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|Saturday, 11th October 2008|
|P||eter Ustinov once quipped of cricket, 'Here is a game so doggedly peculiar and dangerous that no foreign nations...have ever adopted it.|
If this were totally true the international games would be less fun but we would possibly be more successful.
A few rules:
Cricket has a long and illustrious tradition in the cigarette card field and because of the popularity of the sport early examples also command some of the highest prices in the cigarette card world, outside of the US baseball cards. Go into any decent sporting pub and there will be the framed set of Cricketers, finance and scarcity usually means this is a thirties set but no worse for that.
You do not really have to go to far back in the history of the game to find first class cricket divided into two types of player. The professional and the amateur or, players and gentleman as they were known. I am now going to attempt the impossible and give an introduction to the sport of cricket as seen on cigarette cards.
I say impossible because there are thousands of cards depicting the sport and this is only eclipsed by the number of words written about them. Trying to condense all of this into one page is impossible, I could happily write an entire site on this one theme alone and spend a lifetime doing it. However the fact it is impossible does not stop me at least giving you a flavour of the game and maybe one year I will write a cigarette card cricket site.
Britain has had more than its fair share of Cricket greats
Cricket was interesting in the fact that those paid to play the game and those that did so for fun could compete in first-class cricket on the same field. In such circumstances it begs the question, Why was anyone paid? Golf, racquet sports and football long failed to keep the two styles on the same field. Rugby, kept the two apart by defining different codes until very recently.
Although gentleman and players may well have been indistinguishable on the field this was not the case off the field. Some 70 years ago, during cigarette card heyday there were different pavilion entrances, different changing rooms and even different eating arrangements for the two types of player.
This was not the only distinguishing feature in a game riddled with protocol and arcane structures (it just would not be cricket otherwise and suddenly the rest of the world would understand it and then the Brits would have even less chance of winning a game.).
In manner of identification a gentleman was identified as a 'Mr.' the professionals not so. This was not a universally adopted method, an alternative approach was having the initials for the gentleman appearing before the surname and after the surname for the professionals. Clear as mud<g>
The early cigarette card cricket sets show these methods of differentiation. Wills Cricketers  and Ogdens Cricketers, 1926 both described the gentleman as Mr and the professionals as surname only.
F J Smith, Cricketers  in their set which divides the two previous sets chronologically gives just the surname of the paid players but added the initials for the amateurs.
Wills was to return to the cricket scene in 1928 and produced two sets Cricketers, 1928 & Cricketers (Second series) . Interestingly it represents something of a watershed.
The earlier of the series showing the classification distinction but the later set not so.
The issue of paid and unpaid cricketers was brought into focus with the 1936 set by Gallaher Sporting Personalities. This set shows a mish-mash of titles and initials which seemed to have no real cohesion at all and probably represents the changing of the guard.
Now professionalism has swept away, forever, most of these strange ticks of language that makes it all so quaint and impenetrable for outsiders looking in.
Given all that confusion can be created just by the names of the players actually playing just think how complicated the rules of the game are. Lets side step this issue for the time being and get onto the real meat of the situation. In every sport there are two teams that when they met on the field there is a real sense of occasion. For cricket it is the England Australia Ashes tours. Although perhaps not as important as they once were it is still hard to overstate the passion these clashes generate.
The famous Notts. bowler, he first appeared in a Test Match v Australia at Lord's in 1926. Took 18 wickets in the Tests in Australia, 1928-9, and 33 in the 1932-3 series. Hit up 98 in the fifth Test in the Commonwealth two winters ago. Larwood takes a long run when delivering his "expresses" and is one of the fastest bowlers in the world to-day. Was second in the 1934 average with 84 wickets at an average of 17.25
How many of you noticed the past tense in which the great days of English cricket is often spoken in. 15-20 years ago an article would have been '..what makes them great.' Indeed 15 years ago an article did begin, 'The very highest level of cricket is still generally accepted to be the Test matches between England and Australia...a century scored in one of these matches is surely the ultimate in achievements...'
The first official test match between these two nations was in Melbourne 1877. In the 1930's England was the greatest cricketing nation on the planet, or at least that was what the statistics showed.
Mind you the W.Indies had only played 12 tests by that stage and managed to win only two. All India was less spectacular, played one, lost one.
The Larwood card does not mention the 'leg-theory', perhaps a few years after the 'bodyline' series things had calmed down a bit. No sense of the outrage that it caused, at the time however.
Up until that point Cricket was seen as a game for Gentleman. However deserved this was, the bodyline series as it is known, blew away those cobwebs and revealed the game to be more about open warfare than cream teas.
Part of the joy of cigarette cards is the fact that they were printed in England-Australia heydays. I suppose as a Brit the heydays were when we were winning (although maybe this year...)
During the period there have been many greats, it does not take long to draw up a list of greats. If you have not put Don Bradman in your top three then I would like to know who your top three choices were (!)
