Herbert Wilfred Taylor
May 05, 1889, Durban, Natal
February 08, 1973, Newlands, Cape Town, Cape Province, (aged 83y 279d)
Right hand Bat
Right arm Bowler
Herbert Wilfred Taylor, who died at Cape Town on February 8, aged 83, was a great batsman on the matting pitches of South Africa, and a very fine one on those of England and Australia. He played over a span of twenty years for his country, beginning with the Triangular Tournament of 1912 and bowing out with the tour to Australia of H. B. Cameron's team of 1931-32 when he was rising 43.
He took part in ten series in all, leading South Africa in four of them, and in 42 Test matches made 2936 runs with an average of 4077. In terms of length and distinction of performance it could be said that no-one ever served South Africa better. Herby Taylor made seven hundreds in Test cricket, six of them on matting pitches, and it was on the mat that he first established himself, in 1913-14, as the youthful captain of a South African side that was considerably out-gunned
by the full strength of England at a vintage time. The confrontation between Sydney Barnes, who took the record bag for any rubber anywhere of 49 wickets, and Taylor, who averaged 50 in his ten Test innings against him, is always
remembered as one of the classics of history. 'The English cricketers were unanimous that finer batting than his against Barnes at his
best they never hoped to see,' says H. S. Altham, while Ian Peebles, who as a young man played two rubbers against him in South Africa, wrote of him in The World of Cricket that he was `the ideal model for all aspiring batsmen'. Perhaps his most extraordinary triumph was at Durban on that 1913-14 tour in the only game in which MCC were beaten. Natal made 153 and 216, and Taylor, keeping Barnes's bowling to himself as much as he could, contributed 91 and 100. The basis of his play was the straightest of straight bats, nimble footwork, and an almost unfailing judgment of length. His method was so sound that he remained a beautiful player when nearer fifty than forty, and it was in this autumn of his career that I met him and played a little with him. He was an inexhaustible cricket talker, and despite his own playing orthodoxy propounded unusual theories. One recalls him holding genial court under the oaks at Newlands, and
at Lord's during frequent visits to England. He was a man of much charm and that modesty regarding his own achievements which is so often a virtue of the great. Growing up in the aftermath of the Boer War, he belonged to a generation devotedly loyal to England, and won the Military Cross in the war of 1914-18.
EW Swanton, The Cricketer
Herbert Wilfred Taylor, who died in Cape Town on February 8, aged 83, was one of South Africa's foremost batsmen. In a career extending from 1909 to 1935, he scored 13,105 runs in first-class cricket at an average of 41.87 and hit 30 centuries. Coached by George Cox, the Sussex bowler, when a boy at Michaelhouse School, Durban, Herbie Taylor developed at an early age. Strong in defence and a master of back-play, he possessed a variety of polished strokes which earned him 42 caps for South Africa and the position of captain of his country in 1913 at the age of 24. He was also captain against Australia in 1921 and against England in 1922 and 1924. On the last occasion, though meeting with small success in the Test matches, he headed the South African averages with 1,925 runs, including four centuries, average 41.84.
He obtained seven three-figure scores in Test cricket, all of them against England, but only one of them in England when he made 121 at The Oval in 1929 and he and H. G. Deane established a record for the South African fourth wicket by adding 214. In all Tests he registered 2,936 runs, average 40.77, his highest innings being 176 at Johannesburg in 1922-23. He met with great success at Currie Cup fixtures, in which he scored 3,226 runs in 58 innings at an average of 58.65 and reached 12 centuries, the largest of which was 250 not out for Natal against Transvaal at Johannesburg in 1912-13.
Almost to the end of his days, Herbie after his retirement spent Sunday mornings coaching schoolboys. His opinions were highly respected and his criticisms of players, from boys to men of international class, greatly valued. He lived close to the famous Newlands ground.
During the First World War he served in the Royal Field Artillery and the Royal Flying Corps - forerunner of the Royal Air Force - and was awarded the Military Cross. In the early days after the end of hostilities he played Rugby football as a threequarter for Blackheath.
Wisden Crickters' Almanack
Batting & Fielding