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CAFFYN, WILLIAM. Many cricket memories were revived by the announcement that the veteran Surrey player, William Caffyn, died at his home, at Reigate, on Thursday, August 28. Born on Feb. 2, 1828, he had lived to the great age of 91. His fame rests mainly on the fact that he was the best all-round man in the Surrey eleven that, with the late F. P. Miller as captain, used to meet--and twice beat--the full strength of England at Kennington Oval. Of that brilliant band the one survivor now left is Mr. E. Dowson--only ten years Caffyn's junior, but quite hale and hearty. Many other amateurs who played with Caffyn in his prime are still living, but of the great professionals who used to make the match at Lord's between the All England and United Elevens one of the events of the season, only George Wootton, the Notts bowler, remains with us.
Caffyn played his first match for Surrey in 1849, and in the following year--there were very few county fixtures in those days--he headed the batting. From that time he never looked back, becoming more and more prominent as the fame of Surrey cricket grew. He was the leading bowler in the team, as well as the finest batsman. About 1857 he reached his highest point, and right on to 1863 his powers showed no decline. Then came the end of his real career in English cricket. In the autumn of 1863 he paid his second visit to Australia as a member of George Parr's team--he had gone out two years before with H. H. Stephenson's side--and at the close of the tour he stayed behind in the Colonies, accepting a position as coach. While in Australia he played in inter-Colonial matches, but though he did much to develop young talent he scarcely, judging from the scores, added to his own reputation. He was back in England in 1872, and played several times for Surrey that year and in 1873, but it was too late to start over again. His day was done, and, though Surrey were far from strong, he could not keep his place in the eleven. His long stay in Australia lost him the chance of a benefit match at the Oval, but to the end of his life the Surrey Club paid him an annuity of £39.
On the evidence of all who played side by side with him in his great days, Caffyn was a very fine batsman, free and attractive in style and master of a cut that only Tom Humphrey surpassed in brilliancy. Had he lived in these days he would no doubt have made big scores, for he needed a good wicket. The Oval and Fenner's at Cambridge were the grounds that suited him best. On the rough wickets at Lord's he was admittedly far inferior to George Parr, Carpenter, Richard Daft, and the first Tom Hayward. Still even at Lord's against Jackson he was on two occasions seen at his best. As regards his bowling, one is rather doubtful. Right hand medium pace, he belonged to the purely round arm school--he had just settled in Australia when the law was altered--and modern wickets would very likely have been too good for him. Still on the best wickets of his own time he did wonderful things for Surrey and the United All-England Eleven. As an all-round fieldsman he had scarcely a superior.--S.H.P.
Lord Cobham--the Hon. C. G. Lyttelton in his cricket days, and incidentally one of the most brilliant batsmen in England--who played several times against Caffyn in Gentlemen v. Players matches, and also in matches between Cambridge University and Surrey, has very kindly sent the following notes on the veteran as he knew him.--
My recollections, of Caffyn date back sixty years, when I was captain of the Eton Eleven and Caffyn was our coach for a few weeks. He was rather a small man, well and compactly built and very active. I do not think he was a born coach, or that he troubled himself to give much oral instruction, but his bowling, which was slow to medium, straight, and of a good length gave us excellent practice, and much could be learnt from watching his batting which was sound, graceful, and often brilliant.
Until he left England in 1863, Caffyn was always a good man on a side. He never ceased to be a dangerous bat and he was a consistent a scorer as most of his contemporaries. He could hit hard all round, but his most notable hit was his cut, which denoted great strength and flexibility of wrist. I well remember, in a country match, his cutting an over-pitched ball of mine through a big drum, supposed to be at a safe distance from the wicket. It was said that when facing the great Jackson at Lord's, he was apt to show some "softness" and want of nerve, but then Jackson on a characteristic Lord's wicket was a "terror" such as is never seen in these days. Once, at all events, in the 1857 North and South match at Lord's, Caffyn made 90 against Jackson, which long ranked amongst historical innings, with those of R. Hankey, C. G. Lane and others.
