October 21, 1851, Crabtree, Pitsmoor, Sheffield, Yorkshire
June 18, 1898, Pitsmoor, Sheffield, Yorkshire, (aged 46y 240d)
Right hand bat
Right arm fast
George Ulyett died on Saturday evening, June 18th. He was only in his forty-seventh year, his last season in the Yorkshire eleven being 1893. His health had been failing for some time, but the immediate cause of death was an acute attack of pneumonia, contracted at Bramall Lane during the Yorkshire and Kent match. Yorkshire has always been rich in first-rate cricketers, but a finer player than Ulyett the county has never produced. He was for years the best bat in the team, and even if he had not been able to get a run he would have been worth his place for his bowling and fielding. His career for the county extended over a period of twenty years, his first appearance in the eleven dating back to July, 1873. It was seen at once that a player of remarkable gifts had been discovered, and before very long he was at the top of the tree. To begin with, if one remembers rightly, he was played as much for his fast bowling as for his batting. One talent, however, developed to a much greater extent than the other, and in two or three seasons he was quite as good a bat as Ephraim Lockwood, who, when Ulyett came out, was the bright particular star of the Yorkshire eleven. Once having established his position Ulyett never looked back. There was no doubt his class as a batsman after his first visit to Australia with James Lillywhite's team in the winter of 1876-77, and from that time till 1891 he was always in the front rank. Of course, like other great batsmen, he did much better in some seasons than others, but he never lost his place as a representative cricketer. A peculiar interest attaches to the tour of James Lillywhite's team - not, in some respects, very brilliant - as it was then that the Australians first ventured to play an English eleven on even terms. Thanks to a wonderful innings of 165 by Charles Bannerman, Australia won the first match, but in the return the Englishmen had their revenge, Ulyett's batting deciding the fortunes of the game. It was the fine play they showed that season that led the Australians to pay their first visit to England, a momentous chapter in the history of modern cricket being thus opened.
At home Ulyett of course played many times for England against Australia, and in two memorable encounters at Lord's he contributed in a very marked degree to England's success. The first of the two matches was in 1884, when A. G. Steel scored 148 - the innings of his life. On the Tuesday afternoon the Australians, with a balance of 150 runs against them, went in for the second time. The wicket had not worn well, and Peate, bowling from the Nursery end, had the batsmen from the first in obvious difficulties. After a little time, however, to everyone's surprise, Lord Harris took him off and gave Ulyett the ball. Never was a captain better justified by results. The broken places on the pitch which had made Peate difficult rendered Ulyett well-nigh irresistible. Bowling his fastest, and repeatedly breaking back several inches, he had one of the strongest of all Australian teams at his mercy. At the drawing of stumps that evening four men were out for 73, and the next morning the Australians were all out for 143, England winning the match by an innings and five runs. Ulyett took seven wickets in 39 overs and a ball, and had only 36 runs hit from him. It was on that eventful Tuesday afternoon that Ulyett caught and bowled Bonnor in a way that no one who was present will ever forget. Bonnor's mission was to knock the fast bowler off, and he did his best. He drove a half-volley with all his force, but the ball - travelling faster than an express train - went into Ulyett's right hand instead of to the boundary. Bonnor wandered disconsolately back to the Pavilion, and the England players gathered round Ulyett, curious, perhaps, to know what manner of man he was, and anxious to congratulate him on his escape from imminent danger. One can remember, even now, the look of wonder on the faces of A. G. Steel and Alfred Lyttelton. Ulyett himself was very modest about the matter. Complimented on the catch, when the day's play was over, he said simply that if the ball had hit his fingers instead of going into his hand he should have played no more cricket that season.
The other England match was in 1890. England had much the stronger side, and won in the end by seven wickets, but on the first day there was a period of great anxiety. The ground had suffered a good deal from rain, and after the Australians had been put out for 132, England lost W. G. Grace, Shrewsbury, W. W. Read and Gunn - the four best bats on the side - for 20 runs. Turner and Ferris were bowling their best, and the outlook was, to say the least, cheerless. However, Maurice Read and Ulyett saved the side from collapse. They put on 72 runs in an hour and a half, and next morning Ulyett carried his own score to 74. That was the highest innings he ever played for England against Australia in this country, and, curiously enough, he never appeared for England again. The Yorkshire authorities would not let him off for The Oval match in 1890, and when the Australians paid us their next visit, in 1893, his star had waned.
Of Ulyett's doings for Yorkshire and in the Gentlemen and in the Gentlemen and Players matches a column could easily be written. He was at his very best for this county in the season of 1887, when he and Louis Hall did great things. The one brilliancy itself, the other a miracle of patience, they were an ideal pair to start an innings. It is a moot point whether bowlers were the more disturbed by Ulyett's hitting or by Hall's unwearying defence. Some preferred to bowl at Ulyett because he hit at so many balls that there was always a chance of getting him out. Alfred Shaw for one never despaired of seeing him caught if the ground was large enough to allow of the outfields being placed very deep. To say that Ulyett was the greatest batsman Yorkshire ever possessed would scarcely be exceeding the truth, but Lockwood in the past and F. S. Jackson in the present must in fairness be classed with him.
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