Walter Hammond fulfilled the promise that had been glimpsed at an early age in a riot of run-scoring in 1927. The following spring, he was one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year.
Walter Reginald Hammond, than whom no one of recent years has more abundantly fulfilled his early promise, was born at Dover on June 19, 1903. When still a child he was taken out to China, and at the age of eight or nine played cricket at Malta. Coming back to England in 1914, he went to Cirencester Grammar School where he remained until 1920, and just after he left school he played for Gloucestershire, appearing in his first two or three matches as an amateur. After his opening game for the western county, he was asked by Kent to play for them under the birth qualification but the invitation was refused, and upon his qualification for Gloucestershire being questioned, he dropped out of first-class cricket for two years.
Hammond may with justification be termed a self-taught cricketer. Until he went to school he received no serious training, but while there he gave clear indication of his ability by hitting up a score of 365 in a boarders’ match. Even at Cirencester, there was no systematic coaching, but the headmaster gave him such advice as lay in his power, and after his advent in first-class cricket he received many invaluable hints from George Dennett, the old Gloucestershire slow bowler.
It will not be out of place here to quote the words of the late Sydney Pardon, who, as editor of the Almanack, wrote of Hammond after the season of 1923. Dealing with Gloucestershire cricket he said: “Of far more importance in its bearing on the future was the fine form shown by Hammond. Here we have in all likelihood one of the best professional batsmen of the future. Irreproachable in style and not yet 21-years of age, Hammond has all the world before him, and there is no telling how far he may go.”
In that season Hammond jumped off with scores of 110 and 92 against Surrey and except when illness, contracted during his visit to the West Indies with the MCC team, kept him out of the game in 1926, he has never looked back. His crowning triumph came last summer. He made history by equalling WG Grace’s great performance of scoring 1,000 runs in May, and in the course of a month playing five innings of over 100 – the first three in succession.
Had not the weather broken up, it is more than likely he would have gone even further, and completed 2,000 runs by the end of June, but, with 1,822 to his credit, rain restricted his innings to one when in ordinary circumstances he would have had four in which to accomplish the task of scoring only 178 runs. As it was he wound up the season with an aggregate of nearly 3,000, in which were 12 innings of three figures.
“In any other era, Hammond would have been king of the castle.”
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) May 28, 2020
He was, of course, one of the first choices for the MCC team for South Africa this winter, and if, out there, not at the moment the dominating personality as a batsman expected, he, at any rate, has done enough to maintain his reputation. He appears also to have recovered his bowling which seemed to have left him after his visit to the West Indies.
Beautifully built and loose limbed with strong and pliant wrists, Hammond is essentially a stylist in method, and moreover, a firm believer in making the bat hit the ball. For the most part, he is a forward player, and even in making a defensive stroke in this way, he comes down harder on the ball than does the average man.
He employs all the modern means of scoring, and can cut and turn the ball to leg with equal skill, but, above everything else, his driving is superb. With a new ball, he can be most deceptive with his medium-pace bowling, obtaining swerve in flight, and imparting spin to get life off the pitch. A beautiful fielder he is particularly brilliant in the slips or anywhere on the off side.
Walter Hammond became one of the greatest batsmen of all time, eclipsed only by Don Bradman in his era. He scored 50,551 first-class runs – 7,249 of them in Tests – at 56.10 with 167 centuries. He also took 732 wickets