Monty Noble

M. A. NOBLE was born on the 28th January 1873, and was thus a little later than some other famous Australians in paying his first visit to England. Still, though he was not seen on our cricket grounds till last season, his name was familiar to all who follow cricket. Before he came here Australian critics did not hesitate to describe him as the best all-round player in the Colonies, and as very few mistakes are made in Australia we knew that a cricketer of George Giffen's class was to be expected. In the case of men coming to England for the first time, or our own men going out to Australia, expectations are not always realised, but in Noble's case success was never in doubt. He led off with a superb innings of over a hundred in the opening match at the Crystal Palace, and all through the summer till the tour was over he was one of the great mainstays of the Australia eleven. While as a batsman he proved even better than English cricketers had expected his bowling fell a little below anticipation. However, though this is a fair criticism, it is likely enough that English players had formed a wrong estimate of Noble's powers. They knew all about his success as a bowler against Mr. Stoddart's second team in Australia, but had not perhaps taken equally careful note of his splendid scores in Inter-Colonial matches during the last two or three years. As a matter of fact, Noble was potentially a great batsman before his ability as a bowler was realised, even in his own club. From start to finish of the Australian tour Noble was consistently successful as a batsman, but as a bowler he fell off during the last few weeks, the strain of playing day after day with scarcely a break probably affecting him. That this should have been the case is more than likely, as he had never before had any experience of continuous cricket extending over such a length of time. As a batsman Noble impressed English critics chiefly by his patience and defence, but at home he has the reputation of being much freer in style than he showed himself on our grounds. He said himself that he could not on English wickets play forward with the same degree of safety as in Australia, and that the necessity of watching the ball much more closely from the pitch than he had been accustomed to, involved a considerable change in his method. It speaks volumes for his ability that, while altering his game, he should still have achieved such brilliant results. His great triumph came in the England match at Manchester when he scored 60 not out and 89, and withstood the English bowling for about eight hours and a half. In the latter part of his second innings in that remarkable game he carried caution to an extreme that was very tedious to the spectators, but he saved Australia from a beating. That was the essential fact. In point of method Noble approaches more nearly than most of his colleagues to English notions. Easy and graceful in style he seems like all great batsmen to have plenty of time when playing back. Though by no means deficient in driving power, he depends for most of his runs on cuts behind point and a variety of skilful strokes on the leg-side. No Australian batsman has ever shown better cricket during a first visit to England. As a bowler he has plenty of spin and varies his pace well, though not with so little perceptible changed of action as Howell. A good deal had been said about his ability to make the ball swerve in the flight, and there can be no doubt that this peculiarity in his bowling puzzled many of our batsmen, especially during the early part of the tour. Over and above his batting and bowling Noble is a superb field at point-quick, agile and fearless. He first became known to English cricketers during the tour of Mr. Stoddart's first team in Australia, when for Eighteen Sydney Juniors he scored 152 not out. During the same season he was tried for New South Wales, but it was not till two years later that his reputation as a batsman was established. In the Australia season of 1896-97 he was a member of the New South Wales team that carried off the Sheffield Shield in such wonderful style by twice beating Victoria and South Australia. On all four occasions the side was exactly the same. In the return match with Victoria Noble scored 71 and 153 not out. Against Stoddart's second team in the Colonial season of 1897-98, Noble was curiously unsuccessful as a batsman, but as a bowler he had the best average in eleven-a-side matches. It is no flattery to describe him as George Giffen's successor as an all-round cricketer. He is probably not such a good bowler as Giffen was, but as a set off he is a vastly better field. As regards batting the time for a final comparison has not arrived, for whereas Giffen paid five visits to England, Noble has so far been only once seen this country.

© John Wisden & Co