Frederick Robert Spofforth
September 09, 1853, Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales
June 04, 1926, Ditton Hill Lodge, Long Ditton, Surrey, England, (aged 72y 268d)
Right hand bat
Right arm fast medium
Tall, spindly, and a player who consistently tested the wits of opposing batsmen, Fred "The Demon" Spofforth was Australia's first true fast bowler. His first-class career spanned the 23-year period between 1874 and 1897 and, throughout that time, his accuracy, his lionhearted endeavour and the phenomenal rapidity of his wicket taking made him a revered figure. Although he possessed a relatively unremarkable run-up and action (the most notable feature of which was a high leap just before he released the ball) and was never regarded as a tearaway fast bowler, Spofforth was an inspiration both for his peers and succeeding generations of pacemen. From the time of his debut for New South Wales, he was a larger than life character in the sport - the quality of his performances matched in kind by his ability to enhance the growing popularity of cricket in Australia.
Notwithstanding the relative superiority of bowlers over batsmen during his era, Spofforth's raw figures were outstanding; he claimed 94 Test wickets in 18 matches at an average of less than 20 runs apiece. He was also the first bowler to clinch a Test hat-trick; he claimed ten wickets in a match on four of those 18 occasions, and his analysis of 14/90 against England at The Oval in 1882 still stands as the second best performance in a match by an Australian bowler in the entire history of Test cricket. It remains salutary to note that, if it had not been for the growing business interests which ultimately took him to England (and ensured that he exited Test cricket in 1886 when he was at close to the peak of his powers), he may well have been able to enjoy even greater success.
Spofforth's stamina also set him apart from other players of his era. He reputedly spent considerable time at his brother-in-law's rural property before embarking on at least two of his five tours of England specifically in order to improve upon his fitness, and it was also common for him throughout his career to bowl considerably more overs than his teammates. He left another enduring legacy for other fast bowlers to follow in that he was one of the first Test cricketers to exhibit the trait of refusing to take a backward step in his approach to the game either on or off the field. He refused, for instance, to play in Australia's first ever Test team because New South Wales wicketkeeper Billy Murdoch was overlooked at the selection table, and it was only when Murdoch was chosen for the following match that he made his own debut at international level.
To celebrate his outstanding overall record in the sport, Spofforth was
honoured with induction into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame when that
institution's original ten members were named in late 1996.
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