Dr. William Gilbert Grace transformed the game
of cricket during his lifetime and much of his career was spent playing for
Gloucestershire. He was born in Bristol and has played on many of the grounds in
the area. He started playing when he was just 16 in 1864 and played his final
first class match in 1908.
The doctor from Downend scored 54,896 runs at
an average of 39.55. He is still the 5th highest scoring player of all time. He
wasn't just a batsman thought. He took 2876 wickets at an average of 17.92 - the
6th highest wicket taker of all time. On two occasions (1873, 1876) he scored
2000 runs and took 100 wickets in one season. He also make 887 catches which is
still the second highest number of catches taken by anyone in their career. All
of this was done in 43 years between 1865 and 1908 when he eventually retired
At the Oval in 1878 he once threw a cricket
ball over 116 yards (106m) three times with the wind and over 100 yards back in
the other direction.
W.G.Grace was a legend in England in his
lifetime. The nation admired him. He perhaps could have been an even better
player if is wasn't for food. In his later years he became a bearded 'giant'. He
enjoyed his lunch at matches too. A number of times he got out shortly after a
big meal. A whisky often accompanied his food. He was one compared to Henry
As a player he had huge stamina. Despite his
weight he had a remarkably high front elbow and so drove, pulled and cut well.
He didn't just use his weight to wallop the ball. He had a shot for every ball.
WG appeared to be a frightening character but it is said that his bark was worse
than his bite. He had a twinkle in his eye and spoke in a rather squeaky voice.
He would stand no nonsense from his team. If
they arrived late he would put them in at number 11. He was, at times, a fiery
character. When large crowds came to see him play and a bad decision went
against him he got very angry. Occasionally he threatened to leave the ground
but was calmed down by a whisky.
'The Old Man' was a strange looking person. He
had a huge waist and a long beard. He wore dark shoes, had grubby pads and used
a well worn bat. His skills though won him many friends especially wicketkeepers
as he rarely missed a ball whilst batting!
Grace did not turn the ball much as a bowler.
He relied on flight and length. This, though, was enough to take many wickets on
W.G.Grace was not just a cricketer. He played
bowls and was a keen golfer. He was a superb athlete when he was young and was a
qualified medical practitioner.
THE GAME OF CRICKET
The game of cricket evolved a lot during the
time of Grace. At the beginning of his career the bowlers had to apologise if
they did not pitch it up on the off stump. There was little competition and
bowlers were not respected. WG Grace was less fussy. He brought competition to
the game and swing bowling and the googly arrived on the scene. Grace brought
cricket to the attention of many and promoted the game. People respected him.
The game was changed. Shots were played of the back foot and the old style
players were lost. Grace drove the most feared bowlers and almost make them try
to bowl wide so he couldn't hit it.
WG'S GLOUCESTERSHIRE CAREER
W.G.Grace played for Gloucestershire for many
years. The county were champions three times and joint champions once between
1873 and 1877. In 1894 Gloucestershire and Grace had a disappointing season. At
aged 46 he averaged 18 and it was thought to be the end of an era. The next
year, though, he burst back into form. 1895 saw him make his hundredth hundred
and he went past 1000 runs in May. That season he averaged 51 - no one could
stop him. He made a total of 121 first-class hundreds. He played with the great
Gilbert Jessop for Gloucestershire. Jessop scored runs fast in an unorthodox
In 1889 Dr. Grace gave specifications for the
laying of the County Ground in Bristol. The pavilion remains and it is still
much the same today.
W.G.Grace left Gloucestershire and went to
live in the south-east. He played for London's county team.
Towards the end of his career he became a
handicap in the field but was still a commanding batsman. He gave up first-class
cricket in 1908 but continued to play in many other games. His beard turned to
white and he played his last game on 25 July 1914. In typical style he scored 69
not out. In October the next year, 1915, he died aged 67. His death shook the
W.G. Grace played test cricket for England
between 1880 and 1899. He only played in 22 tests because the series' generally
only lasted 2 or 3 tests in those days. Grace captained England in 5 Ashes
series', one of which was in Australia. Australia was the only other
test-playing country and Grace may not have gone on every tour of the country.
He was an amateur and could not afford the time. Had he been around today he
could have played well over 200. On his test debut in 1880 he made 152 runs at
When he retired from test cricket in 1899 a
huge gap was left in the side.
CricInfo contains scorecards from many games
that WG Grace played in in its