Oct 192018
 

Today is the birthday (1873) of John Barton “Bart” King, a US cricketer, active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who was regarded as the best US all rounder of his day. You might think that being the best at cricket in the US is not saying much, but he played in first class cricket against English and Australian teams and was a key player in defeating them.  Don Bradman called him “America’s greatest cricketing son” and he was made an honorary member of the MCC.

King was born in Philadelphia in 1873. Early in his life, he worked in the linen trade in his family business, but when it was clear that he was cut out for cricket, which, at the time, was played in the US by men who had independent means and could devote themselves wholly to the sport, his teammates set him up in a sinecure selling insurance.

King came to cricket only after first playing baseball. He began to play club cricket at Tioga Cricket Club in 1888, aged 15, starting out as a batsman. Tioga was one of the lesser Philadelphia cricket clubs. King played his first recorded match for the club in 1889, when he was tried as a bowler due to his physique (he was 6’1”). He took 37 wickets for 99 runs for the club in the 1889 cricket season. King played for Tioga until 1896, when he joined Belmont Cricket Club, the premier team in the US.

In 1893, the Australian team stopped by Philadelphia on its way home from a tour of England. Australia fielded a strong side, but the team was tired after a long tour and trip. In spite of this fatigue, the Australians chose to face the full strength of the Gentlemen of Philadelphia in a three-day match starting September 29th. On a small ground at Belmont, the September grass was coarse. It had been rolled so that the ball moved very quickly across the ground. The Australian side, fielding first, dropped many catches and could not cope with the short boundary, allowing the Philadelphians to reach a total of 525 runs. King came in to bat last, at number 11, making 36 runs. The leading Australian bowlers, Hugh Trumble and George Giffen, took 2 for 104 and 0 for 114 respectively. When the Australians came to bat, they hoped that they would, by now, have recovered from their tiring journey, but ran into problems when dealing with Bart King’s developing swing bowling. The side was all out for 199, with King taking 5 wickets for 78 runs. The Australians followed on and were all out again for 268, allowing the Gentlemen of Philadelphia to win by an innings and 68 runs.

The cricket world was stunned that a single US city could turn out a side capable of beating the full strength of Australia. The Australians won the return match on October 6th by six wickets, but the Australian captain, Jack Blackham, said to the Americans, “You have better players here than we have been led to believe. They class with England’s best.”

King joined the US cricket team’s tour of England in 1897. The tour was very ambitious, and was arranged mainly for educational purposes: few on the US side expected to win many matches. Previous tours had tended to involve amateur English sides with a low level of competition. In 1897, the tour started on June 7th at Oxford, ending in late July at The Oval almost 2 months later. The schedule included fifteen matches against all of the top county cricket teams, the Oxford and Cambridge University teams, the Marylebone Cricket Club, and two other sides, though only a few of the counties thought it worthwhile to put their best elevens on the field.

While the tour initially aroused some curiosity, many English fans lost interest until Bart King and the Philadelphians met the full Sussex team at Brighton on June 17th. King demonstrated his batting ability in the first innings with a fourth-wicket stand of 107 with John Lester. He then took 7 wickets for 13 runs, and Philadelphia dismissed Sussex for 46 in less than an hour. King took 6 for 102 in Sussex’s second innings, helping the Philadelphians to victory by 8 wickets.

Despite the excitement surrounding King’s performance, the Americans did not fare well overall, and the results may have been worse than hoped for by the tour’s promoters. Philadelphia won only two of their fifteen matches, losing nine and earning a draw in the remaining four. After their win against Sussex, the only other win of the tour came against Warwickshire. During this match, King took 5 for 95 and 7 for 72 and scored 46 runs. According to Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, King proved himself to be the best bowler on the US side and had to do much of the work. He bowled 300 overs, more than anyone else in the team, taking 72 wickets with a bowling average of a little over 24 runs. In addition to his bowling, King scored 441 runs as a batsman at a batting average of just over 20.

Following the 1897 tour, many English counties were interested in securing King’s services. It was thought that he would not play as a professional, so alternative means of remuneration had to be found: one county reportedly offered to arrange a marriage with a widow who had an income of £7000 per year. In the end, King returned to the United States.

