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I The Voice of the Charmer.…






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Crack Cricketers, i


Crack Cricketers, i [SPECIALLY CONTRIBUTED.] I WILFRID RHODES. Once upon a day--and not very long ago,the now dead Empire builder, Cecil Rhodes, had to go to a West Riding town on some quest in- volving millions of money. "Cum on, Joe, laad, an' see t' greeat mon, Rooads; he'll be at t' staashun ommust noo, an't' Mayor an' Corpcra- shun's ti meet him, wi' t' tahn band an' all," said one millhand to another in the dinner hour. By gum, ah will that," responded his mate PI-i sud gra.adly looike to clap een on him." Together the twain hurried to join the expectant crowd and when the Colossus stepped from the train to a carriage in waiting, amid thunderous cheer- ing, Joe 0 turned disgustedly to his fellow of the factory. "Yon's nooan Rooads," he blurted out, "yen's owd anuf ti be Rooads's feyther." There was only one Rhodes in the world for the sport- loving Yorkshireman, and that was the brilliant young "creckit-laaiker" who had just then bowled himself at a bound into the mental hall of heroes of the Tykes," and taken the place held before by "Bobby" Peel and "Teddy" Peate. The man who metamorphosed the map of South Africa stood as a j^ersonage of no account in the eye of the typical Leeds""loiner," when compared with the left-handed lad whose praise as a trundler was beginning to be sounded over all the shire of many acres, and who to-day is the idol of every Yorkshire lover of the grand old greensward game of England. They wagged their heads dubiously Yorkshire- way about the chances of success of Archie Maclaren's England team for Australia when it was found that the famous couple of wicket-cap- turers, Wilfrid Rhodes and George Hirst, could not go and no doubt the potential pair would have made a vast difference to the strength of the side. Hirst the Cornstalks have for some years known and respected, here and at home, and the willow-wielders from "down under" who did battle with Mr. "Joe" Darling in 1899 can scarcely have forgotten the stripling who, one September afternoon at Scarborough, playing for the England team of that mighty, padless, slogger r'nd'genial gentleman, Mr. Charles Inglis Thornton went on against them on a pitch so much to his liking that it might have been made for him, and bagged nine of their wickets in eighteen overs and four balls (ten of the overs I maidens' for only four and twenty runs. Major Wardill-this notwithstanding—is reported j to have recently spoken rather disparagingly of Wil- frid Rhodes, as "an over-rated bowler"; but since the left-hander outed seven of his men on the rain-sodden Edgbaston ground for the scant score of seventeen runs in the opening "test" match of the present season, perhaps the gallant manager of the Australian combination may have reformed his view. When the ground helps him at all, Wilfrid Rhodes is simply and surely a, terror to batsmen of every calibre. As witness the "record game, for lowest county aggregate, last June at Trent Bridge, when he had half-a- dozen Notts wickets in under eight overs for four runs, and when only thirteen was the total tally of the Lacemen against Schofield Haigh and le Mr. Maclaren might well want to take Rhodes to Australia with this feat in his eye but Rhodes wisely heeded the wish of Lord Hawke that he should conserve his destructive force for York- shire consumption. The executive of the cham- pion county treat their players too well to be flouted. Wilfrid Rhodes "comes through" Kirkheaton, "Huthersfild way,"—where also was born his trusty co-partner in many a splendid trundling performance, George Hirst. The fast left-hander is seven years the senior of the two, for Wilfrid Rhodes only got his first glimpse of daylight on the twenty-ninth of October in 1877. A strap- ping youngster, clean-limbed and five feet nine tall, he soared straight out of club cricket into county fame when he was twenty-one, being given a successful trial on Lord's Ground against the M.C.C. in 1898, taking two wickets of the club men for 39 and four for 24. Yorkshire was want- ing a slow left-hander to take the lost place of Peel just then, and they found the very man in Rhodes and Rhodes has never looked back. He is undoubtedly entitled to come into the cate- gory of cricketing "cracks" now, though he is still so yo7;ng, ana there are those—not bad judges either—who contend that, at his best, on a pitch rendering him any assistance, there has never among the great ones of the game been a greater than he. With