Kinneir, Mead, Foster, Strudwick, Hearne, 1912

Five members of the M.C.C.'s team in Australia

SEPTIMUS P. KINNEIR was born at Corsham, in Wiltshire, on the 13th May, 1873. Recognition outside county cricket has come to him rather late in his career. For years he has been one of the mainstays of the Warwickshire eleven, often dividing honours with W.G. Quaife, but not till last summer was he thought of in connection with representative matches. His chance of distinction was due in a sense to accident. The Gentlemen and Players match at the Oval being treated as one of the Test Trial series, the Selection Committee - Lord Hawke, G. L. Jessop, and P. F. Warner - in picking the Players side, decided to leave out Hayward and George Hirst. Kinneir was given a place in the eleven, and made the most of his opportunity, scoring 158 and not out 53. His play made a great impression. It was thought that with his strong defence and extreme steadiness, he would be just the man for the Sydney and Melbourne wickets, and he soon received an invitation to join the M.C.C.'s team for Australia. The compliment was well deserved at the time, but I doubt whether Kinneir would have been asked if Mead had in the first half of the season obtained the big scores that he afterwards made. To take to Australia for the first time a man of 38 was obviously something of an experiment. Whatever the result of his Australian trip, however, there can be no question as to Kinneir's class as a county player. Of all our left-handed batsmen, he has since he came out for Warwickshire in 1898 been the soundest and most consistent, knowing no serious rival till Woolley and Mead appeared on the scene. All one can urge against him is that he is inclined at times to carry caution to an extreme. Like some other players one could name, he loves batting for its own sake, and is quite content to go on playing the same stern, watchful game for hours together. It is said of him that when he has made a hundred runs he starts quite undisturbed on the second hundred, seldom or never feeling tempted by success to take liberties with the bowling. He would have perhaps become a more popular figure on the cricket field if he had been less seriously careful and given freer play to his naturally fine powers as a hitter. I remember an innings of 98 not out against Surrey at the Oval in 1900 that up to a certain point was more brilliant than anything he has done in recent years. Joe Darling himself - the most powerful of Australian left-handers - could not have played a bolder game against Richardson and Lockwood. However, Kinneir has no need to apologise for his careful methods. His position year after year in the Warwickshire averages has amply justified the style into which he has schooled himself. In his early days for the county, serious illness threatened to spoil his cricket, but happily the check in his career was only temporary.

CHARLES PHILIP MEAD was born on the 9th March, 1887. In other circumstances the now famous left-handed batsman might have been a member of the Surrey eleven. He was engaged on the staff on the Oval, he drifted away to Hampshire and during the two years he was qualifying was allowed by courtesy to play against the Australians at Southampton in 1905. His first appearance for his adopted county was full of promise, a score of 41 not out against Cotter in form showing that even thus early in his career he could play the fastest bowling. His reputation, however, dates from 1906. Duly qualified by residence, he appeared against Yorkshire in the May of that year, and caused quite a sensation by scoring 60 and 109. Good judges who saw the match did not hesitate to express the opinion that a left-handed batsman of first-rate ability had come forward. It so happened, however, that during the remainder of the season Mead did not do much. He made 132 against the West Indians, but his average in county matches was only 23. During the next two seasons he showed a steady improvement, and in 1909 he had quite a brilliant year, his aggregate of runs in county matches being 1,352, and his average, with only one three-figure innings to help him, 37. He finished tenth among the batsmen of the season, and firmly established his position. In 1910 he held his ground fairly well, and had his first chance in representative as distinct from purely county matches, playing for England against Kent at the Oval. Inasmuch as he scored 63, his selection was amply justified. Last season, as everyone knows, he went far ahead of everything he had previously done, and on results was only second to C. B. Fry. A badly damaged hand stopped him for a few weeks, but when once in form he did great things in match after match, his success culminating with a great innings of 233 for Players against Gentlemen at Scarborough, and 101 for England against Warwickshire at the Oval. Even though Kinneir had been picked, he could not be left out of the M.C.C.'s team for Australia. By reason of a slight crouch in his position at the wicket, Mead is not such a good batsman to look at as Woolley, but he is far more watchful than the Kent player, and therefore vastly stronger in defence. He has a fine cut, and his on-side hitting, as he showed in many innings last summer, and especially at Scarborough, is powerful to a degree. Endowed with excellent physique, he never knows what it is to have any sense of fatigue when he is batting. His ambition is to win such a place among left-handed bastmen in England, as Clem Hill had held for years past in Australia. Apart from his batting, he is a capital field in the slips or anywhere else he may be placed.

MR FRANK ROWBOTHAM FOSTER was born at Small Heath on January 31st, 1889. There are some cricketers whose natural aptitude for the game is so great that directly the opportunity comes they jump into the front rank. In this select band Mr. Foster may clearly be given a place. Nothing was known of him outside local cricket till the season of 1908, when in five matches for Warwickshire he took twenty-three wickets, but two years later he bowled in such form for the Gentlemen against the Players at the Oval, Lord's, and Scarborough, that the best judges did not hesitate to describe him as one of the England cricketers of the future. I believe that Tyldesley, playing against him in 1909 at Birmingham, was one of the first batsmen to proclaim the fact that a new left-handed bowler of exceptional quality had been discovered. Though Foster scored 574 runs for Warwickshire in 1910, he was up to the end of that year regarded as little more than a bowler. Last summer he improved out of all knowledge as a batsman, and was, by general consent, the best all-round player of the year. Moreover, he became captain of Warwickshire, and had the satisfaction of leading his county to victory in the Championship. It is an old story now that just after accepting the captaincy he announced his impending retirement from the game. Happily for Warwickshire, and for English cricket in general, he was induced to reconsider his decision. The season was one long triumph for him, and, as a matter of course, he was asked to go to Australia. Just as these pages were going through the Press his bowling was one of the main factors in winning a Test Match at Melbourne. What the future may have in store for Foster it is of course impossible to say, but he has already done enough for fame. From what I have seen of him, I should be inclined to say that he is a higher class bowler than batsman. Though very brilliant and blessed with great confidence, he does not play quite straight and takes too many risks to be ranked yet awhile amongst the masters. His bowling is another matter altogether. It is quite distinctive and individual. With an easy natural action, he has a decided swerve, and he possesses the sovereign merit of making speed from the pitch. His pace in the air is quite ordinary, but he comes off the ground with a rare spin, and in that lies his chief virtue. Leaving D.W. Carr out of the question, his style being so dissimilar as to make comparison impossible, no English amateur bowler of such class has come forward since Knox enjoyed his meteoric success in 1906. While Foster was making so many runs last season I feared that his bowling would suffer, but so far he has with impunity done the work of two men. Everything is possible at three and twenty. Cricket at its brightest, is a young man's game, and Foster is the very personification of youthful energy.