The 'Don' makes an appearance on Players Cricketers, 1934 #36. His achievements on the cricket field are legendary, a true great, we may well never see the like of him again (he eventually scored 19 centuries in the 'ashes' a record). The card notes he had made seven of those centuries by 1932-33. Along with listing his batting records, such as a test average of 87.52 against England, 334 runs at Leeds (best individual score in a test match) it also mentions, 'Bradman is a magnificent fielder in the deep.'
New South Wales & Australia
Don Bradman at the age of 25 has already scored 1,838 runs, average 87.52, against England in Test Matches. In 1930, against Queensland, he scored 452 not out - a world's record for first-class cricket. In the same year in the Tests in England his aggregate was 974 runs, average 139. He thus obtained two more records, beating the previous highest, aggregate in Test Matches (of 905 by Hammond) and, with his 334 at Leeds, the best individual score in Test Matches (of 287 by RE Foster). His century against England in the Test Matches of 1932-33, made a total of 7 in 6 years. Bradman is a magnificent fielder in the deep.
Players, Cricketers, 1934
Also note that this card mentions the 1930 season when he scored a Test average of 139 against England, a record which still holds today. This shifts us to Players, Cricketers 1930.
Bradman was a one off (for Australia) His Test average was 99.94. It should have been one hundred but with only needed four runs to make that total in his final test match he was dismissed second ball. I still wince to see him dismissed like that.
Hardly a fitting end to a test career and in those days retirement was retirement. The bowler (sorry I've misplaced his name) recently was interviewed and said he had not realised the significance of the occasion and had he known would not have attempted to bowl him out.
However Britain has had more than its fair share of Cricket greats and I shall line up Sir John Berry 'Jack' Hobbs (1882-1963) as Englands top-class batsman against Australia (as represented in cigarette cards)
He appears in many sets but let him be represented by Wills Cricketers, 1928  #32. In his career he was to create 12 centuries against the oldest of cricket adversaries, in the Oval Test of 1926 scoring exactly 100 against them contributing greatly toward the match win and that being the 'ashes' decider. Sweet indeed. Stretching the rules a bit let me add Jack still holds the record for the most runs in First Class cricket, 61,237 (av 50.65)
My next 'hero' comes from the 1932-3 series . A lot has been said about this series and its ramifications but this is not an article about bowling so I am going to try sidestepping the whole episode gladly, leaving it for another day.
In a series where Australian batsman were being physically intimidated and assaulted by some ferocious bowling. One innings stands out as remarkable. Stanley McCabe was a 22 year old Australian playing his first Test against England on his native soil. He can be found on card #44 Players Cricketers 1938. McCabe came to the crease as number four (previous three falling for 82). Larwood was smashing the ball in at the peak of his game. McCabe added his first 50 withstanding the bowling for 1.5 hours. By end of play he had reached 127 runs
Opening play the following day McCabe added another 60 runs before he ran out of batting partners. He scored an undefeated 187 against a bowling attack, the like of which had never been seen before.
For England the 'bodyline' series was a rare ashes win in this period even though Stanley McCabe did his level best.
My next choice is perhaps even more controversial and remains so. It was only a couple of years ago there was a deplorable text in Wisden on this subject and it is not one I really wish to get involved in, so ridiculous was the proposition put forward and it will be looked back on as the disgrace it so obviously is. I am turning the clock back to the 1890's and the England batsman KS Ranjitsinhi.
In his debut in the second Test in 1896 his not out 154 could not save the match. It might have been different if he could have found a batting partner that could withstand the Australian assault in the same stoic manner. However it was not to be. In his innings he hit 23 fours. He has his likeness in the Wills Cricketers  series. For my money this Wills set could be the best Cricket set ever produced. Luckily for mere mortals this set has been reproduced at a more affordable level so we can all enjoy it. Lovely.
To keep the balance I turn to Clem Hill. He played in the 1896 series but few would really have noticed him. However his turn was to come on home soil in 1897-8 series. The batting pitch was good for bowling and England's bowlers were making good use of it. It stood at 58 for 6 and Hill had made 34 of them (!) Then Hill found a batting partner and together the pair added 165 before Trimble was out for 46.
At the end of play Australia stood at 275 for 7, Hill scoring 182 of them. Hill could not maintain his form the following day and fell quickly for 188. Hill can be found in the Ogdens Tabs, General Interest Series 'C' #268.
Now allow me to race through the decades and across the globe, changing the nationality of my 'hero' in the process. Caught up with me yet, good. 1938, Second Test as Lords the batsman is Walter Hammond. Walter had something of a reputation with antipodean sides (he averaged 563 runs in the 32/33 season against New Zealand, this being recorded as the highest batting average in a test. He had 2 innings, not out in one.)
This Gloucester star came in when the score stood at 31 for 3 (oh how horribly familiar). However with Eddie Paynter as partner they added 222 runs onto the score in a little over 3 hours. Just after 6pm Walter scored the single which gave him his fourth double century over Australia.
