George Giffen

GIFFEN, MR. GEORGE, born in Adelaide on March 27, 1859, died in a private hospital at his native place, after a long illness, on November 29, aged 68, thus surviving his old comrade, J. J. Lyons, a few months only. As a batsman Giffen possessed a wonderfully fine defence. He stooped a little but had a great variety of strokes with great freedom in his use of the bat, and was exceptionally strong in driving. He bowled right-hand, rather below medium-pace, with considerable spin and well-concealed change of flight and pace. He used to send down with much effect a slow ball, very high-tossed, which, seeming to be coming well up to the batsman, pitched short, and resulted in many a caught and bowled. It was expected that Giffen would have charge of the Australian team which toured England in 1886, but his merits as a leader were not commensurate with his merits as a player. Giffen first visited England in 1882 as a member of the team which beat England at the Oval by 7 runs. As the side included Spofforth, Boyle, Garrett, and Palmer--four of the finest bowlers of the time-- Giffen was overshadowed, and while they averaged l50 wickets at a cost of less than 13 runs each, he had to be content with taking thirty-two wickets for 22 runs each. Still, he had a brilliant success against the Gentlemen of England at the Oval, where he took eleven wickets for less than 10 runs each--eight in the first innings for 49 runs--and contributed largely to a memorable triumph. Nor had his batting powers at that period fully developed, but his record of 873 runs with an average of 18 was a vastly bigger thing than it would be regarded on the easy wickets of to-day. He showed a marked advance in 1884, and two years later, headed both batting and bowling averages, scoring 1,454 runs, for an average of 25, and taking 162 wickets for 16 runs each. Giffen declined invitation to join the Australian teams of 1888 and 1890, but was a member of the side captained by Blackham in 1893, and also of that led by Harry Trott in 1896. In these years, however, though he came out with a fair record for the whole of each tour, he accomplished little in the representative games. Giffen, indeed, in England scarcely reproduced his Australian form, which was of so high a class that he used to be referred to as the W. G. Grace of Australia. As a member of the five teams mentioned he visited the United States three times, New Zealand twice, and Canada once, besides taking part in two small games in Ceylon.

He trained specially for the last mentioned game, being then within a week or two of completing his forty-fourth year. Most remarkable of all, perhaps, was his all-round performance in scoring 161 out of a total of 586, and 41 in a total of 166 for Australia v. Stoddart's team at Sydney in December, 1894, as in that match he also took eight wickets, and yet was on the losing side. The bowling of Peel and Briggs on a ruined pitch won the match for England by 10 runs. In the winter of 1883, at Sydney, for the fourth Australian team against the Rest of Australia, Giffen took all ten wickets in an innings for 66 runs. He had his greatest success as a bowler in England during the season of 1886, when sixteen Derbyshire wickets fell to him for 101 runs, and in five consecutive innings he dismissed forty batsmen at a cost of 222 runs. He did the hat trick three times--for South Australia, against G. F. Vernon's team, at Adelaide, in 1887-88 against Lancashire, at Manchester, in 1884; and against an England eleven, at Wembley Park, in 1896. Altogether in first-class matches, Giffen scored 12,501 runs, at an average of 29, and took 1,109 wickets, at a cost of 21 runs each. In matches between Australia and England he made 1,238 runs, and took 103 wickets, In 1922-3 the match at Adelaide between South Australia and Victoria was played for his benefit, and the resulting sum, £2,020, was vested in trustees. After being a Civil Servant in the General Post Office at Adelaide for 43 years, he retired on pension in March, 1925, thereafter finding the chief delight of his life, whilst health permitted, in coaching young boys in a purely honorary capacity.

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