Alec Watson


WATSON, ALEC, who died at Manchester on Tuesday, October 26, played, as everyone will remember, a prominent part in Lancashire cricket for more than twenty years, being one of the mainstays of the eleven when A. N. Hornby was captain. No other Scotsman has ever held such a place in professional cricket. Born at Coatsbridge on November 4, 1844, Watson owed his connection with Lancashire to an engagement in 1869 at Rusholme. Two years later he played his first county match against Cheshire in 1871, and his career lasted till 1893, when the Lancashire committee thought it well to leave him out of the team. He was asked to play again in 1898, but the chance of starting afresh at the age of 54 did not tempt him. Watson was first and last a county cricketer. Though he bowled for the Players at Lord's in 1877, his appearances in representative matches were few, and he never went to Australia. Here one must touch on rather delicate ground. Watson was one of the best and most successful slow bowlers of his generation--he took 1,529 wickets for Lancashire with an average of 11.60--but there is no hiding the fact that all through his career the fairness of his delivery was freely questioned. In the rather bitter controversy on the subject of Lancashire bowling that raged for several seasons--1882 to 1885 inclusive--he was not subjected to the unsparing criticism meted out to Crossland and Nash, but many cricketers had very decided views as to his methods. There was a great deal of throwing in English cricket in the'80's, and a lot of grumbling about it, but though Kent in 1885 cancelled their return match with Lancashire the evil was not properly dealt with till, years afterwards, the county captains took the matter into their own hands. When the day of reform came Watson had finished with first-class cricket, so it is impossible to say how he would have fared. Apart from the question of his delivery, not a word could be said against Watson. He was a thorough cricketer, and everyone liked him. The special virtue of his bowling lay in the combination of extreme accuracy of pitch and a formidable off-break. Those who thought his delivery unfair supported their view by pointing out how well, for a slow bowler, he could keep his length against the wind. There can be no doubt that his delivery was the cause of his not being picked for travelling elevens. Even when throwing was rampant here--I can remember seeing three grievous offenders in a Gentlemen and Players match at Lord's-- Shaw and Shrewsbury were careful not to take to Australia any bowler whose action could be questioned.

© John Wisden & Co