Walter Hammond can be found in the Churchman's Cricketers , series #16.
So for what it is worth those are some of the great batsman who made the ashes series what they were.
To round-up every Cricketing set that has been produced by the card companies would be quite Herculean and have very little purpose. You know which are your favourites although I cannot leave you without mentioning one set I find particularly fascinating. A contemporary with the earliest of Wills sets is Ogdens Cricket & Football-Women . Marvellous.
What follows is a few cricketers which were also rather good footballers but only ever appeared on Cricket cards. The sort of people you just wanted to strangle at school.
W. Gunn starts the ball rolling who played for Nottinghamshire and also played for England in 1886 (I said they were rather good.) His likeness appears on Wm Clarke, Cricketers Series . He was not alone as being a full football international as well as being a cricketer. CJ Burnup was another such fellow. He appears in some of the early sets.
HB Daft Wills, Cricketers was both a professional cricketer and football player. CB Fry was perhaps one of the most celebrated natural athletes of the time. Football, cricket, athletics were sports in which he excelled. His last appearance on a cricket set was Gallaher, Famous Cricketers . A youthful Fry appears in the Wills, Cricketers 1908 series LG Wright can be found on Wills, Cricketers, 1901 but there is nothing to say he also played football for Derby County.
|Wills, Cricketers, 1908 #48: Mr C B Fry
Repton - Oxford - Sussex - England
A remarkable athlete, holding records in several branches of sport. As a batsman his career has been one of consistent brilliancy. He has scored 75 centuries. In 1901 he totalled 3147 and in five other seasons over 2000 runs. He also holds the unique record of having scored four double centuries, and of having compiled six consecutive hundreds (1901). His yearly averages for Sussex in the County Championship since 1898 have been 59,42,63,74,41,80,79,86,27 and 48.
Rugby also benefited from some of these cricketing all-rounders. EW Dillon (he played with CJ Burnup for Kent.) also played International rugby. His likeness is to be found in Ogdens, Guinea Golds New series.
AN Hornby could almost have had a set of cards dedicated to him. Playing rugby for Manchester he played Cricket for Lancashire. Obviously he was a man of considerable talent because he played for England at both disciplines. Pattreiouex, Cricketer Series.
He was not the only one capable of this feat, SMJ Woods achieved the same accolade. Cohen Weenen, Heroes of Sport .
The next two subjects might represent something of a unique duo in the cigarette card world. Harry Makepiece and Jack Sharp played cricket and football professionally at club level and at international level. Run of the mill so far then <g>. Both these great all-rounders played for Everton in the 1906 & 1907 Cup finals. Now the duo is beginning to be a bit special.
The real clincher though is that they both appear on Taddy cards. They appear on the cards as representing each sport, footballers for Everton, Cricketers for Lancashire.
This bit is dedicated to decent cricketers which were better known for other sports when it comes to cigarette cards.
I thought I was going to find more examples for my article in these glory days of amateurism. Sportsman were naturally gifted for the most part in this era. Given the training facilities etc, you were either good or you were not.
On further examination it showed the lack of such characters were because they also appeared on cricket cigarette cards rather than a lack of characters.
Ogdens, Famous Footballers  set of 50. Has two examples. J.E Raphael and W.George who played for Surrey and Warwickshire respectively appear as 'famous footballers' but fail to appear as even mediocre cricketers which is a bit off as they were good enough to play at county level.
Taddys has an example in its London back prominent footballer series when they name S.Puddefoot. This gentleman played for Essex second eleven but played football for West Ham.
Smith, Football Club Records  set of 50 finds us looking at AE Knight who played for Hampshire. Here though he is wearing the colours of Portsmouth (he does in the set issued in 1917 also.)
For those of you that like coincidence (I do) Hampshire had another ball player in their team this time playing for Leicester and England, HKV Day. Once again Smith is the company that puts his face in the frame. This time Famous Rugby Players.
Pinnace, Footballers has a bumper crop of players which appear only as having skill with their feet but had talents in other sports arena. S Piddefoot appears once more. Then comes LB Blaxland (Derbyshire), AG Doggart (Middlesex), and Arthur Grimsdell who played for Spurs but also Hertfordshire in the minor counties. There is also CA Kershaw playing football he appears in Players, Footballers, Caricatures by 'Rip' he also played Cricket for Lancashire second eleven.
Wills, British Rugby Players(Australian issue) has the players KA Sellar and WG Morgan who also played for Sussex and Glamorgan respectively.
Morgan also gets his face onto Wills, Rugby Internationals.
Finally RH Bettington. Having gained a rugby blue for Oxford he became a surgeon practising in Australia. Playing cricket, originally for Middlesex, he went on to play for New South Wales. He is in Gallaher, Famous Cricketers. He also appears in Phillips, Who's Who in Australian Sport. But this time with a golf club. Makes you sick really. I get enough exercise dragging myself out of a chair.