CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1899

Bill Lockwood

Nothing during the season of 1898 was more gratifying than the return to form of Lockwood. It had really seemed, when he dropped out of the Surrey eleven in 1897, that his brilliant career was over and his complete restoration-no milder word will meet the case-afforded the liveliest pleasure to all lovers of the game. A more remarkable cricketer than Lockwood, at his best, has rarely been seen on our cricket fields. A deadly bowler- Murdoch and Ranjitsinhji, among other batsmen, have described him as the most difficult man they ever met-he has also proved himself capable of scoring 150 in a county match. By reason of his inferiority in fielding he cannot, as an all-round player, be placed on quite the same level as George Lohmann, during that brilliant cricketer's great years in the Surrey eleven, but it is safe to say that no fast bowler of the first rank has, apart from his bowling, been of more value to a side. Born on the 25th of March, 1868, Lockwood came out for his native county of Notts as a lad of eighteen in the season of 1886, but, though a promising young player, he did not do enough to fore-shadow his future success and it is certain that the Notts authorities failed to realise what a prize they had in their hands. It thus came about that he made his way to London and accepted an engagement on the ground staff at Kennington Oval. In 1889 he was asked to play for Notts again, but being promised a good trial for Surrey, he decided to throw in his lot with the Southern county, and with Surrey he has ever since been connected. In 1889-curiously enough against his native county-he revealed his batting powers in the August Bank Holiday match at the Oval, but it was not until 1891 that his exceptional merit as a bowler was discovered. In several matches towards the end of that season, and especially against Kent, he did great things. Kent had to play the last innings of the game on a wicket damaged by rain and with Lockwood making the ball break back several inches at a great pace the batsmen were helpless. Taking seven wickets at a cost of only 19 runs, he gave Surrey a decisive victory and we well remember, when the game was over, hearing Mr. Shuter say that he had never in his life seen a better piece of fast bowling. During the next three seasons Lockwood enjoyed brilliant success, taking in all matches for Surrey 168 wickets in 1892; 112 wickets in 1893; and 123 wickets in 1894. Then, however, there came a sad check in his career. Regarded on all hands as one of the greatest cricketers of the day, he went out to Australia in the autumn of 1894 as a member of Mr. Stoddart's first team, but for some reason he was a complete failure in the Colonies, scoring in the eleven-a-side matches only 224 runs in fourteen innings and bowling in a style so foreign to his English form that his eighteen wickets cost no fewer than 43 runs each. In the season of 1895 at home he did not do much to reprieve his reputation; the summer of 1896 found him still further down the hill as a bowler, and in 1897 he was so little like himself that after taking part in two county matches he lost his place in the Surrey eleven. For him, in first-class cricket, the end seemed to have come and great therefore was the delight when at the beginning of last season he came out again practically as good as ever. He had obviously taken great pains to get himself into first-rate physical condition and in the opening county match against Essex at Leyton he gave conclusive evidence that he was himself again. As a bowler he had recovered at once his pace, his spin and his stamina, and, as a batsman, he was once more a most dangerous run-getter. The season was one long triumph for him and, but for the fact that an injury to his arm compelled him to stand out of some of the later matches, he would have shared with Mr. Townsend, Mr. Jackson and Cuttell, the distinction of scoring over a thousand runs in first-class matches, as well as taking over a hundred wickets. As it was, his record in first-class matches came out at 878 runs with an average of 32, and 134 wickets with an average of 16.62. The distinctive feature of Lockwood's bowling, apart from his pace and break, is the extreme skill with which he can send down a slow ball, the action varying so little that even the best batsmen are constantly deceived. He did not think that he bowled this slow ball quite so well last summer as in 1893 and 1894, but it was still highly effective.

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