As late as 1895, at nearly 47 years, Grace was a rejuvenated man. He resurrected his career by becoming the first to score over 1000 runs in May, a cherished achievement at the beginning of the English season when it is generally cold and damp, and the ball darts around; and to notch up 100 first-class hundreds, achieving the coveted landmark in the game against Somerset at Bristol. As if to celebrate, he went on to hit up 288 out of a total of 474. Grace was the lone man to achieve these two distinctions in the 19th century. He topped the run tally for the season with 2346 runs. The next year he made his third triple century, two decades after he had compiled his first two.
Amazingly, Grace was captain of Gloucestershire from 1871 to 1898. He led England in 13 Tests, playing 22 in all and scoring 1098 runs at an average of 32.29 with two centuries both at the Oval against Australia, 170 being the highest in 1886. Though he played his last first-class match in 1908, when he was sixty, the same year that Bradman was born, W.G.’s career was effectively over by the close of the nineteenth century. His final appearance at Lord’s for The Gentlemen was in 1899. He was still captain but did not bowl, and batted only at no. 7, instead of his customary position at the top of the order. He scored 78 before being run out, his age and bulk unable to meet the demands of sprinting up and down the pitch with youthful partners.
As Marks noted: “The Gentlemen won by an innings, which was hardly surprising since the side contained many of the men who were to become legendary figures of the Edwardian era (Archie) MacLaren, (C.B.) Fry, (K.S.) Ranjitsinhji, and F.S. Jackson. On the Players side was a 21-year-old Yorkshireman Wilfred Rhodes, who was to have the rare privilege – and pain – of bowling to both W.G. and his Australian counterpart of the next generation, Donald Bradman.” Grace aggregated 6008 runs for the Gentlemen against the Players – more than twice the next man – and also took 276 wickets.
(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email email@example.com).
Published in India by Sporting Links
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