CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1904

Walter Mead

It was in 1893 that Walter Mead came to be generally recognised as one of the best slow, or perhaps, more properly speaking, medium-pace bowlers in England. Playing late that season for Essex against the Australians, he took seventeen wickets and his fame was established. Since then he has, allowing for the variations of form to which even the best bowlers are subject, held his ground year after year, and last season-favoured, of course, by the soft wickets-he bowled almost as well as ever. He was at his very best in 1899, when for the first and only time he took part in a Test Match, playing for England against Australia at Lord's. Unfortunately for him the conditions could not possibly have been less suited to a bowler of his style and pace. Everyone knows how fast a Lord's wicket can be in fine weather, and the weather during that particular match was perfect. Mead did his best, keeping as he always does an admirable length, but the defence of Clement Hill and Noble, and the hitting of Trumper were too much for him, and he met with little or no success. He has never since been seriously thought of in connection with England and Australia matches, having always had to give place to bowlers who were likely to get runs as well as take wickets. Of the Essex team, Mead has for ten years been the mainstay in bowling, and pages of Wisden could easily be filled with a record of his performances. It is a thousand pities that after the close of the past season he should have become estranged from his county over a question of money. Into the merits of the dispute this is not the place to enter, but one cannot help expressing the opinion that Mead was very ill advised to press for an increase of winter pay at a time when the finances of the county club were in such a bad state. There can be no doubt that by taking the course he did, he alienated a good many of his friends. Some very severe things were said about him when, in November, Essex held a special meeting to devise means for clearing off their debts. All this, however, is outside his merits as a cricketer. During recent years we have had few right-handed slow or medium-pace bowlers to compare with him. With an easy delivery, which enables him to keep up an end literally for hours without tiring, he combines great accuracy of pitch and, when the ground gives him the least assistance, a splendid off-break. Moreover, he can, on occasion, make the ball do a good deal from the leg side. This gift, however, he wisely keeps in reserve, never having used it to such an extent as to in any way lessen his command over his pitch. Few bowlers, watched from the ring, impress one as so habitually getting spin on the ball. Mead is in his thirty-fifth year, having been born on the 25th of March, 1869.

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