CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1900

Major Robert Poore

MAJOR ROBERT M. POORE, beyond a doubt the most sensational batsman of the season of 1899 was born on the 20th of March, 1866, and is thus in his 34th year. To find any close parallel to his sudden jump to fame in the cricket world would be very difficult, for before the public became familiar with his name he had passed the age at which a good many of our amateurs give up first-class cricket for more serious occupations. Major Poore was, as regards cricket, the victim of circumstances, his military duties in India and South Africa keeping him out of this country at the time, when, had he not been in the Army, he would have been making his name. He was, however, later than most men in taking seriously to the game, and in an interview with him, which appeared in Cricket during the autumn, it was stated that in order to make up for lost time he studied the Badminton Book as thoroughly as though he had had to get it up for an examination. While he was thus learning the theory of the game in all its branches he was getting plenty of practical experience on Indian cricket grounds. His name became known to English cricketers by reason of his fine batting against Lord Hawke's team in South Africa during the winter of 1895-96. He was then a lieutenant and was out at the Cape with his regiment. Twice against the English eleven he played a three figure innings scoring 112 at Pietermaritzburg and 107 not out for Fifteen of Natal at Durham. In the latter case he was mainly instrumental in gaining a remarkable victory for his side, the Fifteen going in to get 228 in the last innings, and hitting off the runs for the loss of five wickets. His two hundreds made a great impression on the members of Lord Hawke's eleven, and very flattering things were said of him in the letters descriptive of the tour that were sent home from South Africa. Naturally, therefore, a good deal of interest was excited when it became known, before the season of 1898 commenced, that the new batsman-by this time a captain-was in England and would be seen in the cricket field. His first appearance at Lord's was highly successful, as against Lancashire on a soft wicket on the 9th of May, he scored 51 and had no small share in gaining the M. C. C. a single innings victory. He had not yet accustomed himself to English wickets, and despite his enormous advantages of height and reach-he stands 6ft. 4in.-it was rather as a defensive than a hitting batsman that he impressed those who saw him play. Being qualified for Hampshire he played in eleven matches for that county in 1898, and did uncommonly well, coming out third in batting with an aggregate of 659 runs and an average of 34. His best scores were 121 not out against Derbyshire at Derby, and 107 against Essex at Leyton. Excellent as his cricket was, however, it scarcely foreshadowed the marvellous success that attended him in 1899. All his scores will be found fully set forth in later pages of Wisden, and it will be sufficient to say here that he headed the season's batting in first-class matches scoring 1551 runs with the wonderful average of 91. He went in twenty-one times, and his average, so far as can be recalled, has never been equalled in first-class cricket for so large a number of innings. For Hampshire his average was 115. He played an innings of 304 against Somerset, and made six other hundreds for his county-two of them against Somerset in one match. Unfortunately he had by reason of his military duties to give up cricket some time before the season was over. The one blot upon his summer's work was his comparative failure for Gentlemen against Players at the Oval and Lord's. At neither ground did he get sufficiently well set to play his true game. Major Poore has a style of his own, and seeing him for the first time it would be difficult, unless he had made a very big score, to properly gauge his merits. He is essentially a forward player, his enormous reach enabling him to smother many balls at which ordinary batsmen would have to play back. A certain stiffness of arm detracts from the appearance of his batting, but though his method may compare unfavourably with that of more finished players, there can be no doubt as to its effectiveness. He gets most of his runs in front of cover-point, driving with immense vigour and facility when once he has taken the measure of the bowling. In the finesse of batting he has many superiors, but for sheer power of forward play there are few men now before the public who can touch him. As a fieldsman he is a little handicapped by his great height, and at times finds some difficulty in getting down to the ball. Major Poore does not limit his activities to the game of cricket. He is one of the finest swords-men in the army, having taken the highest honours in the Military Tournament at the Agricultural Hall, and beyond that he is a first-rate Polo player. Like many other cricketers who are in the army Major Poore left England for South Africa after the outbreak of the war.

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