October 06, 1887, Cowley, Oxford
December 03, 1964, Winchester, Hampshire, (aged 77y 59d)
Left hand bat
Right arm medium
George Brown was one of the most colourful of cricketers. Countless stories were -still are- told about him and, if some are apocryphal, they are no more surprising than many that are undoubtedly true. The earliest recounts that, in the spring of 1906, when he was eighteen, he set out from Cowley in Oxford- shire-that prolific nursery of Hampshire cricketers-with a tin trunk, a bat, a pair of plimsolls and the bare price of a single ticket to Southampton. The last, so far as his playing career is concerned, relates that in 1933, rising 46, he began his last season by opening the innings against Surrey on a difficult Oval wicket and carrying his bat for 150 of his side's total of 294. In the interim this remarkable man, utterly fearless, over six feet tall, possessed of immense physical strength and with a deep tan, high cheek bones and imperious nose which gave him the appearance of a Red Indian chief, made a highly individual and varied way across 27 years of cricket. No one has quite equalled his allround record. He went in first for England - and, with an average of fifty, was the only consistent English batsman in the 1921 Tests against Armstrong's Australians with Gregory and McDonald as their attacking edge. A left-handed bat with a naturally aggressive approach, he drove and hooked with quite savage power.
He was never his county's regular wicketkeeper, but at a moment's notice he would pull on a pair of gloves and keep - so one highly critical contemporary declared - as well as anyone in the world: and he kept wicket for England in seven Test Matches. He was chosen for the decisive - Oval - Test of the 1926 rubber, but had to fall out because of injury.
In his twenties he was a genuinely fast right-arm bowler and, even into his forties, he continued to take good wickets. He was reckoned a great mid-off and to possess the longest throw in pre-1914 cricket: certainly he achieved some spectacular run-outs. But he himself preferred the excitement of fielding close to the wicket and the 1920 Wisden described his catching of Jack Hobbs at silly point from a hard drive as " marvellous ".
Figures show Brown as an erratic player but, unlike many to whom that description may be applied, his failures were usually against weak opposition. It was his nature to rise to an occasion. Thus, when Hampshire beat the Australians in 1912 - the last county side to do so until Surrey in 1956 - Brown took four "key" wickets. When, at Edgbaston in 1922, Warwickshire bowled out Hampshire for 15, made them follow on and had taken six second innings wickets with 31 still wanted to avoid an innings defeat, it was George who led the recovery, unparalleled in cricket history, which enabled Hampshire to win by 155 runs.
Also against Warwickshire, this time at Southampton, after some disagreement with his equally unpredictable captain, Lord Tennyson, George Brown went in to bat at No.10 bearing some strange ruin of a bat. Almost at once he received a fast, short ball from Harry Howell and, swinging round, hit it up over the wicketkeeper and over the sight-screen behind him for six. A few moments later a powerful stroke split the old bat: George tore the blade in two as if it were a toy, gave the spare piece to the umpire and batted on unconcernedly with half the blade.
In 1913, at Portsmouth, some feeling crept into the game with Kent and Arthur Fielder, the Kent fast-bowler, let go a bouncer at Brown who dropped his bat to his side, stood up, took - the ball full in the chest, gave an exultant roar of "He's not fast " and went on to score 71.
The record books credit George Brown with 25,649 runs, 37 centuries,
629 wickets, 528 catches and 68 stumpings. But figures do less than justice
to a cricketer who was " big " in every sense. He could tear a pack of cards
in his huge hand; his anger was quick and flaming, his friendship loyal and
if, in his later days, he was less than prosperous, he was dignified, jovial,
generous, a good father and husband and, to the end, he was pointed out
as one of the sights of Winchester.
John Arlott, The Cricketer
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