The Philadelphian team returned to England in 1903. This proved to be King’s most successful tour, particularly his performances in the matches against Lancashire and Surrey. King played in 13 of the 15 matches on the tour, missing two with a strained side. In his first match, against Cambridge University, he took 5 for 136 and 4 for 28. He followed that with 8 for 39 in the first innings against Oxford University, though the match was eventually abandoned as a draw due to rain. In his next match, against Gloucestershire, he took 2 for 26 in the first innings but did not bowl in the second. He also took 7 for 51 and 2 for 28 against a strong MCC side at Lord’s. Then came the Lancashire match at Old Trafford. In Lancashire’s first innings, King bowled 27 overs and took 5 wickets for 46 runs. The Philadelphians passed Lancashire’s first innings score, but their lead was quickly overtaken in Lancashire’s second innings. With the wind strong over King’s left shoulder, the scene was set for him to dominate the opposition. In his first over after the lunch break on day two of the match, he yorked one of Lancashire’s opening batsmen and his replacement with successive balls. He clean bowled two more batsmen in his second over, and bowled a stump out of the ground in the third. In 3 overs, he had taken 5 wickets for 7 runs. After this performance, King had to be rested in the field. One batsman was run out before King returned to take 4 more wickets, ending the innings with 9 for 62. The Philadelphians won next morning by nine wickets.

Against Surrey on August 6, King was overpowering again. It was in this match that King gave what Barker called his finest first-class performance ever. Batting first, he scored 98 runs in the Philadelphian’s first innings before being run out, and he then took 3 for 89 in Surrey’s reply. In the second innings, he made 113 not out and then took 3 for 98. Surrey lost the match by 110 runs. Apparently, King was so exhausted after his performance that he fell asleep during a speech by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Alverstone at a banquet after the match.

King played in his last two international matches in 1912, against Australia. His performances were of the highest quality, given that he was nearly 40. In the first match, he took 9 wickets for 78 runs to help Philadelphia win by 2 runs; in the second, Australia won by 45 runs despite him taking 8 for 74.

King died at a nursing home in his native Philadelphia in 1965, two days short of his 92nd birthday. The Times of London ran an obituary for him, which quoted Plum Warner as saying that: “Had he been an Englishman or an Australian, he would have been even more famous than he was.”

Though King focused on bowling throughout his career, he was also a very fine batsman. In 1905, he established a North American record batting record by scoring 315 at the Germantown Cricket Club. The following year, he scored 344 not out for Belmont against the Merion Cricket Club, setting a North American batting record which will almost certainly never be beaten. He scored 39 centuries in his North American career, and he topped 1,000 runs in six seasons. He took over 100 wickets in eight seasons, including a double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in four seasons. In his whole career, he scored 19,808 runs at an average of 36.47, and took 2,088 wickets at an average of 10.47. He took all 10 wickets in an innings on three occasions, and took 9 wickets in an innings five times. One of these occasions, in the Gentlemen of Ireland’s first innings in 1909, was followed by a hat-trick in the second innings.

King was one of the first bowlers to be able to deliver outswing and inswing balls. He used the outswinger most often, and rarely used the inswinger because he did not want batsmen getting used to it. In consequence it was deadly. As you can see from the first photo, his delivery was unusual – sort of a mix of baseball pitching and conventional bowling. He began his run up with the ball clutched in both hands behind his head, but then released it with a straight arm. He was never given a no-ball for throwing.

For today’s recipe I am reminded of the classic US statement, “As American as apple pie,” which to me is about as absurd as saying, “As American as pizza.” Wild apples are indigenous to Asia, and were brought to North America by European colonists. In the sense that the US was colonized by English immigrants you can peg apple pie as “American” in that it was an immigrant also. So was cricket. “American as pizza” is actually a better twist on the saying inasmuch as tomatoes were first domesticated in Mexico, and then used for pizza in Naples before returning to the US. It’s also true that US pizza is markedly different from Neapolitan pizza. Maybe, “As American as pumpkin pie” would be even better because it fuses a North American cultigen with European cooking style. Frankly, my sister’s apple pie recipe is the best there is, and I have given that already — http://www.bookofdaystales.com/johnny-appleseed/ — any other, US or otherwise, would be second-best. Apple pie with cheesecake using Philadelphia cream cheese seems like an ideal blending for today’s recipe because King was from Philadelphia. Here’s one idea:

