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Table of contents

He was the most powerful straight-driver I have ever seen. When he drove at a ball I was mighty glad I was behind the stumps. With regard to Grace's batsmanship, C. James held that the best analysis of his style and technique was written by another top-class batsman K. Ranjitsinhji in his Jubilee Book of Cricket co-written with C.

Grace "made utility the criterion of style" and incorporated both forward and back play into his repertoire of strokes, favouring only that which was appropriate to the ball being delivered at the moment. In an oft-quoted phrase, Ranjitsinhji said of Grace that "he turned the old one-stringed instrument i. Ranjitsinhji summarised Grace's importance to the development of cricket by writing: "I hold him to be not only the finest player born or unborn, but the maker of modern batting".

But Grace's extraordinary skill had already been recognised very early in his career, especially by the professional bowlers. A very prescient comment was made by the laconic Yorkshire and England fast bowler Tom Emmett who, after playing against Grace for the first time in , called him a "nonsuch" without equal who "ought to be made to play with a littler bat". Altham pointed out that for most of Grace's career, he played on pitches that "the modern schoolboy would consider unfit for a house match" and on grounds without boundaries where every hit including those "into the country" had to be run in full.

It was through Alfred Pocock's perseverance that Grace had learned to play straight and to develop a sound defence so that he would stop or leave the good deliveries and score off the poor ones. Despite being an all-rounder , Grace was also an opening batsman. As a bowler, Grace belonged to what Altham calls the "high, home and easy school of a much earlier day". The chief feature of his bowling was the excellent length which he consistently maintained. He originally bowled at a consistently fast medium pace but in the s he increasingly adopted his slower style which utilised a leg break.

In his prime, Grace was noted for his outstanding fielding and was a very strong thrower of the ball; he was once credited with throwing the cricket ball yards during an athletics event at Eastbourne. In later life, Grace commented upon a decline in English fielding standards and blamed it on "the falling numbers of country-bred boys who strengthen their arms by throwing stones at birds in the fields". Much of Grace's success as a bowler was due to his magnificent fielding to his own bowling; as soon as he had delivered the ball he covered so much ground to the left that he made himself into an extra mid-off and he took some extraordinary catches in this way.

In his early career, Grace generally fielded at long-leg or cover-point; later he was usually at point see Fielding positions in cricket. The expenses enquiry at Gloucestershire took place in January The Graces managed to survive "a protracted and stormy meeting" with E. The incident highlighted an ongoing issue about the nominal amateur status of the Grace brothers. The amateur was, by definition, not a professional and the dictum of the amateur-dominated Marylebone Cricket Club was that "a gentleman ought not to make any profit from playing cricket".

Whatever criticisms may be made of Grace for making money for himself out of cricket, he was "punctilious in his aid when professional players were the beneficiaries". After the same thing happened to Edgar Willsher's benefit match, Grace took a select team to play Kent a few days later, the proceeds all going to Willsher.

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On another occasion, he altered the date of a Gloucestershire match so that he could travel to Sheffield and take part in a Yorkshire player's benefit match, knowing full well the impact that his appearance would have on the gate. Grace and his brother Fred faced financial difficulty after their father died in December as they were still living with their mother who had been left just enough to retain the family home.

According to the statistical record used by CricketArchive , Grace's final first-class appearance in was his th and concluded a first-class career that had lasted 44 seasons from to , equalling the record for the longest career span held by John Sherman , who played from to Grace himself regarded the South Wales matches in as first-class fixtures and refers to them in his Cricketing Reminiscences as "really big" games.

Grace's score was one of only six that exceeded Ashley-Cooper who produced a list of season-by-season figures to supplement Grace's obituary in the edition of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. Following further research by the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians ACS in the s and s, an "amended" career record was published which reduced Grace's total of centuries to This was challenged, for historical reasons, by Wisden in and the current situation re this controversy is that both sides generally accept each other's views.

For example, Rae points out that the statisticians are right to criticise Victorian compilers for "including minor matches to enable Grace to reach certain milestones"; but he also respects the view of Grace's contemporaries that "any match in which he played was elevated in status by his very presence". Grace played football for the Wanderers , although he did not feature in any of their FA Cup -winning teams.

In later life, after his family moved to Mottingham , Kent , he became very interested in lawn bowls. He founded the English Bowling Association in and became its first president.

