Frederick Spofforth

SPOFFORTH, MR. FREDERICK ROBERT, one of the most remarkable players the game has ever known, was born at Balmain, Sydney, on September 9, 1853, and died at Ditton Hill Lodge, Ditton Hill, Surbiton, Surrey, on June 4, aged 72. As in another part of the Almanack, Lord Harris, Lord Darnley, and Mr. C. I. Thornton have given their recollections of Mr. Spofforth and his wonderful bowling, it will suffice here to deal with the chief facts of a memorable career. From his earliest days cricket had the greatest possible fascination for him, and whilst still quite a small boy at Eglington College, Sydney, he determined, through seeing the success met with by George Tarrant, of Cambridge, to become as fast a bowler as possible. Later he studied the methods of Southerton and Alfred Shaw, and resolved, if possible, to combine the styles of all three men. He had played with success in good class matches before he ever bowled a ball in England, but his great days may be said to date from May 27, 1878, when he had so much to do with the wonderful victory gained, in the course of a single day, by D. W. Gregory's team over a very strong M.C.C. side at Lord's. From that day forward, Spofforth was always regarded as a man to be feared, even by the strongest teams. He probably never did anything better than to take fourteen wickets for 90 runs in the Test match at the Oval in 1882, when Australia gained their first success--by 7 runs--in an International game on English soil. It is to be regretted that when he came over with the teams of 1878 and 1880 so few eleven a side matches were played, for he was presumably then at about his best, and his energies were expended for the most part in mowing down wickets in games against odds. For the former side he obtained 764 wickets at a cost of 6.08 runs each, and for the latter 763 for 5.49 apiece. These figures include his doings in the Colonies and (in 1878) in America.

Spofforth was a member of the Australian Teams of 1878, 1880, 1882, 1884, and 1886. In Tests against England he obtained 94 wickets for 18.41 runs each. In his own country he represented both New South Wales and Victoria, the former by birth and the latter by residence, and in really big cricket, both at home and abroad, took 1,146 wickets with an average of 13.55.

In minor matches he naturally did many very remarkable things. Thus, in an up-country game in Australia, in 1881-2, he bowled down all twenty wickets of his opponents; for the Australian team of 1878 he took nine wickets in twenty balls against XVIII of Hastings, and for that of 1880, twelve in eighteen against XVIII of Burnley; while twice for Hampstead he obtained all ten wickets in an innings of Marlow on his opponents' ground--for 20 runs in 1893, and for fourteen a year later. In the game of 1893, his day's figures were seventeen for 40. When he made his first appearance for Hampstead he was in his thirty-eighth year, yet he took as many as 951 wickets for the Club for 7½ runs each. In 1894 he claimed 200 wickets for the side for an average of 5.90.

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