HERBERT STRUDWICK was born on 28th January, 1880, and is not the least distinguished of the many fine cricketers that Mitcham has provided for the Surrey eleven. When Strudwick first played for Surrey, the county had quite a good wicket-keeper in Stedham, but it was soon seen that there could be no comparison between the two men. Stedman was excellent so far as he went, but he could rise to no great heights, whereas Strudwick had from the first a touch of genius. The result was that Stedman gradually dropped out, and Strudwick in 1903 took up the position which he has since held with such distinction. Comparison with the great wicket-keepers of the past is unnecessary. For the most part Strudwick conforms to the modern practice of going back to fast bowling, but those who have seen him stand up close to Rushby know very well that he would be quite equal to the old style if fashioned changed. In one respect he is unique. I cannot remember any wicket-keeper who was so marvellously quick on his feet. One catch that he made last season in the Leicestershire match at the Oval, flinging himself down full length in front of the wicket, was the most remarkable thing of its kind I have ever seen. Strudwick bubbles over with an energy that sometimes carries him over too far. I can see no advantage in his habit of leaving his post and chasing the ball to the boundary. The practice is simply the result of over-keenness, but as it does no good it ought to be checked, and I would suggest to the Surrey captain a system of modest fines, the amount being increased by each offence. Considering the length of his career, Strudwick has not been very fortunate in his chances of distinction outside county cricket. I think he ought to have kept wicket for England in the Test Matches of 1909, but Lilley stood in his way. When he went to Australia for the first time in the winter of 1903-4 he was merely Lilley's understudy, and did not appear in the Test Matches. Last summer he seemed to have won an unquestioned place as the representative English wicket-keeper, and was one of the first men to be asked for the Australian tour. Whether he has now found a serious rival in the new Warwickshire wicket-keeper E. J. Smith, remains to be seen. In his early years for Surrey, Strudwick was not much of a batsman, but he improved to a remarkable degree last summer, and played many useful innings.

JOHN WILLIAM HEARNE was born at Harlington, Middlesex, on February 11th, 1891. Except F. R. Foster himself, no young English cricketer in recent years has come so rapidly to the front. The veteran Middlesex bowler, George Burton, who naturally takes a keen interest in the new star, tells me that Hearne first went to Lord's as a ground boy in 1906, and was employed on the extra staff two years later. Nominated by Middlesex, he was engaged on the regular staff of the M.C.C. in 1910. He practically learnt his cricket as a member of the Cross Arrows Club, which body he joined during his first year at Lord's. He soon found a place in the Middlesex second eleven, and in 1909 he was given his first trial for the county, playing in eight of the matches. A lad of little more than 18, and quite new to first-class cricket, he did not do much to suggest the success that was in store for him, but he took ten wickets, and though most of his scores were very small he played an innings of 71 against Somerset at Taunton. In 1910 he made a great advance, and convinced the Middlesex authorities that they had found a prize. Twice he scored over a hundred - against Somerset at Lord's and Sussex at Eastbourne - and though his bowling figures - forty-eight wickets for something under 25 runs a piece - did not look much on paper, he had some days of startling success. Against Essex at Lord's in August he bowled after lunch five overs and a ball for two runs and seven wickets, and later in the month against Hampshire on the same ground he took eight wickets for 90 runs. In both these matches he bowled leg-breaks with a wonderfully quick spin off the pitch, and also showed that he had acquired some power over the googly. When the season was over he went to the West Indies with a very weak team got together for the trip, but perhaps it would have been better if he had stayed at home, the climate being scarcely calculated to give him the physical strength that he needed. At any rate, it took him some time last summer to find his form as a bowler, his length in the early matches being very uncertain. However, he soon asserted himself, both as bowler and batsman, and enjoyed a brilliant season. As in 1910, the Essex batsmen at Lord's felt the full force of his spin, and in both matches with Surrey he was so deadly that Hayward afterwards described him as the most difficult of the googly bowlers he had met. At first there was a difficulty about Hearne going to Australia. Some members of the Middlesex committee thought he was too young for such a heavy tour, but in the end they yielded to Mr. Warner's urgent request that he might be allowed to join the team. Up to the time I write he has done nothing as a bowler in Australia, but as a batsman he has met with wonderful success, making scores in the first two Test Matches of 79, 43, and 114. As he has done so much before completing his twenty-first year, Hearne's future as a cricketer, given a continuance of good health, seems assured. He is obviously a player of great gifts. As a batsman he plays perfectly straight and, as Mr. Warner said in Wisden last year, is free from any serious defects of method. His special merit as a bowler lies in the fact that while able to combine the googly with his leg-break without any very perceptible change of action, he makes the ball come off the pitch at a surprising pace.

© John Wisden & Co