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He supported the pioneering all-female Womanhood Bowling Club at Crystal Palace by obtaining the use of a club pavilion for them in He could drive straight and sometimes putt well but, for reasons that Darwin could not understand, "he never could play an iron shot well". Despite living in London for many years, Grace never lost his Gloucestershire accent. Two weeks later, they began their honeymoon by taking ship to Australia for Grace's —74 tour. Their eldest son William Gilbert junior — was born on 6 July. The Graces moved to London in February , when W. Bartholomew's Hospital used to bear the name "W.

Grace Ward", caring for patients recovering from cardiothoracic surgery until demolition of the Queen Elizabeth II building. Grace's studies had reached a crucial point with a theoretical backlog to catch up followed by his final practical session. Agnes became pregnant again at this time and their third child Bessie —98 was born in May Following the season, Grace was assigned to Westminster Hospital Medical School for his final year of medical practice and this curtailed his cricket for a time as he did not play in the season until June.

The family moved back to London and lived at Acton. He was the local Public Vaccinator and had additional duties as the Medical Officer to the Barton Regis Union, which involved tending patients in the workhouse. There are many testimonies from his patients that he was a good doctor, for example: "Poor families knew that they did not need to worry about calling him in, as the bills would never arrive".


After leaving Gloucestershire in , the Graces lived in Mottingham , a south-east London suburb, not far from the Crystal Palace where he played for London County, or from Eltham, where he played club cricket in his sixties. A blue plaque marks their residence, Fairmount, in Mottingham Lane. Grace endured a number of tragedies in his life beginning with the death of his father in December She had been his favourite child. Its preface begins with this passage:.

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Never was such a band of cricketers gathered for any tour as has assembled to do honour to the greatest of all players in the present Memorial Biography. That such a volume should go forth under the auspices of the Committee of MCC is in itself unique in the history of the game, and that such an array of cricketers, critics and enthusiasts should pay tribute to its finest exponent has no parallel in any other branch of sport.

In itself this presents a noble monument of what W.

Grace was, a testimony to his prowess and to his personality. In , the W. Two of his direct descendants attended the ceremony: Dominic, his great-great-grandson; and George, Dominic's son. According to Mark Bonham-Carter , H.

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Asquith 's grandson, Grace would have been one of the people to be appointed a peer had Asquith's plan to flood the House of Lords with Liberal peers come to fruition. Grace by Harry Furniss. The values were threepence then first-class post ; seven pence halfpenny; and ninepence. In many of the tributes paid to Grace, he was referred to as "The Great Cricketer". H S Altham , for one, described him as "the greatest of all cricketers".

James , in his classic work Beyond a Boundary , included a section "W. He declared Grace "the best-known Englishman of his time" and aligned him with Thomas Arnold and Thomas Hughes as "the three most eminent Victorians". James wrote of cricket as "the game he Grace transformed into a national institution". The inaugural edition of Playfair Cricket Annual in coincided with the centenary of Grace's birth and carried a tribute which spoke of Grace as "King in his own domain" and his "Olympian personality".

Playfair went on to say how Grace had "pulverised fast bowling on chancy pitches" and had then "astonished the world" by his deeds during the "Indian Summer". Fry insisted that Grace would not have started the season with any notion of being beaten by that season's Australian touring team, for "he was sanguine" and would have put everything he could muster into the task of beating them with no acceptance of defeat "till after it happened".

Derek Birley , who devoted whole passages of his book to criticism of Grace's gamesmanship and moneymaking, wrote that the "bleakness of the war was exemplified in November sic by the death of Grace, which seemed depressingly emblematic of the end of an era". Grace was built next to the cemetery.

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  4. English cricketer. Grace photographed by George Beldam c. Source: CricInfo [a]. Main article: Grace family. Main article: W. Grace's cricket career to Grace in the English cricket season.

    We in Australia did not take kindly to W. See also: List of first-class cricket centuries by W. Grace and Variations in published cricket statistics. Note that this is a statistical issue only and has little, if any, bearing on the historical aspects of Grace's career. In the infobox, the "traditional" first-class figures from Wisden as reproduced by Rae, pp. There is no dispute about Grace's Test career record and those statistics are universally recognised. See Variations in published cricket statistics for more information.