Robert Peel

PEEL, ROBERT, who died at Morley, on August 12, aged 84, was one of the finest all-round cricketers of any time. Primarily he was a bowler, the second in the remarkable succession of slow left-handers--Edmund Peate, Peel, Wilfred Rhodes and Hedley Verity--who rendered such brilliant service to Yorkshire over a period of sixty years. Born at Churwell, near Leeds, on February 12, 1857, Bobby Peel first played for his county in 1882, when Yorkshire were singularly rich in bowling talent, so that he had to wait several years before attaining real distinction. Still, being a capital fieldsman, especially at cover-point, and a punishing left-handed batsman, he kept his place in the team, and when Peate's connection with the county ceased in unhappy circumstances Peel came to the fore. For nine seasons, with his fine length, easy action and splendid command of spin, this sturdily built left-hander regularly took over 100 wickets for Yorkshire, his county total amounting to 1,550 at an average cost of 15 runs each. He was often a match-winner. In 1887 he took five Kent wickets for 14 runs in an innings and, with 43 runs in a low-scoring match, helped largely in a victory by four wickets. In the same season eleven Leicestershire wickets fell to him for 51 runs at Dewsbury, five in the first innings for four runs. A year later he took eight Nottinghamshire wickets in an innings for 12 runs, while in 1892 five wickets for seven runs in an innings and eight for 33 in the match against Derbyshire at Leeds was a startling performance. He did even better in 1895 against Somerset, 15 wickets falling to him in 36 overs for 5 runs, nine for 22 in one innings causing a sensation. At Halifax in 1897, a month before his county career ended, Peel dismissed eight Kent men in an innings for 53 runs, his match average showing eleven for 85; this performance gave Yorkshire an innings victory with 103 runs to spare in two days. Peel's full return in bowling in first-class cricket was 1,754 wickets at 16.21 runs apiece.

He did some remarkable things in Test matches with Australia, against whom he played for England twenty times. At Sydney in 1894, Australia set to get 177, hit off 113 of the runs for the loss of two wickets before stumps were drawn on the fifth day. The result then appeared a foregone conclusion, but strong sunshine followed heavy rain during the night. Peel slept through the storm. Astounded when he saw the drying pitch, he said to the English captain, Mr. Stoddart, gie me t' ball, and with Johnny Briggs, the Lancashire left-hander, also at his best, the remaining eight batsmen were disposed of for 53 runs. So England gained an extraordinary win by 10 runs after facing a total of 586, then a record for these Tests, the previous being Australia's 551 at the Oval in 1884. Peel's analysis in the fourth innings was six for 67. Peel also enjoyed a large share in winning the rubber match of that tour. He took seven wickets, scored 73 in a stand for 152 with A. C. MacLaren, and following a grand partnership for 210 by Albert Ward, of Lancashire, and J. T. Brown, of Yorkshire, the two best scorers of England's first innings hit off the runs, the victorious total being 298 for four wickets. In 1896 at Kennington Oval, with conditions very difficult for batsmen, he and J. T. Hearne got rid of Australia for 44. Peel's share in the victory by 66 runs was eight wickets for 53 runs, and his last innings analysis six wickets in 12 overs for 23 runs--some revenge for getting a pair. Hearne's figures showed ten wickets for 60. That was the last match in which W. G. Grace led England to success over Australia.

Besides his great achievements as a bowler, Peel scored over 11,000 runs for Yorkshire, hitting two centuries. His highest innings was 226 not out against Leicestershire in 1892, and four years later he obtained 210 not out in a Yorkshire score of 887 against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, a total which remains a county match record. Peel and Lord Hawke, who added 292 for the eighth wicket, F. S. Jackson and E. Wainwright all reached three figures in that innings--then a record, four centuries in an innings. In 1889, the year in which the over was increased from four balls to five, Peel put together 158 in the Yorkshire second innings at Lord's, but yet was on the losing side, a brilliant 100 not out in eighty minutes by T. C. O'Brien taking Middlesex to victory by four wickets with ten minutes to spare. Yielding 1,295 runs for thirty-six wickets, the game produced a record aggregate for a match in England at the time.

Peel went four times to Australia, in 1884-5, 1887-8, 1891-2 and 1894-5, and in Test matches with Australia he took 102 wickets for less than 17 runs each. He also figured in Players teams against the Gentlemen from 1887 to 1897, taking in those games 48 wickets at a cost of 16 runs apiece.

He scored 1,206 runs and took 128 wickets in all matches in 1896, the year before his remarkable career came to an end. Sent off the field by Lord Hawke during a game at Bramble Lane and suspended for the remainder of the 1897 season, he was not seen again in the Yorkshire team. He did, however, appear for an England XI against Joe Darling's Australian side at Truro two years later, taking five wickets. His benefit match at Bradford in 1894 realised £2,000.

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