Frank Mitchell

MR. FRANK MITCHELL was born on the 13th of August, 1872. As he did not go to a prominent public school, the general public knew nothing of him till he suddenly came to the front as a Freshman at Cambridge in the spring of 1894. No one who follows cricket will forget the sensation caused by his batting at that time. After making a lot of runs in college matches, he was given a place in the eleven, and so long as the University played at home, he realised all expectations, his greatest triumph being gained when against Yorkshire-his own county-he scored 75 and 92. Everyone at Cambridge thought that a new batsmen of the first rank had come forward, and subsequent events proved that this high estimate of his ability was well founded. For some time, however, he greatly disappointed both himself and his friends. In the University match in 1894 he was got rid of for 1 and 28, and when tried for Yorkshire he completely failed, only scoring 44 runs in eight innings. Among those who retained a strong faith in him was Mr. W. G. Grace, who, from the first time he saw him, said that he was good enough for any eleven. During his three subsequent years in the Cambridge team, Mitchell did fairly well, but still fell a good deal below his early promise. He averaged 30 for the University in 1895, 27 in 1896, and 26 in 1897. He was captain in 1896, when his action in instructing E. B. Shine to bowl no-balls in order that Oxford should not follow on, came in for so much bitter and undeserved criticism. Time has justified him, the discussion that ensued certainly leading to the present rule as to the follow-on. During his last three years at Cambridge he did not make much way for Yorkshire, playing with moderate success in 1895, not appearing at all in 1896, and only playing once in 1897. In 1898 he took no part in county cricket, and his career seemed to be at an end. If he had finished then he would assuredly have ranked as nothing better than a disappointment. During the winter of 1898-99 however, he went to South Africa as a member of Lord Hawke"s team, and played so finely-scoring 857 runs and coming out second to P. F. Warner in the averages-that in the season of 1899 he was given a regular place in the Yorkshire eleven. Then at last he did himself full justice in English cricket. Yorkshire only gained third place among the counties, but their batting was never stronger than in 1899, five men making over thirteen hundred runs apiece in county matches alone. Mitchell was a model of consistency, and with an aggregate of 1502 runs in purely county fixtures he finished up a good third to F. S. Jackson and George Hirst. Volunteering for the war, he was absent from the cricket field during the whole of the summer of 1900, but his sojourn in South Africa did him no harm, and during the past season he batted better than ever, scoring seven hundreds for Yorkshire, and standing out by himself in the county averages. With this culminating success his career has, for the time at least, terminated. Before the season was over he went to America with Bosanquet"s team, but returned earlier than the other members of the eleven as he had made arrangements to go out to Johannesburg. Late in the autumn he left England, and for the next three or four years it is unlikely that anything will be seen of him on English cricket fields. Still, before going away he said that he hoped his connection with Yorkshire cricket was not over, and that some time in the future he might again have the privilege of playing for the county. As a batsman, Frank Mitchell is not one of those who strike the eye by grace and finish of style, but he has great qualities. Essentially an off-side player, he drives with tremendous power; in fact there are not many batsmen against whom it is a heavier task to field mid-off, While retaining to the full the hitting power which marked his cricket from the time he was first seen at Cambridge, he improved out of knowledge during his last two seasons for Yorkshire in patience, defence, and the ability to get runs on all sorts of wickets. There were few batsmen last season who, whatever the weather or the condition of the ground, could more safely be depended on for a good score. Even if circumstances should prevent him from again taking part in first-class matches in this country, he has done enough to fill a considerable space in the cricket history of the last seven years.

© John Wisden & Co