Aug 312017
 

Today is the anniversary of the independence of Trinidad and Tobago (officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago) from the U.K in 1962. It remained part of the British commonwealth until 1976 with queen Elizabeth II as head of state until 1976 when it became a republic. Trinidad and Tobago is a twin island country situated off the northern edge of the South American mainland, lying just 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and 130 kilometres (81 miles) south of Grenada. Bordering other Caribbean nations to the north, it shares maritime boundaries with other nations including Barbados to the northeast, Grenada to the northwest, Guyana to the southeast, and Venezuela to the south and west.

 

The island of Trinidad was a Spanish colony from the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498 to the capitulation of the Spanish Governor, Don José María Chacón, on the arrival of a British fleet of 18 warships on 18th February 1797. During the same period, the island of Tobago changed hands between Spanish, British, French, Dutch and Courlander colonizers, more times than any other island in the Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago (remaining separate until 1889) were ceded to Britain in 1802 under the Treaty of Amiens.

Trinidad and Tobago is the third richest country by GDP (PPP) per capita in the Americas after the United States and Canada. Furthermore, it is recognized as a high-income economy by the World Bank. Unlike most of the English-speaking Caribbean, the country’s economy is primarily industrial, with an emphasis on petroleum and petrochemicals due to its large reserves and exploitation of oil and natural gas.

Trinidad and Tobago has a complex ethnic mix of peoples because of the history of colonization. British rule led to an influx of settlers from the United Kingdom and the British colonies of the Eastern Caribbean. English, Scots, Irish, German and Italian families arrived. Under British rule, new estates were created and the import of slaves did increase, but this was the period of abolitionism in England and the slave trade was under attack. Slavery was abolished in 1833, after which former slaves served an “apprenticeship” period which ended on 1 August 1838 with full emancipation. An overview of the populations statistics in 1838, however, clearly reveals the contrast between Trinidad and its neighboring islands. Upon emancipation of the slaves in 1838, Trinidad had only 17,439 slaves, with 80% of slave owners having fewer than 10 slaves each. In contrast, at twice the size of Trinidad, Jamaica had roughly 360,000 slaves.

After slaves were emancipated, plantation owners were in severe need of labor. The British authorities filled this need by instituting a system of indentureship. Various nationalities were contracted under this system, including East Indians, Chinese and Portuguese. Of these, the East Indians were imported in the largest numbers, starting from 1 May 1845, when 225 Indians were brought in the first shipment to Trinidad on the Fatel Razack, a Muslim-owned vessel. Indentureship of the East Indians lasted from 1845 to 1917, during which more than 147,000 Indians were brought to Trinidad to work on sugarcane plantations. They added what was initially the second-largest population grouping to the young nation, and their labor developed previously underdeveloped plantation lands.

The indentureship contract was exploitative, such that historians including Hugh Tinker were to call it “a new system of slavery”. People were contracted for a period of five years, with a daily wage as low as 25 cents in the early 20th century, and they were guaranteed return passage to India at the end of their contract period. However, coercive means were often used to retain laborers, and the indentureship contracts were soon extended to 10 years after the planters complained that they were losing their labor too early. In lieu of the return passage, the British authorities soon began offering portions of land to encourage settlement; however, the numbers of people who did receive land grants is unclear. East Indians entering the colony were also subject to particular crown laws which segregated them from the rest of Trinidad’s population, such as the requirement that they carry a pass with them once off the plantations, and that if freed, they carry their “Free Papers” or certificate indicating completion of the indenture period. The ex-Indentureds came to constitute a vital and significant section of the population, as did the ex-slaves.

