William Woof

WOOF, WILLIAM ALBERT, the old Gloucestershire slow left-hand bowler, died at Cheltenham on April 4, aged 77. Born at Gloucester on July 9, 1859, he was educated at Bedford Grammar School with the intention of becoming an engineer. He played for the Gloucestershire colts in 1878 and took five wickets for 78 runs, among his victims being W. G. and G. F. Grace. When tried for the County, he failed and next year, accepting an engagement on the ground staff at Old Trafford, he decided to make cricket his career. Then A. N. Hornby persuaded him to change his pace from fast to slow with very beneficial effect. W. G. Grace, hearing of this, got him a post as bowler at Cheltenham College and in 1882 recommended him for the ground staff at Lord's where he made a name in M.C.C. matches and remained for four seasons. Appointed coach at Cheltenham in 1885 he retained the position until 1925 and on his retirement he received £1,200 as a testimonial from past and present Cheltonians.

Altogether in first-class cricket Woof took 752 wickets at less than 17 and a half runs apiece. His best seasons were 1884, when he dismissed 116 men for 18 runs each, and 1885 when 100 wickets fell to him at an average cost of less than 18 runs. After this, owing to his duties at Cheltenham, he could not give much time to help his county until the vacation, and he retired from first-class cricket in 1894, but four years later for East Gloucestershire he took seven M.C.C. wickets for 28 runs.

Very clever in keeping a length Woof got on a lot of spin for the break back, while, without change of action, he made the ball go with his arm quickly off the pitch; on drying turf he was deadly. Against the Australians in 1886 at Cheltenham he took nine wickets for 76 (seven for 32 in the second innings); but F. R. Spofforth, with ten for 106, helped the team captained by H. J. H. Scott to win by 26 runs.

Other notable performances were fourteen wickets for 97 against Nottinghamshire at Clifton in 1890, six wickets for 14 runs for M.C.C. against Kent at Lord's in 1882, and five for 13 for M.C.C. at Trent Bridge in 1883. In this match against Nottinghamshire Woof and Rylott at one period at the start of the county's first innings sent down 64 balls without a run being scored from the bat, while six wickets fell. Woof dismissed William Barnes, Flowers, both England players, and Shacklock in the course of five balls. After retiring as a player Woof for a time was on the first-class umpires list.

Among the many fine cricketers coached at Cheltenham by Woof were five brothers Champain, four of whom played for Gloucestershire E. I. M. Barrrett, Hampshire, A. H. Du Boulay, Kent and Gloucestershire, and, more recently, K. S. Duleepsinhji. Woof was buried at Cheltenham College Chapel, the Dean of Hereford conducting the service.

© John Wisden & Co