Saturday 29 June 2024

Guest Review: The Croucher A Biography of Gilbert Jessop By Gerald Brodribb

Review: Gilbert Jessop (1874-1955) was a cricketer who played for Gloucestershire and England. In his early days he was known for his fast bowling, but it was as a big-hitting batsman that he gained more fame, his crouching stance at the wicket earning him the nickname “The Croucher”. His most famous innings came in the fifth Test Match against  Australia at the Oval in 1902. Needing 263 runs to win, England were quickly reduced to 48 runs for 5 wickets on a rain-affected pitch when Jessop went out to bat. He decided to attack the bowling in his own inimitable style and scored 104 before he was finally out with the score at 187 for 7. His century was scored in only 75 minutes off 76 balls and, to this day, is still the fastest century in a Test Match by an England batsman. The match was still not over, but England’s tail end managed to accumulate the winning runs, with the last pair anecdotally “getting ‘em in singles” to give England a dramatic victory by one wicket.

Jessop’s childhood and his early career as a teacher before breaking into first class cricket with Gloucestershire and Cambridge University is outlined. As well as describing “Jessop’s Match” at the Oval in 1902, the book details his career with Gloucestershire for whom he made his debut in 1894. He took over the captaincy of the county from the great W. G. Grace in 1900, his performances often outshining the rest of the team. His cricketing career was effectively ended following the outbreak of the First World War, but he continued to play and be involved in golf. He also worked as a journalist and writer. At the end of the book is a short statistical section detailing his cricketing achievements, particularly his remarkable fast-scoring feats.

As an informative biography of one of the lesser-known cricketers of the so-called “Golden Age”, and having seen the bat that Jessop used in scoring his famous century in 1902 in the museum at Lord’s cricket ground, I found this to be an interesting and enjoyable book. It should appeal to all cricket lovers.

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