Charles Buller

MR. CHARLES FRANCIS BULLER, who died at Lyme Regis in October, will be remembered by cricketers of a past generation as one of the greatest batsmen of his day. Born at Colombo, Ceylon, on the 26th May, 1846, he won his place in the Harrow eleven as a boy of little more than fifteen, taking part in the match against Eton at Lord"s in 1861. On the same occasion an almost equally famous batsman, Mr. Alfred Lubbock, was seen at Lord"s for the first time, but on the opposite side. Buller was in the Harrow team for four seasons, finishing up as captain in 1864. In that year he scored 61 and Harrow beat Eton by an innings and 66 runs. Judged by the standard of these days a score of 61 does not seem anything to make a fuss about, but never did the batting of a public school boy at Lord"s earn higher praise. Thanks to his great natural ability and very careful coaching, in which the Surrey player, William Mortlock, had no small share, Buller at eighteen was already a finished batsman, good enough for any eleven. Style in batting was thought a great deal of in the sixties, and Buller"s style was as nearly as possible perfect-quite comparable to, though very different from that of Tom Hayward or Richard Daft. In the Canterbury week of 1864 Buller played for England against Thirteen of Kent, and for the M. C. C. against the Gentlemen of Kent, scoring in the latter match 21 and 68. The next season he had an assured position among the leading cricketers of the day, and was picked for Gentlemen against Players both at Lord"s and the Oval. His highest and best innings in 1865 was 105 not out for Middlesex against Surrey at the Oval. In 1866 he fully upheld his reputation, but in 1867, having in the meantime entered the 2nd Life Guards, he played very little owing to illness. A year later he was quite himself again, but nothing was seen of him in first-class cricket the following year and in 1870 he played in only a few big matches. Then for nearly three years he dropped out, reappearing at the close of the season of 1873 in George Bennett"s benefit match at Gravesend. During 1874, 1875, and 1876 he played for Middlesex, batting in the same perfect style as ever, but his weight had gone up to over fifteen stone and he was not much use in the field. During this latter part of his career two innings that he played are still vividly remembered-51 for Middlesex against Notts on a sticky wicket at Trent Bridge in August 1875, and 67 not out in the North v. South match for the late Tom Hearne"s benefit at Lord"s in 1876. The last match of importance in which he took part was, we believe, Middlesex v. Yorkshire at Lord"s in 1877. He did not finish up badly, scoring 20 and 25. In Bat v. Ball only two hundreds and a dozen other scores of over 50 in first-class matches appear against Buller"s name, but important fixtures were few in his day and any comparison of his doings with batsmen of our time would be altogether fallacious. Some idea of his merit can be gathered from the fact that the late James Southerton thought he never bowled against a better batsman except, of course, W. G. Grace. Batting was a very exact science when Buller learnt the game, and only E. M. Grace and the left-handers indulged in the pulling by which so many hundreds of runs are nowadays obtained. Buller, however, was a master of all the orthodox strokes, his cut being especially fine. Equally strong in back and forward play he had such wrist power that he could without any apparent effort block a ball to the ring. Quite late in his career he scored five runs with a stroke of this kind off a ball that Alan Hill, the bowler, thought good enough to get anyone"s wicket. He was very strong indeed in dropping down on a shooter, and the last time the present writer ever met him he was rather humorous at the immunity from shooters enjoyed by modern batsmen. Curiously enough with all his ability Buller met with little success for Gentlemen v. Players. In ten matches between 1865 and 1874 he made only 181 runs in eighteen innings, his best score being 41 at the Oval in 1868. Into the scandals that marred Mr. Buller"s private life and caused his social eclipse, this is obviously not the place to enter. Those whose memories go back thirty to forty years will remember him as one of the most attractive of batsmen and, perhaps, the handsomest man the cricket field has ever known.

© John Wisden & Co