Alongside sugarcane, the cacao (cocoa) crop also contributed greatly to economic earnings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 1920–1930 period, the collapse of the sugarcane industry concomitant with the failure of the cocoa industry resulted in widespread depression among the rural and agricultural workers in Trinidad, and encouraged the rise of the Labour movement. This movement was led by Arthur Cipriani and Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler, who, in combination with his Indian partners (notably Adrian Cola Rienzi), aimed to unite the working class and agricultural labor class to achieve a better standard of living for them, as well as to hasten the departure of the British. This effort was severely undermined by the British Home Office and by the British-educated Trinidadian elite, many of whom were descended from the plantocracy themselves. They instigated a vicious race politicking in Trinidad aimed at dividing the class-based movement on race-based lines, and they succeeded, especially since Butler’s support had collapsed from the top down.

Petroleum had been discovered in 1857, but became economically significant only in the 1930s and afterwards, as a result of the collapse of sugarcane and cocoa, and increasing industrialization. By the 1950s, petroleum had become a staple in Trinidad’s export market, and was responsible for a growing middle class among all sections of the Trinidad population. The collapse of Trinidad’s major agricultural commodities, followed by the Depression, and the rise of the oil economy, led to major changes in the country’s social structure. Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence from the United Kingdom on 31 August 1962.

Cricket is the national sport of the country. Trinidad and Tobago is represented at Test cricket, One Day International as well as Twenty20 cricket level as a member of the West Indies team. The national team plays at the first-class level in regional competitions. The Queen’s Park Oval located in Port of Spain is the largest cricket ground in the West Indies. Brian Lara, world record holder for the most runs scored both in a Test and in a First Class innings and other records, was born in the small town of Santa Cruz, Trinidad and Tobago and is often referred to as the Prince of Port of Spain or simply the Prince.

Trinidad and Tobago is known for its Carnival which manifests itself uniquely in different parts of the world. It is the celebration leading up to Lent which in predominantly Catholic countries is usually centered on parades (as well as food and drink).

Trinidad and Tobago is the birthplace of steelpan which it claims is the only percussion instrument invented in the 20th century. Steelpans were, and still sometimes are, an instrument born of poor necessity, crafted from old oil drums.

Along with steel drums came limbo, and the music styles of calypso, soca, parang, chutney, chutney soca, chutney parang, cariso, extempo, kaiso, parang soca, pichakaree, and rapso.

Trinidad and Tobago is known in the Caribbean for its variety of foods, which are an eclectic mix of Native American, African, Indian, and European influences.  The most famous street food is probably doubles, two pieces of flatbread filled with curried chickpeas.

Macaroni pie is a comfort-food favorite in homes across the islands.  It’s easy to prepare and works as both a main dish or side dish.  Use whatever good melting cheese suits your tastes.  Cheddar is the most common in the islands.

Macaroni Pie

Ingredients

8 oz elbow macaroni
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups melting cheese, grated
1 ½ cups evaporated milk
salt and white pepper

Instructions

Cook the macaroni in abundant boiling, salted water until it is cooked al dente. Do not overcook. Drain and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked macaroni, eggs, cheese, evaporated milk, and salt and pepper to taste.  Turn out into a well greased baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes or until firm.

Serve hot, in slices.

Sep 072016
 

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On this date in 1893 several English ex-pats living in Italy founded the Genoa Cricket & Athletic Club. Cricket was their primary sport but “athletics” included football. By the turn of the century football had overtaken cricket as the predominant sport and by then the club had become the Genoa Cricket and Football Club, and still retains that name (and playing cricket), even though the club is almost exclusively known for football nowadays.

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Since the club was set up to represent England abroad, the original shirts worn by the organization for football were white, the same color as the England national team shirt. At first Italians were not permitted to join the club. Genoa’s sporting events took place in the north-west of the city in the Campasso area, at the Piazza d’Armi.

The names of the founders are listed in their founding document.

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These include Sir Charles Alfred Payton MVO (1843 – 1926) who was an English diplomat and writer. He had been appointed as British consul in Genoa in February of that year. It also included Daniel G. Fawcus (1858 – 1925) who had been a professional football player in England, and an administrator active throughout Europe. His presence accounts for the swift rise of football in the club. It should be remembered that football was an “athletic” sport in England at the time, designed primarily to keep cricketers fit in the off season.

