Jack Hobbs surpassed all his previous records in 1925, a year in which he also went past WG Grace’s record tally of first-class hundreds. He was named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year the following spring for the second time after 1909.
Great as his successes had been since he first appeared for Surrey in 1905 when, with scores in his first two matches of 18 and 88 against the Gentlemen of England and 28 and 155 against Essex, he showed himself at once a batsman of remarkable agility, John Berry Hobbs surpassed himself in the summer of 1925. Never previously had he made 3,000 runs in one season or headed the batting averages, but he accomplished both those feats, his aggregate amounting to 3,024 and an average of 70.32 placing him above all his rivals.
He seized the occasion, too, of the Gentlemen and Players match at Scarborough to put together the highest innings of his career, beating his previous best – 226 for Surrey against Notts at The Oval in 1914 – with 226 not out.
Furthermore, whereas last summer the largest number of hundreds he had obtained in one season was eleven – his total in 1914 and again in 1920 – and the record for any batsman was thirteen – made by CB Fry in 1901 and equalled by Tom Hayward in 1906 and by Hendren in 1923 – he eclipsed those performances by reaching three figures on no fewer than sixteen occasions.
These achievements, however, notable as they were, counted for little compared with Hobbs’ triumph in first equalling and then heading the number of centuries which stand to the credit of WG Grace. That the “Grand Old Man’s” record of 126 hundreds was likely to go, Hobbs speedily demonstrated. So far from the strain of the Australian tour having any ill effects upon his powers, he jumped into form at once, playing such wonderful cricket that at the end of a dozen matches he had ten centuries to his name. A few small scores ensued but an innings for the Players at Lord’s being immediately followed by one of 105 against Kent at Blackheath, Hobbs by July 20 was within one of Grace’s total.
Then came what must have been a nerve-wracking time for even one so well-balanced as Hobbs. He found himself the most talked of man in England, pursued by interviewers and photographers, and day after day, while the coveted century eluded his powers, he was referred to – whatever score he made – as having “failed again”. For the time being the performances of one individual were, in many quarters, actually allowed to overshadow the game as a whole.
Hobbs managed to survive all the embarrassing attentions showered upon him but, according to those watching him closely, he became rather weary-looking during the four weeks which elapsed before August 16 when with an innings of 101 against Somerset at Taunton he at least equalled Grace’s record and on the following day beat it with 101 not out.
Grandly as Hobbs batted in 1925 there yet were times when something seemed to have gone out of his game. He who had often in the past shaped in the first over as though he had batted for an hour, generally found it necessary to play himself in with some care, as, perhaps, was not surprising now that he is in the “forties”. Yet, whatever might be noticed at the start of one of his innings, once he had settled down, he was usually as adventurous as of old. Certainly he had not to drop any of his special strokes, although many of these demand supreme quickness of foot and wrist.
That Hobbs, during the forthcoming season, may show himself in something like the form of last summer will be the fervent prayer of all followers of the game. The great occasion is at hand and we look to him to “speak with the enemy at the gate”. It would be a glorious climax to a historic career were he, by his batting, to play the outstanding part in so long-delayed a victory over Australia. Curiously enough while more than 2,000 runs (including nine centuries) stand to his credit in Test matches with Australia in this country. He did quite well in 1912, scoring 224 runs in four innings, but in 1921 he figured in only one of the five encounters and, attacked with appendicitis during the progress of the struggle, he did not bat.
In view of that disappointment, a real triumph for him next summer would be singularly appropriate. Certainly it will not be his fault if he cannot give of his best for he has been at much pains during the winter to keep himself in condition. Still, whatever the next few months may have in store – whether success or failure attends his efforts – Hobbs will go down to posterity as one of the greatest figures in cricket history. A masterly batsman under all conditions, possessed of exceptional grace of style, remarkable in the variety of his strokes, ready to run any risk for his side, and a superb field, he has been at once the wonder and delight of all cricketers of his generation.
In a first-class career that spanned three decades, Jack Hobbs scored a staggering 61,760 runs, and 199 hundreds – a record that is unlikely to be ever broken