John Sharpe partnered the great George Lohmann in the formidable Surrey side of the late 19th century and produced stunning numbers with his right-arm pace during a short first-class career. He was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1892.
John William Sharpe, the young bowler who, during the last three seasons, has done such brilliant work for Surrey, was born at Ruddington, in Nottinghamshire, on the 9th of December, 1866, and first began to play cricket on the ground of the Rock Ferry Club, near Birkenhead, a club in which his father fulfilled an engagement of twenty-two years’ duration. The future bowler’s first engagement on his own account was in 1884, with the Bedford Town Club, and after that he was, for two seasons, attached to the St. Helen’s Club.
On two occasions – in 1886 and 1887 – he played for the Notts Colts against the County Eleven at Trent Bridge, and each time with success. In the 1887 match, indeed he did a capital piece of bowling, taking, in the second innings of the Eleven, four wickets in nine overs at a cost of five runs. The Notts committee, however, quite unconscious of the prize they were allowing to slip through their fingers, showed no inclination to try him for the county eleven, and so it came about that Sharpe qualified by residence for Surrey, a course of action, which, as everyone knows, has been attended with the most gratifying results for the southern county.
Having meanwhile bowled in most promising form for the Surrey Club and Ground, Sharpe became qualified at the commencement of the season of 1889, and in his first match assisted Lohmann to put on no fewer than 149 runs for the last wicket. He did not, perhaps, in his first season fulfill all the expectations that had been formed on him, but still he did very well, coming out first in the Surrey bowling averages for all matches with 61 wickets, at a cost of 11.50 apiece.
The season of 1890, however, found him at the top of the tree. He bowled magnificently all through the summer, and had the distinction of beating Lohmann both in the first-class county matches and in all the Surrey engagements, his records being respectively 102 wickets for 12.9 runs each, and 179 wickets for 12.106 runs each, while Lohmann’s figures were, in first-class county matches, 113 wickets for 12.75 runs apiece, and in all Surrey’s matches, 154 wickets, with an average of 13.102. In the first-class averages for the year, Sharpe came out fifth, with 139 wickets at an average cost of 12.86 runs.
In the season of 1891, he did not do quite so well, but so long as the grounds were fairly dry he was seen at his best, some of his performances being quite exceptional. Both in first-class county matches and all matches for Surrey, however, he fell behind Lohmann, while in first-class averages for the season he had to be content with tenth place.
Sharpe is essentially a dry wicket bowler, and if, within the next few years, we are favoured with a really fine summer, we shall be quite prepared to see him come out at the top of the averages. Bowling always above medium pace, he has a beautifully easy action, and can, with the least possible indication of what he is going to do, put down an extra fast ball. This peculiar gift, for a gift it may fairly be called, has been the means of getting him many a wicket. For a bowler of his pace he has a remarkable break from the off, and of the players now before the public perhaps no one, except Mr. Woods, can bowl so good a yorker.
As a bat and field, Sharpe is unfortunately handicapped by the fact that he has only one eye, but despite this great deprivation, he has many a time made a useful score for Surrey. Like Attewell, he is a member of the team taken out to the Colonies by Lord Sheffield.
John Sharpe took 11 wickets from the three Tests he played for England. In 82 first-class games, he took 338 wickets at an impressive average of 16.06