Football in Italy stepped up a notch with the creation of the Italian Football Federation and the Italian Football Championship in 1898. Genoa competed in the first Italian Championship in 1898 at Velodromo Umberto I in Turin. They defeated Ginnastica Torino 2–1 in their first official game on 8 May, before winning the first championship later that day by beating Internazionale Torino 3–1 in extra time.

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Genoa returned for the following season, this time with a few changes. The name of the club was altered to Genoa Cricket & Football Club, dropping the Athletic from its name. A change in shirt color was also in order to reflect the fact that they were starting to loosen ties with England, and began to admit Italians. They changed to white and blue vertical stripes; known in Italy as biancoblu. Genoa won their second title on 16 April 1899, by beating Internazionale Torino 3–1 for the second time. On their way to winning their third consecutive title in 1900 and proving their championship dominance, Genoa beat local rivals Sampierdarenese 7–0; a winning margin which would not be bettered by any team in the league until 1910. The final was secured with a 3–1 win over FBC Torinese.

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The club strip changed again in 1901. Genoa adopted its famous red-navy halves and therefore became known as the rossoblu — these are the colors used to this day. After a season of finishing runners-up to Milan Cricket and Football Club, things were back on track in 1902 with their fourth title. Juventus emerged as serious contenders to Genoa’s throne from 1903 onwards, when for two seasons in a row Genoa beat the Old Lady in the national final.

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Don’t think that cricket has been entirely forgotten, though. Whilst football reigns at the club, they still turn out a cricket side annually. They use the football pitch for the wicket and I wouldn’t say it is the world’s finest – nor the players. Looking at the stands you can also see that locals are not avid fans either. To be fair, I’ve attended cricket matches in England with about the same or fewer in attendance.

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Genoa’s (and surrounding Liguria’s) most famous culinary specialties are its classic pesto and focaccia, both plain – flavored only with olive oil – or topped with onions, olives, sage, cheese, or whatever. Other specialties include filled pasta, such as traditional ravioli and the local pansotti (with a Swiss chard, egg and ricotta filling); corzetti from the Polcevera Valley, a fresh pasta made in the shape of small figure eights (unlike the corzetti of the Aveto and Vara Valleys, fresh pasta discs embossed with symbols and decorations); savory herb pies, such as torta Pasqualina (a puff pastry pie filled with cooked Swiss chard or artichokes, zucchini, spring herbs, eggs and cheese); stuffed (or fried) zucchini flowers, and cima, served in slices and made up of a slim pocket of veal stuffed with minced offal, bread crumbs soaked in broth, spring vegetables, grated cheese, diced mortadella and eggs.

Pesto, more fully, pesto alla genovese, is a sauce originating in Genoa, the capital of Liguria. It traditionally consists of crushed garlic, European pine nuts, coarse salt, basil leaves, Parmigiano-Reggiano  and pecorino sardo (cheese made from sheep’s milk), all blended with olive oil.

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The name is the contracted past participle of the Genoese verb pestâ (Italian: pestare), which means to pound or to crush, in reference to the original method of preparation: according to tradition, the ingredients are crushed or ground in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. This same Latin root, through Old French, also gave rise to the English noun pestle. Strictly speaking, “pesto” is a generic term for anything that is made by pounding and so the word is used for several pestos in Italy. Nonetheless, pesto alla genovese  remains the most popular pesto in Italy and the rest of the world.

Pesto is thought to have two predecessors in ancient times, going back as far as the Roman age. The ancient Romans used to eat a similar paste called moretum, which was made by crushing garlic, salt, cheese, herbs, olive oil and vinegar together. The use of this paste and how to make it is mentioned in the Appendix Vergiliana, an ancient collection of poems traditionally ascribed to Virgil.