Caffyn was a good bowler, but never I think quite in the first rank. His bowling had no cunning or "devil" in it and on present day wickets it could probably be "pulled" or "hooked" without much difficulty. Nevertheless he took plenty of wickets, and runs did not come easily or rapidly from him, as his analysis shows. He was a good and active field.
At Eton, and as long as I played cricket with him, I always thought of Caffyn as a well-mannered man and pleasant to deal with, and this impression seems to me to be borne out by his book--"71 Not Out"--which is written in a modest and kindly spirit, free from jealousy or depreciation of others.
MR. E. Dowson, now, as already stated, the only survivor of F. P. Miller's famous Surrey eleven, writes:--
He was a neat, good-looking, dapper little man. As regards his bowling he bowled a medium pace ball, not difficult to look at, but he nearly always obtained his share of wickets. Curiously enough we were always glad when he had a good innings, as the more runs he made the better he bowled. His batting was always worth watching as he could hit all round, and his cutting was brilliant, especially balls of the bails. He used to get hundreds, which were very few in those days. In my opinion he would have been one of the first chosen in a Test Match. He also was a good field. I must relate one case when he was really frightened. In a match v. Yorkshire at Sheffield a storm came on which deluged the ground. The captains, Mr. F. P. Miller and Mr. W. Prest, both agreed that there could be no more cricket. Poor Caffyn had dressed and got out of the ground when some of the roughs brought him back with his bag, swearing they were not going to be done out of seeing more cricket as they had paid their 3d. Chaffing then commenced and we said we were not afraid to go on. They gathered round Mr. Prest, saying "Are you not ashamed of yourself?" He replied "Yes, that I was born here and amongst such a lot!" The wickets were again pitched and I should imagine never on a wetter ground. The water spluttered in your face as you fielded the ball. However, Mr. Prest was so angry that he came in and won the match himself, hitting the bowling all over the place.
Mr. Herbert C. Troughton writes:--
I saw Caffyn pretty frequently during the years 1859-1863. I thought him an extremely brilliant bat. He had not the defence of Carpenter or Hayward, but he was, in my opinion, far more interesting to watch, as when he made runs, he always made them quickly; he--at least whenever I saw him--acted upon what is supposed to have been the immortal Yardley's maxim--"Get runs or get out." He was rather impetuous and was apt to get himself out by adopting hitting tactics before he had got set. Caffyn had many strokes, and all of them stylish. With perhaps the exception of Lord Cobham, better known as the Hon. C. G. Lyttelton, he was the hardest cutter I have ever seen, and his hitting to deep square leg was brilliant in the extreme. His driving powers, too, especially to the on were quite out of the common, and he had one stroke which he and W. Mortlock alone, so far as I remember, have ever regularly put in force--a huge hit between deep square leg and long on, rather nearer long on than square leg, a stroke that earned him hundreds of runs. As a bowler he was most excellent and did many brilliant things. He seemed to love bowling, and when he did not go on first, his joy, when he was put on, was unmistakable. He had an easy and very graceful delivery, and could bowl equally well, either round or over the wicket. If the wicket gave him ever so little help he could be deadly in the extreme. He generally failed at Lord's, where Jackson's expresses were not to his liking. Indeed though I saw him at Lord's in some eight matches I can only remember his coming off in one match and that was for South v. North in 1861 when he played a beautiful first innings of sixty-five, and supplemented this with an excellent 25 in his second innings, Jackson's bowling, for once at Lord's, having no terrors for him.
Caffyn visited America in 1859 and Australia in 1861-2, and 1863-4.
Whilst engaged at Winchester in 1860 he played a single-wicket match on June 25, single-handed against eleven of the Town of Winchester. He had two men to field for him and won by 28 runs. The scores were 35 and 1 against 4 and 4. The match is recorded in Scores and Biographies, VI, 399.
During his residence in Australia he took part in two great single-wicket matches for New South Wales against Victoria--at Melbourne, in December, 1865, and on the Albert Ground, Sydney, in April, 1869--but was on the losing side each time, Victoria winning the first game by 19 runs and the second by a wicket.