It has been a long tradition on the part of Wisden to honour cricketers with the title Cricketers of the Year based primarily on their “influence on the previous English season.” The tradition began in 1889 with the naming of Six Great Bowlers of the Year (George Lohmann, Johnny Briggs, John Ferris, Charles Turner, Sammy Woods, and Bobby Peel). Nine Great Batsmen of the Year were named in 1890 (Bobby Abel, Billy Barnes, Billy Gunn, Louis Hall, Robert Henderson, Maurice Read, Arthur Shrewsbury, Frank Sugg, and Albert Ward). Five Great Wicketkeepers were nominated in 1891 (Jack Blackham, Gregor MacGregor, Dick Pilling, Mordecai Sherwin, and Henry Wood). And so it went, five Cricketers of the Year becoming the norm from 1897 onwards, with a few exceptions made.
Among the star batsmen named in the second year was a man with a rather unusual entry in his curriculum vitae. He was chronologically the first of the nine players till date to represent both Yorkshire and Lancashire in County Cricket, beginning in 1886, in the days of the “unofficial” Championship and spilling over to the “official” Championship that began in 1890. We speak of Albert Ward.
Ward was born November 21, 1865 at Waterloo, Leeds. He is seen to have been a right-handed batsman, usually batting up the order, and a right-arm slow bowler. Ward developed into a professional cricketer and exceptionally gifted batsman with a long reach from his 6-foot frame. Wisden, not known for the use of hyperbole, had this to say about Ward’s batting: “Possessing the ideal temperament for an opening batsman —cool, patient, and persevering — he carried his bat through an innings on five occasions and for England against Australia he accomplished some of his best performances.”
Ward made his First-Class debut for Yorkshire in August 1886, under the stern captaincy of Lord Hawke against Middlesex at Bradford. Yorkshire won the game by an innings and 196 runs. Ward scored 22 out of a total of 401 and took a catch. He played 4 matches for Yorkshire in that month.
It was while he was playing Minor cricket in 1887 that he came under the notice of Lancashire for whom he was eligible to play from 1889 on the strength of a residence qualification. Ward made his Lancashire debut against MCC at Lord’s that year. Although it was a drawn game, Ward, under the watchful eye of skipper ‘Monkey’ Hornby, made a reasonable debut for his new county, scoring 33 (the second-highest score in the first innings) and 62* (top-score in the second). The Lancashire Committee seemed to have liked what they saw in the young professional.
In a span of 1886 to 1904, Albert Ward played 385 First-Class matches, scoring 17,783 runs, with a highest of 219 and an average of 30.08 — a fairly high average given that he usually batted in the upper half of the order and played on uncovered wickets. He had 29 centuries and 87 fifties, and held 172 catches. Of his bowling, it was said: “He was one of the early freak bowlers before the description googly was invented.” His 71 First-Class wickets included CL Townsend, Arthur Shrewsbury, George Hirst, and CB Fry, all in their prime.
Between 1893 and 1894-95 he also played 7 Tests for England, scoring 487 runs at an average of 37.46 with a hundred and 3 fifties.
In his 16 seasons for Lancashire (1889 to 1904), Ward scored in excess of 1,000 runs in a season 9 times, and became, in 1893, the first professional to top the 1000-run mark in a season for Lancashire, with an aggregate of 1,435. His most productive season was 1895 when he scored 1,790 runs at an average of 42.61. He carried his bat for Lancashire 5 times in all, twice in 1893, once in 1895, and twice again in 1899. In all matches for Lancashire alone, Ward aggregated 15,362 runs at an average of 30.97.
The history of the club shows that the fortunes of Lancashire began to rise from 1885 with the infusion of new talent in the ranks. In 1885 the 19-year-old George Kemp, later an MP, scored the first century for Lancashire in a Roses Match. Also, Briggs and Pilling put on the record last-wicket stand of 173 against Surrey at Liverpool.
