CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1904

John Gunn

JOHN GUNN.-There has been no stranger feature in English cricket during the last twenty years than the falling off in the once almost inexhaustible supply of Nottingham professionals. In the '60's and '70's so much talent was always available, that room could not be found in the county eleven for anything like the number of men who were worth playing. Notts always had a first-rate team, and the surplus talent found its way into other counties. Gradually, however, the supply fell off, and it is an absolute fact that since William Gunn and Attewell came out Notts-leaving aside Lockwood and Sharpe, who in their youth were allowed to slip away to Surrey-have brought forward no professionals of first-rate ability except John Gunn, Iremonger-and on his day- Tom Wass. Into the causes of this change it is impossible to enter fully here. The increased popularity of Association football has no doubt had a good deal to do with it, but another cause is said to be the alteration in industrial conditions, the working population engaged in lace making and kindred work no longer following their occupations at home. John Gunn, a nephew of William Gunn, was born on July 19th, 1876. On first being tried for Notts, he made no sudden reputations for himself, but it was always thought by those who knew most about him that, if allowed to develop his skill gradually without any forcing, he was sure to become a valuable member of the county eleven. How fully these early hopes have been borne out the records of the last few seasons afford abundant proof. During the past summer John Gunn as an all round cricketer had no superior in England, except George Hirst. Indeed leaving the Yorkshireman out of the question it would be hard to name any player barring Braund who was up to the same level alike in batting, bowling and fielding. He was in great form all through the season, and finished up with a truly splendid record, scoring 1665 runs in first-class matches, with an average of 42, and taking 118 wickets at a cost of something over nineteen runs apiece. He played an innings of 294 at Trent Bridge against Leicestershire-the highest score ever hit for Notts till A. O. Jones just beat it by getting 296 against Gloucestershire-and as bowler he did wonderful work at the beginning of August, keeping on unchanged against Surrey at the Oval and Essex at Leyton, and being largely instrumental in gaining two victories for his side. In the two matches he took twenty-eight wickets-fourteen in each game. A better week's bowling can scarcely have been done for Notts since Alfred Shaw and Fred Morley were in their prime, though possibly Attewell may have equalled it.

Unlike Rhodes and poor Johnny Briggs, John Gunn is left handed, both as batsman and bowler. As a batsman he began by being very steady and orthodox, but of late he has developed his hitting powers in a remarkable degree, and he is now essentially a brilliant player, nearly always getting runs at a fast rate. He has not the watchfulness and strong defence of the great Australian left-handed batsmen, Clement Hill and Darling, but as he is quite likely any day to get a hundred runs against the best bowling, it would be illogical to find faults with his methods. As a bowler he was till this year distinctly medium pace, but he must now be described as a slow bowler, his pace being appreciably less than before. He has, too, made another change in his style, discarding the run up to the crease from behind the umpire, which used to be one of his peculiarities. From his earliest days he had great command over his length, and there is now scarcely any English bowler, who in the course of an afternoon sends down so few bad balls. By reason of his accuracy, and the skilful way in which he makes the ball go with his arm he is especially good on dry wickets, but he does not break back enough to rival Rhodes, Blythe and Hargreave on a sticky pitch. Still, he often proves successful after rain. As a field he is one of the very best cover points in England, no one, except Jessop, having a more deadly return to the wicket. To sum up his qualities in phrase, he is much the best all-round man who has played for Notts since Barnes and Flowers were in their prime. John Gunn went to Australia with MacLaren's team two years ago, but, except for one or two pieces of good bowling, he failed in the Colonies, scarcely showing in the big matches a trace of his real form as a batsman. He was probably disheartened at not being afforded such good opportunities as he thought himself entitled to.

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