Then singly each o’ th’ garlic heads be strips
From knotty body, and of outer coats
Deprives them, these rejected doth he throw
Away and strews at random on the ground.
The bulb preserved from th’ plant in water doth
He rinse, and throw it into th’ hollow stone.
On these he sprinkles grains of salt, and cheese
Is added, hard from taking up the salt.
Th’ aforesaid herbs he now doth introduce
And with his left hand ‘neath his hairy groin
Supports his garment;’ with his right he first
The reeking garlic with the pestle breaks,
Then everything he equally doth rub
I’ th’ mingled juice. His hand in circles move:
Till by degrees they one by one do lose
Their proper powers, and out of many comes
A single colour, not entirely green

In Virgil’s paste parsley gave it its light green color. The introduction of basil, the main ingredient of modern pesto, occurred in more recent times and is first documented only in the mid-19th century, when gastronomist Giovanni Battista Ratto published his book La Cuciniera Genovese in 1863:

Take a clove of garlic, basil or, when that is lacking, marjoram and parsley, grated Dutch and Parmigiano cheese and mix them with pine nuts and crush it all together in a mortar with a little butter until reduced to a paste. Then dissolve it with good and abundant oil. Lasagne and troffie are dressed with this mash, made more liquid by adding a little hot water without salt.

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Modern Italians buy pesto readymade for simplicity, or else use a blender or food processor at home. Proper cooks still use a mortar and pestle though, because no other method creates the right texture, consistency, and blend of flavors. Here’s the list of ingredients from the winner of the 2012 Genoa Pesto World Championship.

4 bunches of fresh D.O.P. basil from Genova
30 grams (about 2 tablespoons) pine nuts
445-60 grams (about a pound) of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
20-40 grams (about one ounce) of Pecorino cheese, grated
1-2 garlic cloves from Vassalico
10 grams (about 1.5 teaspoons) coarse salt
60-80 cc (1/4 to 1/3 cup) extra-virgin olive oil, D.O.P., from the Italian Riviera

D.O.P. is short for Denominazione di Origine Protetta (“Protected Designation of Origin”) which means that if you want to try to replicate this recipe you’re going to need basil grown in Genoa. Well, you’re going to need a host of ingredients from northern Italy. The main thing is to work quickly because you don’t want the ingredients to oxidize excessively whilst you work.

Rinse the freshly cut basil leaves in cold water and leave them to dry, without rubbing them. Crush the garlic clove and pine nuts in the mortar until smooth; add some of the salt and basil, and pound it some more. (According to the recipe, you should use “a light circular movement of the pestle against the sides). Keep going until the basil drips with a bright-green liquid. Then add the cheese and the oil to blend. Done !! Serve over pasta.

Jul 182016
 

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Today is the birthday (1848) of William Gilbert “W. G.” Grace, MRCS, LRCP, an English amateur cricketer who was important in the development of the sport and is widely considered one of its greatest-ever players. Back when I played cricket in the 1960s we all knew about W.G. but I think we generally dismissed him as some old duffer from the 19th century who typified the sport 100 years previously – gentlemanly, leisured, and dull. How wrong we were. I’ll set the record straight here. Fair warning: if you don’t know anything about cricket, I’m not going to help you.

Grace (commonly called W.G.) played first-class cricket for a record-equaling 44 seasons, from 1865 to 1908, during which he captained England, Gloucestershire, the Gentlemen, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the United South of England Eleven (USEE) and several other teams. He came from a cricketing family: the appearance in 1880 of W. G. with E. M. Grace, one of his elder brothers, and Fred Grace, his younger brother, was the first time three brothers played together in Test cricket.

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Grace dominated the sport during his career, both as a batsman and a bowler (although he is best known as a batsman). His technical innovations and enormous influence left a lasting legacy. He is held to have invented modern batsmanship and to have championed the constant need for practice and careful analysis of technique. He generally captained the teams he played for at all levels because of his skill and tactical acumen (which was noted because, unlike other players of his day, he played to win at all costs so that his actions were not always considered “sporting” although always within the rules).

Grace took part in other sports as well: he was a champion 440-yard hurdler as a young man and played football for the Wanderers. In later life, he developed enthusiasm for golf, lawn bowls and curling.

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Grace was born in Downend, near Bristol, on 18 July 1848 at his parents’ home, Downend House, and was baptized at the local church on 8 August. He was called Gilbert in the family circle, except by his mother who called him Willie, but otherwise he was universally known by his initials W. G. Downend is near Mangotsfield and, although it is now a suburb of Bristol, it was then “a distinct village surrounded by countryside” and about four miles from Bristol.

