Walter Humphreys

S.H.P.

HUMPHREYS, WALTER ALEXANDER, the famous lob bowler, died at Brighton on March 23. He was born at Southsea on October 28, 1849, but lived in Sussex from the time he was three weeks old. Humphreys came out for Sussex in 1871, being then a fairly good young cricketer with no special qualifications. He could bat and field and, in an emergency, keep wicket. Not till nine years later did he develop the lob bowling which gained him his celebrity. Having taken up the study of lobs, he did not have to wait long for success, as when the Australians played Sussex at Brighton towards the end of the season in 1880 he did the hat trick, getting rid of Groube, Alec Bannerman and Blackham. This, however, proved quite an isolated performance, and for Sussex in the next three seasons he did nothing out of the common. Then in 1884 against the Australians at Brighton he had another hat trick to his credit, the batsmen who fell to him this time being Percy MacDonnell, George Giffen and Scott. To the fast-footed Australian batsmen of those days, Humphreys caused so much trouble that I have often wondered whether, at some sacrifice to the team in run-getting power, it would not have been wise in 1884 to play him for England at the Oval. When for the first and only time Sussex, in 1888, had the satisfaction of beating the Australians, Humphreys had a big share in the victory, taking five wickets for 21 runs and four for 19. On that occasion, Arthur Hide divided honours with him. Humphreys' career as a lob bowler culminated in 1893 when, in all matches for Sussex, he took 148 wickets for less than 17½ runs each. As he played so much of his cricket at Brighton, with easy boundaries on the Pavilion side of the ground, these were remarkable figures. Mr. Stoddart took Humphreys to Australia with his first team in 1894-95, but the experiment was not a success. The lob bowler was past his zenith. He had no terrors for the class batsmen, and though he did well in the up-country games he was left out of all the Test Matches. At his best Humphreys could do a great deal with the ball, and was very clever in disguising his intentions. In this connection, W. L. Murdoch, who played an innings of 286 not out for the Australians against Sussex at Brighton in 1882, paid him a high compliment. He said, Even when I had made 200 runs I could not tell from watching his hand which way he meant to turn the ball. Humphreys retired from the Sussex eleven after the season of 1896, having taken for the county during his career 767 wickets for just under 20 runs apiece. He turned out in 1900 for Hampshire but his day was so obviously over that he quickly retired from the public gaze. He had his benefit at Brighton-- Sussex v. Gloucestershire--in 1891.

© John Wisden & Co