Anyone who earns the sobriquet of “The Master” has to be pretty damn good. And Hobbs was better than good being the most prolific batsman of them all.
He set batting records that will never be beaten: most first-class runs (61,760), most hundreds (a staggering 197) and the oldest man at 46 to score a Test hundred. These figures would have been even more spectacular but for the small matter of World War I and the fact that he had to wait for a two year qualification period to pass before making his first-class debut.
His longevity was quite frankly amazing. He made his debut for Surrey in 1905, taking the mantle of the noble game’s greatest player from Grace and carrying it all the way through to his retirement at the age of 51 in 1934, by which time he had passed the baton to Bradman.
By all accounts Hobbs was a stylish, classical batsman who thrilled crowds with his verve and audacity prior to the Great War and then continued to enthrall them afterwards despite adopting a less carefree more restrained approach.
As a schoolboy opening batsman, we hoped that reading as much as possible about Hobbs would inspire us to repeat his feats on the cricket field. Of course it didn’t but that didn’t detract from the joy we gained from learning about his feats and his renowned opening partnerships with Hayward, Rhodes, Sandham and best of all Sutcliffe – the greatest opening pair in the history of the game.
If all that wasn’t enough, his record against Australia seals the hero status of Hobbs for us: 12 hundreds and 3,636 runs (still records for England in the Ashes and second only to Bradman) at an average of 54.26.
As we are being reminded again in the excellent biography of Hobbs by Leo McKinstry, there aren’t many cricket heroes quite like Jack Hobbs.
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