Steel is a very fair one as, like that famous cricketer, Crawford might with perfect propriety have been picked for the Gentlemen of England while still at school. As a matter of fact his bowling would have been invaluable to the Gentlemen at Lord's in 1905. His talent for cricket revealed itself directly he took to the game. This was not surprising as he had lived his whole life in a cricket atmosphere. His father, the Rev. J. C. Crawford, and his uncle, the late major Frank Crawford, played for Kent in their day, and everyone knows what has been done by his two brothers. When quite a small boy he went to Mr. Watson Willis's school, Glengrove, Eastbourne, and thence proceeded to Dr. Shilcock's school, St. Winifred's, Henley. Altogether during his stay of two years at St. Winifred's, he scored 2,093 runs and took 366 wickets. In 1902 he went to Repton, and though there were ten old choices left at the school he easily gained his colours in his first season. From that time he has never looked back, each year adding something to his reputation. It was not at all likely that the authorities at the Oval would overlook a player of such promise who possessed a birth qualification for his county, and in August, 1904, he played his first match for Surrey, appearing against Kent in the Canterbury Week. His success was very marked as he headed the score in the first innings with 54 and took three wickets. A still greater success rewarded him before the season was over, he and H. C. McDonell bowling unchanged against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham and winning the match for Surrey by 119 runs. Altogether he took part in eight county matches and headed Surrey's bowling with 44 wickets was the worst Surrey had had for over twenty years, but Crawford's appearance in the eleven compensated for many failures and disappointments. In 1905 Crawford finished off his career at Repton in triumph. He scored 766 runs and took 57 wickets, and under his captaincy the team not only beat Malvern and Uppingham, but went though the season undefeated. Owing to his school duties he could only play in nine county matches for Surrey in 1905, but as a batsman he made the most of his opportunities, coming out practically first with an average of 45. In the winter of 1905-6 he went to South Africa with the M.C.C.'s team and it was no fault of his hat the Englishmen lost four of the five Test Matches. Last season he took an assured place among the leading cricketers of the day, being picked for the Gentlemen both at Lord's and the Oval. Up to the present time he has in all matches scored 10,552 runs and taken 1,284 wickets and played twenty-four three-figure innings. That he should have done all this is the more astonishing from the fact that he invariably plays in glasses. No one handicapped in this way has ever been so consistently successful both as batsman and bowler. Few school batsmen have more readily accommodated themselves to the needs of first-class cricket. His hitting powers are great, as those who saw him play against Middlesex at Lord's last August will not need to be told, but still more remarkable is his self-control. He is more forward in style than most modern batsmen and plays perfectly straight. As a medium-pace bowler he possesses nearly every good gift. With an easy delivery he has a fine command over his pitch, and when the wicket gives him the least assistance he makes the ball come off the pitch with any amount of spin. A striking instance of his accuracy was furnished by the Surrey and Yorkshire match at the Oval last August, when for half-an-hour or more he kept George Hirst to a rigidly defensive game, the Yorkshire batsman, though firmly set at the time, finding it impossible to get him away. If circumstances admit of his keeping up the game we clearly have in Crawford an England cricketer of the immediate future.

© John Wisden & Co