Man of heart, nerve and skill, 1946

Edward Paynter

RC Robertson-Glasgow

The Society of Acrobats lost the chance of a promising member when Edward Paynter, left-hand batsman of Lancashire and England, decided on the profession of cricket and directed to it a resilient endurance which few players since Squire Osbaldeston can have exceeded and none, in our time, has quite equalled.

A picture returns; of the Lancashire team, after a hot day in the field, waiting in a railway station. Even George Duckworth is revolving dark thoughts on the purpose of Crewe, the significance of Bletchley, or the reason for umpires who disagree. But there, at two o'clock in the morning, is a smallish fellow, astonishing a sleepy Inspector and the rules of deportment with hand-springs up and down the platform. This short sequence from the life of Edward Paynter may explain and epitomize the agile smotherer of deadly breaks, the swift tireless runner and thrower, and what Dr. Watson would have termed The Adventure of the Sick Man of Brisbane.

Paynter is not what is called particular. There is more Truth than Beauty in his batting style. He has been known to hit the best bowlers for four with both his feet off the ground at once. He throws with either hand. All fielding is all the same to him; anywhere from the Bank Holiday bottles behind deep long-leg to the fancy places within easy glare or chat of the batsman, any time from sunrise to sunset. When permitted, or inclined, to bowl, he has up to now favoured the right hand, at least on public occasions; and, using it, he topped the average in D. R. Jardine's 1932-33 tour of Australia, with five wickets at 14.20 each. Later, in reference to this feat, he was heard to say that Lancashire captains have no real memory for figures.

Paynter might not rank on the short list of England all-rounders; not, that is, in the pure, and dull, sense; but in his prime--if he ever bothers to own up to so fragile a thing as a prime--he would have been any wise captain's early pick, by virtue of the composite gift of heart and nerve and skill. His very presence in a team was an installment against timidity; a stay to the doubting, a comfort to the young newcomer, a silent joy to the tried companion.

He was born on November 5, 1901, at Oswaldtwistle; a date that suggests an earlier and less complete artist, a place that recalls the first fame of another humorist, and cricketer, Mr. Sydney Howard. When a schoolboy, Paynter, at any rate in his hours of play, was liable to no risk of excessive tuition, for there was no cricket ground. So he read all that he could find about the game, played through matches in books, and dreamt of centuries by Paynter at Old Trafford, with R. H. Spooner batting at the other crease and A. C. MacLaren almost approving from the committee room window.

Dr. W. G. Grace, at the age of sixteen, had already knocked centuries off some of the principal bowlers in the South and, including his own relations, the West of England. He was also training that beard in the way it should one day grow. At sixteen, Paynter was received into the Enfield Second Eleven, of which his father was then the captain; not, we may be sure, without some wagging of old heads at this rank example of nepotism. This was in the middle of the first World War, which carried off his elder brother, Arundel, a fast left-arm bowler of much promise.

In 1920 Paynter was introduced to the notice of the Lancashire Cricket Club, which passed him on for the interest and care of their professional coach, J. T. Tyldesley. Tyldesley, as wise in instruction as he had been brilliant in execution, knew that he had found something. But the Lancashire team was as hard to storm as any wary old bachelor's heart, and it was not till the season of 1926, in the County's twentieth match, that Paynter (E.), in the absence of Tyldesley (E.), appeared on the scored-card, batting at number six. In the first innings he made eight; in the second, like many another good man, he was bowled for 0 by J. C. White. But he had the compensatory pleasure of seeing that nonpareil of last-ditchers, Somerset's C.C.C. Case, play a ball delivered by Richard Tyldesley while lying prone and forwards, with his bat in front of his forehead. In 1931, in his thirtieth year, Paynter became a regular player for Lancashire, and scored his first century, 100 against Warwickshire at Old Trafford. He also made 102 off the New Zealand bowlers at Liverpool, and played for England against New Zealand at Old Trafford.

But it was his first innings in a Lancashire versus Yorkshire match, cricket's Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, that fixed his fame and, according to the wags, nearly cost him his place in the Lancashire Eleven. It happened at Bradford in May of 1932. Opening the match with the calm-browed Frank Watson, he scored 152 at the rate of nearly 50 an hour. He hit five sixes and a most indecent number of fours. Indeed, such a performance on such an occasion was more than impropriety. It almost smacked of lunacy. Habitual celebrants at the Northern biennial rites were torn between pity and astonishment. It was as if someone had sung comic songs at a funeral, or deliberately dropped a tin of sweets during a lecture on the uses of Algebra. The news reached London, and Paynter was earmarked for Australia.

