outstanding batsman is nonetheless a marvel of style and grace, a mixture of
power and poise. There have been hundreds of famous cricket bowlers, and they
are well known, just like the best American baseball pitchers, but, as in
baseball, it is not the man who throws the ball but the big hitter who becomes
the national hero. Where would baseball be without its Babe Ruths and Ty Cobbs
lighting up the years of the past? Cricket has its Ruths and Cobbs, too.
The name most
familiar to Americans, aside from Bradman, of course, is Len Hutton, the
Yorkshireman who became the first professional cricketer ever to captain an
English test side, and who did more to break up the absurd practice of separate
dressing rooms for gentlemen (amateurs) and players (professionals) than anyone
else. Occasionally a cricket scorecard in some hidebound bastion of the game,
such as Lord's, will still show the initials of the amateurs ahead of their
names and the initials of the pros after, but no longer do the two have to
enter the field from separate doors.
Hutton has the
record for most runs in one innings of a test match, 364, against Australia at
the Oval in 1938. In his career, which lasted from 1934 until 1960, he scored
129 centuries in first-class cricket, averaging 55 runs each time he came to
bat. One season he averaged 68 runs. Len Hutton was a stylist, a beautifully
controlled batsman with all the strokes.
There are many
others, of course: Jack Hobbs, whose 197 centuries and 61,237 runs have never
been surpassed, and Denis Compton, a daring, unorthodox player who once scored
300 runs in 181 minutes, an incredible pace; Compton had 122 centuries during
his career and averaged 51 runs in test play. There are not so many great
players active today—there never are—but the English stylist Peter May, and his
partner, Colin Cowdrey, belong in this circle, as does the Australian Neil
Harvey, who is also his country's best baseball player. The Australians have
been hoping that young Norman O'Neill, who decided not to sign a baseball
contract with the New York Yankees three springs ago, will become a new
Bradman, but now they are beginning to wonder.
No one should
really expect another Bradman, the most amazing run-scoring machine the game
has known. Playing once for New South Wales against Queensland in 1929, Bradman
scored 452 runs, not out (a batsman is "not out" if his side ends its
innings for one reason or another before he himself has been put out). He
scored over 300 runs six times. Of his 117 centuries, 29 came in test matches,
far more than anyone else has been able to produce, and his almost unbelievable
average for test play is 99.94 runs an innings, almost 40 runs better than the
next best figure.
They have called
Bradman the Babe Ruth of cricket. He was more like Ty Cobb. The Babe Ruth of
cricket was William Gilbert Grace. W.G.—and no one would think of calling him
anything else, even today—was a giant of a man with a huge black beard. He was
born near Bristol in 1848 and learned to play cricket in a peach orchard. By
the time he was 18 he was an English hero; for 43 years thereafter he was Mr.
Cricket, and he remains so today. By the time he quit, his beard was white and
he looked more like Santa Claus, with a huge belly and a booming laugh, but the
very name of Grace was enough to strike terror into opponents' hearts.
Like Ruth, he
injected personality into the game. He was cunning and loud and crowds came to
see him play. Like Ruth, he was magnificent with either ball or bat. Most of
his batting records have been eclipsed now but he was supreme in his time and
no one has ever surpassed his feat of scoring at least 1,000 runs in 28
different seasons. He had 126 centuries when such batting was unheard of. His
318, not out, in 1876 against Yorkshire is still a record for Gloucestershire,
and in 1896, at the age of 48, he was able to score 301 runs against Sussex. He
once scored 344 runs for the Marylebone Cricket Club against Kent, and at the
M.C.C. they will always consider W.G. next to God.
As a bowler Grace
took 2,876 wickets, the seventh highest of all time, and among fielders he
still ranks second, with 871 catches.
Grace was a member of the first English team to lose a test match to Australia
on English soil. This was in 1882, and it was a disastrous defeat. One
spectator dropped dead, another chewed the handle off his umbrella, and the
Sporting Times reflected the feelings of all Englishmen by printing an
which died at the Oval on
29th August 1882,
deeply lamented by a large circle
of sorrowing friends and