John Hitch

HITCH, JOHN WILLIAM, the Surrey and England right-arm fast bowler, died in Cardiff Hospital on July 7, aged 79. A firm favourite at the Oval, where he was loved as much for his big hitting and brilliant fielding as for his bowling, he was a devoted cricketer who always displayed tremendous energy and enthusiasm. Born at Radcliffe, Lancashire, on May 7, 1886, he played his first serious cricket with Cheveley, just south of Newmarket. Upon the recommendation of Tom Hayward, whom he had impressed in a minor match in Cambridgeshire, he joined the Oval staff in the spring of 1905 and made his first-class debut in 1907. Soon he established himself as one of the fastest bowlers in the country. He had an unusual hesitant run-up in which his approach to the crease was punctuated by two or three hops. More than once he broke a stump, and at the Oval in 1921 he sent a bail 55 yards one foot in bowling A. R. Tanner of Middlesex.

His most successful season was that of 1913 when he took 174 wickets at 18.55 each, including eight for 48 in an innings at the Oval against the powerful Kent side, that years Champions. At Scarborough, in September of that year, he received a souvenir from Lord Londesborough for his performance in taking nine wickets for Players against Gentlemen and scoring not-out innings of 53 and 68, hitting seven sixes. He represented Players against Gentlemen ten times (twice at Lord's) between 1912 and 1923, taking three wickets in four balls on his final appearance at the Oval in 1923. Twice he did the hat-trick--against Cambridge University in 1911, when taking four wickets in five balls, and against Warwickshire in 1914, both at the Oval.

He toured Australia without marked success with the M.C.C. sides of 1911-12 and 1920-21, playing for England on both tours, as well as appearing in Tests in England in 1912 and 1921. He played in seven Tests in all, though his bowling record was modest. Against Australia at the Oval in 1921, however, he scored one of the fastest innings recorded in Test cricket, 51 not out in 40 minutes. Always a spectacular hitter he more than once hit a ball clean out of the Oval. At Trent Bridge in 1919, he scored 74 out of 84 in 35 minutes, and in the following year at Scarborough he batted 32 minutes for 68 out of 87 for C. I. Thornton's XI. He received only 12 balls when scoring 32 in 17 minutes against Glamorgan at the Oval in 1924, three hits off F. Ryan landing in the pavilion seats. In his benefit match against Kent at the Oval in 1921, he reached 71 in 50 minutes.

As a fielder, Hitch was quite outstanding at short-leg, where he stood often perilously close to the bat: but in any position he fielded magnificently. In his first-class career, which ended in 1925, he took 1,398 wickets, average 21.48, scored nearly 8,000 runs and held over 200 catches. The highest of his three centuries was 107, hit in 70 minutes, against Somerset at Bath in 1922.

For four seasons from 1926 he was professional for Todmorden in the Lancashire League, where his younger brother, R. Hitch, was an amateur with Rawtenstall. In his first year he took six wickets for five runs against Lowerhouse and did the "hat-trick" against Colne. From 1926 to 1929, during which Todmorden won the championship once and were twice runners-up, he took 289 wickets at 11.62 each, one of his best performances being eight for 45 against Rishton in 1927.

He later became coach to Glamorgan before taking a position with a South Wales firm, for whom he played in annual matches until he was sixty.--I.R.

© John Wisden & Co