Even Paynter may have been a little startled by some of the goings-on during the M.C.C. tour of Australia in 1932-33, and he is said to have referred to the Third Test, at Adelaide, as a nice to-do. In that match, probably the noisiest on record, he was preferred to Pataudi. His 77 in the first innings was one of the hinges of the door that opened to victory. England made a shocking start, losing the wickets of Sutcliffe, Jardine, Hammond and Ames for 30 runs. Then Leyland and Wyatt added 156, briskly, as Test match timing is reckoned. But the first day's score, 236 for 7, Paynter and Allen not out, was not such as to send early morning listeners in England whistling from Radio to work. On the second day, after Allen had fallen to Grimmett's top-spinner, Paynter and Hedley Verity put on 96 for the eighth wicket, and the total reached 341. Then came Larwood. On the sixth day England won the match, the gallant Woodfull won the applause of the moment and of history by carrying his bat for the second time through a Test match innings.

For the fourth and, as it proved, deciding Test in the turkish-bath of Brisbane, Paynter gave a sort of repeat of his Adelaide performance. Again his chief assistant was Verity; again they put on over 90 together. But, this time, Paynter jumped hospital to play. His 83, spread over four hours on two days, varied from almost tottering survival to an heroic assumption of dominance. Nearly half his runs came from boundaries. On the sixth day of this deadly creeping struggle, Paynter, fittingly enough, was at the wicket to make the hit--a six to leg--that won the Rubber. Soon after his return to England he was the honoured guest at a social gathering of fellow Lancastrians. Speeches, and better things still, flowed warmly. Then the hero rose and, using a short but popular phrase, disclaimed, in a purely Paynterian sense, the suggested significance of his achievement.

Fame caught and depicted him as a rescuer, as the turner of the critical cause. But such a likeness would be only the snap-shot of a mood, not a portrait for posterity. A few timeless Tests were not to be enough to convert the boy who meant to be a hitter. The Massacre of Bradford was truer Paynter than the solemnities of Adelaide and Brisbane. Paynter is an answerer-back, not a sitter-down. Nature made him fervid, which you could know from the attitude and exercise of his fielding. Necessity laid on him some measure of conformity. Few who live by cricket dare make long noses at those twin dictators, Average and Record.

So, in the years that followed his return from Australia, Paynter, judged by numbers, would appear to rise to a zenith. In summer 1937 he scored nearly 3,000 runs, with innings of 322 against Sussex at Hove and 266 against Essex at Old Trafford. In summer 1938 he made 216 not out for England against Australia at Trent Bridge, and in six Test innings he averaged 101.75. In the following winter, for England against South Africa, he scored 117 and 100 at Johannesburg, 243 at Durban. But, for all the outward splendour of these achievements, I regard them as a consolidation of worldly wisdom rather than a heightening of technical skill. He knew the fashion and followed it. Herein is no belittlement of worth, for no praise can flatter him who so combines expediency with pleasure, who is workman and artist indivisibly blended.

In 1939 Paynter captained the Players against the Gentlemen at Lord's and his team won by 160 runs. It comes back to memory like a match from another world. The ball behaved very oddly. It had an extra stitch in the seam, and it took a primitive delight in rapping the batsmen on knuckles and body. But the victims refused to attribute their injuries to the nature of the ball. It was of Australian manufacture.

Our cricketers may soon be introduced to this ebullient globe again, on its home ground. May they meet it with the middle of the bat; like Edward Paynter,fourteen years ago.


(Born Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, November 5, 1901)

First Appearance for Lancashire; v. Somerset at Old Trafford July 7, 8, 9, 1926, when he scored 8 and 0.


Inns.Not OutsHighest Score100'sTotal RunsAverage
1932-33 ( Australia)163102153841.38
1932-33 ( New Zealand)305208829.33
1938-39 ( South Africa)14024351,07276.57


Inns.Not OutsHighest Score100'sTotol RunsAverage
1931 (v. New Zealand)103033.00
1932 (v. India)205406834.00
1932-33 (v. Australia)52830184 61.33

© John Wisden & Co