Grace began his Cricketing Reminiscences (1899) by answering a question he had frequently been asked:  was he “born a cricketer”? His answer was in the negative because he believed that “cricketers are made by coaching and practice”, though he adds that if he was not born a cricketer, he was born “in the atmosphere of cricket.” His father and mother were “full of enthusiasm for the game” and it was “a common theme of conversation at home.” In 1850, when W. G. was two the family moved to a nearby house called “The Chesnuts” which had a sizeable orchard and Henry Grace organized clearance of this to establish a practice pitch. All nine children in the Grace family, including the four daughters, were encouraged to play cricket although the girls, along with the dogs, were required for fielding only. Grace claimed that he first handled a cricket bat at the age of two. Apart from his cricket and his schooling, Grace lived the life of a country boy and roamed freely with the other village boys. One of his regular activities was stone throwing at birds in the fields and he later claimed that this was the source of his eventual skill as an outfielder.

Grace never went to university as his father was intent upon him pursuing a medical career. He said he would have gone to either Oxford or Cambridge if his father had allowed it. Instead, he enrolled at Bristol Medical School in October 1868, when he was 20.

Grace recorded in his Reminiscences that he saw his first great cricket match in 1854 when he was barely six years old. He says he himself played for the West Gloucestershire club as early as 1857, when he was nine years old, and had 11 innings in 1859. The first time he made a substantial score was in July 1860 when he scored 51 for West Gloucestershire against Clifton; he wrote that none of his great innings gave him more pleasure.

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The details of Grace’s first-class career are disputed, but CricketArchive recognizes 1865 to 1908 as its span and lists 29 teams, the England national team and 28 domestic teams, represented by Grace in first-class matches. Cricket in the 1860s underwent a revolution with the legalization of overarm bowling in June 1864 and Grace himself said it was “no exaggeration to say that, between 1860 and 1870, English cricket passed through its most critical period” with the game in transition and “it was quite a revolutionary period so far as its rules were concerned.” For the uninitiated, cricket was originally played with the bowler delivering the ball underarm, that is, with the hand lower than the waist. Modern softball notwithstanding, such a delivery means that the ball travels slowly to the batsman. Roundarm bowling (hand between shoulder and waist height), developed in the 1830s and sped up the pace considerably. Then in 1864 delivering the ball from any height, including over the shoulder (overarm) was allowed. This change dramatically altered cricket, giving the bowler a wide variety of options in terms of speed and action. In turn, batters had to adjust, and Grace was a critical player in this regard.

Grace was still 15 when the 1864 season began and had turned 20 when the 1868 season ended and he began his medical career by enrolling at Bristol Medical School on 7 October 1868. In the interim he became widely recognized as the finest cricketer in England. Just after his 18th birthday in July 1866, Grace confirmed his potential with an innings of 224 not out for All-England against Surrey at The Oval.

Grace had another outstanding season in 1870, during which Gloucestershire acquired first-class status, and Derek Birley records that, “scorning the puny modern fashion of moustaches,” he grew the enormous black beard that made him so recognizable. In addition, his “ample girth” had developed; he weighed 15 stone (95 kg) in his early 20s. Grace was a non-smoker but he enjoyed good food and wine; many years later, when discussing the overheads incurred during Lord Sheffield’s profitless tour of Australia in 1891–92, Arthur Shrewsbury commented: “I told you what wine would be drunk by the amateurs; Grace himself would drink enough to swim a ship.”

Grace became the first batsman to score a century before lunch in a first-class match when he made 134 for Gentlemen of the South versus Players of the South at The Oval in 1873. In the same season, he became the first player ever to complete the “double” of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in a season. He went on to do the double eight times in all.

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There was speculation that Grace intended to retire before the 1878 season to concentrate on his medical career, but he decided to continue playing cricket and may have been influenced by the arrival of the first Australian team to tour England in May. At Lord’s on 27 May, the Australians defeated a strong MCC team, including Grace, by nine wickets in a single day’s play. According to Chris Harte, news of the match “spread like wildfire and created a sensation in London and throughout England.”

Grace made three overseas tours during his career. The first was to the United States and Canada in August and September 1872. At the time baseball in the U.S. was still in its infancy, and cricket was popular (it did not wane until the early 20th century). Matches were played in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, London (Ontario), New York, Philadelphia and Boston.