action high, easy, and ideal he in bowl- ing takes but a short run, bringing his arm over smartly and gracefully. The finger-break he gets on the ball. and the deceptive flight he gives it, confer upon the hurtled sphere a destroying power that baffles the most accomplished of his antagon^ts exceedingly. Rhodes varies his pace from slow to medium with judicious cunning, albeit h, looks as guileless as a girl ingenue. Batsmen have come to know and to distrust that artless and modest manner of his, though, a.nd with very good reason, as the score-books of Yorkshire for four years past can eloquently 0' show. His pitch is the perfection of accuracy on "his day," and that day comes oftener than in the case of most front rank men. He keeps his proper length all the time, and has a tre- mendous "spin" on when the ground is not too hard, while even upon true, dry wickets he must not be treated with anything like contempt, as many an over-confident subject of "Willow the King" has ruefully found. Rhodes is an oppor- tunist of the very first water, taking every ounce of advantage that can be gained out of a pitch rendered difficult by rain, sun, or wear. To his arrival in first-class cricket at "the psychological moment "-when the White Rosarians were bereft of Pee: in his prime—and to his promptness in seizing his chance and keeping his hold on the positon gained by the infinite painstaking art, Wilfrid Rhodes owes his present splendid emin- ence as a slow bowler. Helped wonderfully by that always trusty-stumper, David Hunter, at Bradford, in 1897, when still quite new to York- shire cricket, Rhodes wiped the eye of Surrey by taking the last seven second innings wickets for two dozen runs; and it was recognised at once that a new star had arisen in the cricket firma- ment. The star is yet shining with undimmed lustre, and the hope is that its brightness will endure. Thirteen Surrey wickets fell in all to his arm in the Bradford match just mentioned, and that same week at Huddersfield he over- threw seven of the men of Hampshire—including the redoubtable Major Poore-the score wickets costing him only 125 runs. In all matches for Yorkshire at the end of his first season his bowling figures were:—Overs, 1135.1; maidens, 448; runs, 1982; wickets, 142. Average, 13.95. He was miles in front of Haigh, Wainwright, Mr. Stanley Jackson, and all the rest of his colleagues with the leather-except for the nominal pre- cedence of Mr. Ernest Smith, who very success- fully bowled in four back-end matches, and took a baker's dozen of wickets for under 10 runs apiece. Moreover, there was only Jack Hearne seriously before him in the first class averages, and that but by decimal points. It was a debut to be remembered, this of Rhodes's, especially as he proved himself a useful bat and up to the .high standard of Yorkshire fielding smartness. Rhodes played in 1899 in three "test" matches for England against Australia, and no English- man took more wickets than he in these great encounters, though both "Sailor" Young and J. T. Hearne had a little better average figures. He played for the Pros. against the Gentlemen and got the wickets of both Fry and "Ranii." He was in 1899 far and away ahead of the York- shire bowling averages, and a rattling good second to Albert Trott in the general averages of the trundlers for the season, with these feres:~?v+ers' 1518-4; maidens, 543; runs, flncTci/i l3' 179-, Average, 17.10. Rhodes flogged the Sussex bowling to the tune of 81, not out, at Harrogate, and manifested by his fine free upstanding style with the willow that he had in him the making of a crack batsman if only bowling were not his forte. Nobody was anywhere in comparison to Rhodes as bowler in 1900, when he "ended up" thus:- Overs, 1553; maidens, 455; runs, 3606; wickets, zbl. Average, 13.81. He also had the very re- spectable batting average of 21.12 for 31 com- pleted innings. Last year Rhodes was again "on top" as trun- dler in the season's record, and did wonderfully well on pitches that mostly played in favour of the bat. Here is the work ne achieved:—Overs, 1565 maiden#, 505; nuw, 3797: wickets. 251. 1565; maidens, 505; runs, 3797: wickets. 251. Average, 15.12. Rhodes also, let it be noted, went up several pegs in his batting, and made in ali 854 runs in first-class cricket, with the average of 26.(53—figuring actually as a centurion at Scar- borough against the M.C.C. He is notoriously bowling quite as wet this year as eyer he has done in his brilliant, if still brief, career. And there we must leave him.




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