1889 saw the re-emergence of Lancashire who shared the championship with Surrey and Nottinghamshire, but many people felt they had begun to rely too much on players born outside the county. Three players recruited during the season, Arthur Paul, Arthur Mold and Ward, who were all to play a significant part in the future of Lancashire cricket, were all born outside the county. In 1890 one Archie MacLaren, still a schoolboy and captain of Harrow, made his Lancashire debut scoring a century against Sussex at Hove. MacLaren was destined to become a Grand Old Man of Lancashire cricket and captain of England in his later years.
Ward’s consistent scoring in the early part of 1893, both on behalf of Lancashire and of The North, particularly against the visiting Australians, was taken cognisance of. He was chosen to make the first of his 7 Test appearances for England in the second Test against Australia at The Oval in 1893.
England won the Test by an innings and 43 runs despite heroic efforts by George Giffen. Winning the toss, WG went in first with Drewy Stoddart, and the pair put on 151, with Grace scoring 68 and Stoddart making 83. Batting at No. 5, debutant Ward scored 55 while Stanley Jackson (103) registered his maiden Test century (“the first in a Test in England to be completed with a hit over the boundary (then worth only four runs,” as per Bill Frindall). England finished at 483, Giffen capturing 7 for 128. Thanks to Bill Lockwood (4 for 37) and Briggs (5 for 34), Australia’s first innings finished on a paltry 91. Although the visitors posted a healthy 349 in the second innings, Harry Trott top-scoring with 92, the total proved to be inadequate.
The third Test at Old Trafford was drawn. The defining innings of the Test was the 102* by William Gunn in the England first innings of 243. Ward had scores of 13 and 0.
Ward maintained a reasonably good batting form throughout the 1894 domestic season and found himself on the boat to Australia in the autumn of 1894 under the captaincy of Stodddart. The 13-member party had two Lancastrians as the designated openers — MacLaren and Ward. England won the 5-Test series 3-2 after a dramatic all-round performance in the very first Test at Sydney.
The gripping story of the first Test of this series at Sydney has already been recounted in great detail in these columns. However, the account of the Test by Stephen Samuelson, published in The Sydney Morning Herald, makes compelling reading.
As has been well-documented, Australia had posted an imposing total of 586, thanks to maiden Test centuries by Giffen (161) and Syd Gregory (201, only the second double-century in the 18-year history of Test cricket till then). While debutant Joe Darling had begun his Test career with a golden duck, another Australian debutant, Frank Iredale, had given a good account of himself with an innings of 81. Skipper Jack Blackham added 74.
For England, debutant opener MacLaren, perhaps somewhat overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead, had been dismissed for 4. His partner Ward top-scored with a confident 75. Thereafter, some lower-order tenacity by Briggs (57) and wicketkeeper Leslie Gay (33) had taken the total to 325. It was at this point that the drama began.
Blackham decided to enforce the follow-on, and England were obliged to go back to the batting crease. This time MacLaren contributed 20 to a stand of 44. As in the first innings, Ward again stood resolute, and top-scored for the second time in the match with 117, scored at a crucial juncture of the game. That Ward had scored his runs quite freely is evident from the fact that he was the third man dismissed, at the total of 217. England’s second-innings total rose to 437.
Australia began the fourth innings of the Test needing 177 for victory, and there were no alarms when they finished Day Four on 113 for 2. But it rained overnight. Stoddart put Bobby Peel, hung over from the previous night, under a cold shower. Thus charged, Peel told his captain: “Gi’ me t’ball, Mr Stoddart. Ah’ll get t’buggers out before lunch.” And he did, with 6 for 67. Briggs took 3 for 25, and England won by 10 runs, becoming the first side to win a Test after following on.
The second Test at Melbourne resulted in another victory for England, this time by 94 runs. Ward top-scored with 30 in a meagre total of 75 in the face of superlative bowling from Charles Turner (5 for 32) and Hugh Trumble (3 for 15). It was Tom Richardson to the fore for England when Australia began their first innings, taking 5 for 57 in a home total of 123.