Grace visited Australia in 1873–74 as captain of “W. G. Grace’s XI”. On the morning of the team’s departure from Southampton, Grace responded to well-wishers by saying that his team “had a duty to perform to maintain the honour of English cricket, and to uphold the high character of English cricketers.” But both his and the team’s performance fell well short of this goal. Most of the problems lay with Grace himself and his “overbearing personality” which quickly exhausted all personal goodwill towards him. There was also bad feeling within the team itself because Grace, who normally got on well with professional players, enforced the class divide throughout the tour.

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Grace’s most significant test match was England v Australia in 1882 at The Oval. Thanks to Australian bowler Spofforth, who took 14 wickets in the match, Australia won by 7 runs and the Legend of The Ashes was born immediately afterwards (The Ashes trophy is awarded to the winner of England v Australia test matches – origin stories are tedious). Grace scored only 4 and 32 but he has been held responsible for “firing up” Spofforth by using a particularly unsporting, but legal, act to get one of the Australian players out.

Having ended his international career in 1899, Grace then began the last phase of his overall first-class career when he joined the new London County Cricket Club, based at Crystal Palace Park, which played first-class matches between 1900 and 1904. Despite his age and bulk, Grace continued to play minor cricket for several years after his retirement from first-class play. His penultimate match, and the last in which he batted, was for Eltham Cricket Club at Grove Park on 25 July 1914, a week after his 66th birthday. He contributed an undefeated 69 to a total of 155–6 declared, having begun his innings when they were 31–4. Grove Park made 99–8 in reply. The last match of any kind that Grace played in, though he neither batted nor bowled, was for Eltham v Northbrook on 8 August, a few days after the outbreak of the First World War.

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Grace died at Mottingham on 23 October 1915, aged 67, after suffering a heart attack. He is buried in the family grave at Beckenham Crematorium and Cemetery, Kent.

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People who do not understand cricket are astounded to learn that test cricket matches take up to 5 days to play. Until the 1980s the matches started on a Thursday and concluded on a Tuesday with Sunday off as a rest day. A standard day of test cricket consists of 3 sessions of 2 hours each, the breaks between sessions being 40 minutes for lunch, and 20 minutes for tea. I know this sounds frightfully English, but breaks for lunch and tea are not only important for the maintenance of the players’ stamina, but can be vital components in strategy. For the 2013/14 Ashes tour of Australia by England, the English were ridiculed by the Australians when they produced their dietary requirements. Under the headline “England’s cricket team demands silver service” the Sydney Morning Herald printed extracts from an 82-page document containing 194 recipes that should be used in following the “Test catering requirements” demanded of host venues by Chris Rosimus, the performance nutritionist of the England & Wales Cricket Board:

After the first day of every Test match, the following must be available in the England dressing room 20 minutes before the end of play:

Moroccan spiced griddled chicken fillets with lime and coriander mayo

Lamb and pea kofta kebabs with mint yoghurt

Roasted vegetable and halloumi kebabs with red pepper dip

Ginger and garlic king prawn kebabs with garlic mayo

Selection of wholewheat French bread pizzas (parma ham and tomato/feta and red onion)

Selection of sandwiches (grilled aubergine, red pepper, red onion and basil puree; Cajun salmon, yoghurt and cucumber; Thai citrus chicken and rocket; avocado, raw slaw and butterbean; turkey breast, basil and pine nut)

Almond and cinnamon flapjacks

Banana and peanut bars (protein-based Maximuscle)

Chocolate and coconut truffles.

Take your pick.

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The sandwiches are both intriguing and appealing. I’m most especially drawn to the yoghurt and cucumber. Cucumber sandwiches have been a mainstay of tea time in England since Victorian times. They were routinely served at my college at Oxford at tea time in Trinity term. They are simplicity itself, and very refreshing on a hot summer’s day. You use white bread, cut off the crusts, butter both slices, and fill each sandwich with thinly sliced cucumber (with salt to taste). Delicious. I haven’t had one in decades. Of course, you can dress them up with yoghurt, mayonnaise, or cream cheese (or whatever), but a plain cucumber sandwich and a cup of tea is hard to beat in the late afternoon.