CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1903

James Kelly

J. J. KELLY, who has been the chief wicket-keeper for the last three Australian teams in England, was born in 1867. There is some little doubt as to the actual day of his birth, but the date generally given is May 30th. Assuming this to be correct, he is between two and three weeks younger than Hugh Trumble, the two players being the veterans of the 1902 eleven. Kelly first came to England in 1896, having during the two previous seasons in the Colonies been the regular wicket-keeper for New South Wales. The other wicket-keeper in the 1896 team, so ably captained by Harry Trott, was A. E Johns of Victoria. The latter had earned a high reputation and was thought a great deal of by Melbourne critics, but his hands would not stand the strain of constant play and, being moreover a very weak batsman, he quickly fell into second place, Kelly keeping wicket in the three Test matches, and indeed on all occasions of importance. In following Blackham, who had kept wicket for every Australian eleven in England from 1878 to 1893 inclusive, Kelly was naturally at a disadvantage. It would be idle to pretend that he could bear comparison with the greatest master of wicket-keeping the world has yet seen, but judged by any ordinary standard he did very well, making in the course of the tour thirty-seven catches and getting rid of twenty-two batsmen by stumping. Standing back day after day to Jones"s tremendously fast bowling he had no light task, and if on occasions, notably in the England match at Lord"s, he dropped a few catches, he could scarcely be blamed. As a batsman he was useful without doing anything brilliant, scoring 490 runs with an average of 16. In 1899 he came to England for the second time, again with Johns as a colleague, and the difference between the two men, as regards capacity for sustained work, was even more marked than before. Kelly again had the Test matches-this time increased to five-all to himself, and out of the thirty-five engagements of the team he took part in twenty-eight. As in 1896 he made thirty-seven catches, but curiously enough his number of stumpings was only three. One of them, however-in the England match at Lord"s, C. L. Townsend being the victim-was worthy of Blackham at his best. Jones, again bowling at a great pace, complained of dropped catches, but for the most part Kelly did his work exceedingly well and showed great stamina. As a batsman he made a distinct advance, playing an innings of 103 against Warwickshire at Birmingham, and scoring in all 768 runs with an average of 23. In the past season, Kelly, as a wicket-keeper, was better than ever. In one way he was not put to such a severe test as before, having far less of Jones"s bowling to deal with, but the way he kept Trumble, Saunders, Noble, Armstrong and Howell on wickets that varied in pace from day to day was very fine indeed. Among many brilliant pieces of work, one recalls particularly the lightning quickness with which he stumped Braund at the crisis of the Test match at Manchester. Trumble, who was the bowler, said the ball went so close to the leg stump that most wicket-keepers would have given it up, thinking it would hit the wicket. Kelly is a good, genial sportsman, always ready to see merit in what is done against his own side, and enjoys great popularity among the English professionals. Perhaps his most vivid recollection of the cricket field is the Test match at Leeds, in 1899. He had to go in when the Australians, in their second innings, had lost five wickets for 39, and Young was doing wonders with the ball. By scoring 33 he saved his side from a complete breakdown, but he will never forget the way in which the ball again and again beat him and just missed the wicket. No batsman ever had a more uncomfortable half-hour.

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