The England second innings total of 475 had a decidedly more wholesome look about it, replete with a magnificent 173 from Stoddart. Ward scored 41 and Peel 53. It was Giffen (6 for 155) and Turner (3 for 99) with the ball this time. The 428-run target proved to be beyond the home team and they managed 333, headed by a fine 95 and 54 respectively from openers Harry Trott and William Bruce. Frank Iredale contributed 68.
Australia responded with a resounding 382 run win in the third Test at Adelaide, Ward scoring 5 and 13. In many ways, this Test turned out to be a triumph for Australian debutant Albert Trott, who scored 38* and 72 * and captured 8 for 43 in the second innings.
Australia won their second consecutive match, this time at Sydney, by an innings and 147 runs. Australia scored 284, Harry Graham scoring 105, the only century of the game. They then dismissed England for 65 and 72, with Giffen and Turner running riot with the ball.
England won the deciding fifth Test at Melbourne by 6 wickets, with opener Ward scoring 32 and 93 and MacLaren (120) and John Brown (140) registering their maiden Test centuries. In the last innings, Ward and Brown had shared a vital third-wicket stand of 210 to propel England to a deserving victory. Richardson shone with the ball, taking 9 wickets in the Test.
Tom Horan, under the pseudonym of ‘Felix’, had this to say in the Australasian: “When Stoddart fell, I doubt whether two batsmen ever faced the music with a heavier responsibility upon them than Ward and Brown. And so long as cricket flourishes, their splendid performance deserves to hold a high place in the annals of the game as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, performance on record.”
Indeed, the 1894-95 Englishmen had captured the hearts and the imagination of all Australia, the media included. This was the opinion of one of the leading Editorials of the time: “It has been left to Mr Stoddart and his companions to take the Australian public by storm, and for at least four months to make cricket the question of the day. Politics local and imperial, the war in the East, currency tangles and municipal corruption in the United States, diplomatic intriguing, with possibly grave complications arising therefrom, have been cast into the shade. Nothing in short has been able to withstand the avalanche-like progress of the Stoddart combination.”
It was in the last game of the tour, against South Australia at Adelaide, that Ward achieved his highest individual score. The home team had put up a fairly respectable total of 397, Clem Hill contributing 150. The tourists responded with 609, Ward leading the way with 219 at the top of the order, and sharing a second-wicket stand of 174 with Brown (101). Francis Ford scored 106. For the hosts, skipper Giffen captured 5 for 309, an unwanted record for him as the most runs conceded by any South Australian in a First-Class innings till date. The home second innings finished at 255, conceding a 10-wicket win. For England, Richardson took 9 wickets in the match.
Back home after the tour and halfway through his First-Class career, Ward was very highly regarded by one and all for his batting abilities. In The Jubilee Book of Cricket, KS Ranjitsinhji makes the following remark: “There are few worthier fellows in the world than the average professional of the better class. I remember hearing Mr Stoddart say — and I hope he will not mind my repeating it—”Well, I never want to meet three better fellows or more pleasant companions than Tom Richardson, Albert Ward, and [Bill] Brockwell.” Coming from such an illustrious amateur, and captain of the team, this was a very high degree of appreciation in staid Victorian England.
Ward contributed a morsel of cricket trivia to lovers of the game in a match against Derbyshire at Old Trafford in 1899 when he was dismissed hit wicket for 72. A delivery from Frank Davidson had caused part of the shoulder of Ward’s bat to become detached and the detached portion had dislodged the leg-bail to dismiss him. This had been one of the earliest instances of this sort of freak dismissal in First-Class cricket history.
Lancashire awarded Ward a benefit in 1902, a ‘Roses’ match at Old Trafford in 1902. The entire last day of the game was rained off, but an estimated 24,000 spectators had passed through the turnstiles on the first day of the game, raising £1,739.
Albert Ward, the ‘Roses’ man, passed away on January 6, 1939 at his home in Heaton, Bolton, Lancashire, aged about 73.