William Brockwell

WILLIAM BROCKWELL was born on the 21st of January, 1866, and is the oldest of the five batsmen whose portraits appear in our picture. His fame as a cricketer, however, is scarcely more than a thing of yesterday. He was first tried in the Surrey eleven in the season of 1886, but his powers matured so slowly that it was not until 1893 that he had to be seriously reckoned with as one of the leading players of the day. Up to that time he was a fairly good all-round man, but nothing more. It is interesting to recall the fact, however, that one season when he was not regularly playing for Surrey, the late Mr. Frederick Burbidge-one of the best and keenest judges of cricket-instanced as a proof of the exceptional strength of the Surrey team that they could afford to go into the field without Brockwell. In 1893 he made a great advance, scoring for Surrey in all matches 878 runs, with an average of nearly 26 runs an innings, and taking 80 wickets at a cost of just over 14 runs each. So favourable an opinion was formed of his cricket that when Yorkshire declined to let off any of their men from a county fixture, a place was given to him at Manchester in the third of the representative matches between England and Australia. It cannot be said that on that occasion he added to his reputation, for though he stayed in some time with Gunn and scored 11, he made one very bad mistake in the field. Altogether in first-class matches in 1893, he scored 699 runs with an average of just under 22, and took 68 wickets at a cost of 15.27. The discrepancy between these figures and those in all matches for Surrey is accounted for by the fact that some of Surrey's fixtures were not reckoned first-class. Well as he had done, however, in 1893, no one was prepared for the extraordinary advance he made as a batsman last season. Indeed, in the case of a player who had been any length of time before the public, we can scarcely recall an instance of more conspicuous improvement between one year and another. Five times on the Oval he played an innings of over a hundred, scoring 107 against Gloucestershire-his first three figure innings in an important match; 108 against Sussex; 103 against Yorkshire; 128 for the South against the North in Wood's benefit match, and 106 not out against Notts. Of all these fine displays, the 103 against Yorkshire was perhaps the best. After the Bank Holiday match against Notts, he showed some falling off, but he happily pulled himself together before the season closed, scoring 0 and 81 for the Players against the Gentlemen at Hastings, and 10 and not out 87 in George F. Hearne's testimonial match at Lord's. With this last innings he made himself secure of the top place among the batsmen of the year, his aggregate number of runs in first-class matches being 1491, and his average 38.9. Fortunately for him, he was not called upon to do much bowling for Surrey, only sending down 168 overs in all the county's engagements. Combining, as he does, a finished style with sound defence and brilliant hitting, Brockwell is essentially an attractive batsman to watch. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to keep up to the standard he has now reached, but as to the high quality of his batting last season there could not be two opinions. When in full practice he is a good change bowler, and at cover slip he has during the last two summers done his best to make up in the Surrey team for the absence of George Lohmann . Bright and genial in manner, Brockwell is a thoroughly popular cricketer, and well deserves the good esteem in which he is held.

© John Wisden & Co