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Stanley Jackson: one of the greats of the Golden Age – Almanack

by Hubert Preston 5 minute read

An Ashes-winning captain in 1905, and a star in the classic 1902 series, Stanley Jackson was one of the greats of the Golden Age. But, as this 1948 tribute by Wisden’s editor proved, he was much more than just a talented sportsman.

The passing of Colonel The Honourable Sir Francis Stanley Jackson, PC, GCIE, on March 9, 1947 in his 77th year, came as a shock, not only to all who knew him personally, but also to every lover of cricket who had watched and enjoyed his wonderful prowess on the field of play. From the time that FS Jackson at Lord’s by his remarkable all-round success helped Harrow gain a victory over Eton by 156 runs in 1888, he went on from strength to strength, until he became one of the finest cricketers ever seen in England.

Unfortunately, he could not go on any tour to Australia owing to business reasons, and the presence of Lord Hawke in command of Yorkshire until 1910 prevented him from ever being the county captain, though occasionally in charge of the side. He reached the zenith of fame in 1905 when captain of England against Australia. In all five Tests he won the toss; made 492 runs with an average of 70, among his scores being 144 not out at Leeds, 113 at Manchester, 82 not out at Nottingham, 76 and 31 at The Oval; took 13 wickets at 15.46 each, surpassing the efforts of all his colleagues and opponents.

Of the five contests, England won that at Nottingham by 213 runs – after declaring with five men out – and that at Manchester by an innings and 80 runs, while they held much the stronger position in each of the three matches left unfinished. By a curious coincidence Stanley Jackson and Joseph Darling, then the Australian captain, were exactly the same age, both having been born on November 21, 1870. That was Darling’s third visit as captain and his last tour in England. He died on January 2, 1946, and his obituary in last year’s Wisden contains some of his experiences in opposition to Jackson.

Regarding his luck in winning the toss in those 1905 Tests and as captain of MCC, for whom he scored 85 in a rain-ruined match at Lord’s, Jackson said that at Scarborough, when captain for the seventh time against the Australians: “I found Darling stripped to the waist. He said, ‘Now we’ll have a proper tossing, and he who gets on top wins the toss.’ So I said to George Hirst, ‘Georgie, you come and toss this time.’ Darling then said, ‘All right, we’ll toss in the old-fashioned way!’” Again winning the toss, Jackson scored 123 and 31 not out, rain preventing a definite result.

Stanley Jackson, standing in the back row on the right, with his Gentlemen, including WG Grace, ahead of the clash against the Players

Stanley Jackson, standing in the back row on the right, with his Gentlemen team, including WG Grace, ahead of the clash against the Players

Born at Chapel Allerton, near Leeds, Stanley Jackson showed remarkable batting ability when at a preparatory school before he went to Harrow, when he was in the XI for three years, being captain in 1889. He did little on the first occasion, and his father, then the Rt Hon. WL Jackson, a member of the Cabinet in Lord Salisbury’s second Government, promised Stanley a sovereign for each wicket he took and a shilling for each run he made. Stanley scored 21 and 59 and took eleven wickets for 68 runs; Harrow won by 156 runs. His father’s generosity over cricket ceased with that match. Stanley’s only comment was that he was glad he had come off, as it would do father so much good.

Next year, when captain, five wickets fell to him, and his vigorous 68, best score in the match, accounted largely for victory by nine wickets. Proceeding to Cambridge, Jackson gained his Blue as a Freshman, and in 1892 he headed both the batting and bowling averages, and in first-class matches came out third among the amateur bowlers with 80 wickets for less than 19 runs apiece.

Re-elected captain, he led Cambridge to victory by 266 runs in 1893, showing such convincing form that he was given a place in the England team for the First Test at Lord’s. He followed a splendid innings of 91 with 103 at The Oval, but when, late in August, the time came for the third Test – at Manchester – he and other Yorkshiremen who might have been included in the side turned out for their county against Sussex at Brighton. He was one of five all-rounders given prominence in 1894 Wisden.

Describing his first Test innings of 91 in 1893 at Lord’s, Sir Stanley smiled and then related that, in the second Test at The Oval, WG Grace, the England captain, said: “With all these batsmen I don’t know where to put you. Anywhere will do. Then number seven. ‘Thanks. That’s my lucky number; I was the seventh child. And that match brought my first hundred for England. Mold came in last when I was 99. He nearly ran me out, so in desperation I jumped in and drove Giffen high to the seats, reaching 103. Then the bewildered Mold did run me out.’”

Jackson figured in all the 1896 Test matches, also in the next visit of Australia when the rubber was extended to five fixtures, being credited with 118 at The Oval in 1899. In the great games of 1902 Jackson was England’s best batsman. He did little at Sheffield, but at Birmingham, when three wickets fell for 35, he scored 53 and with JT Tyldesley saved England from collapse. At Lord’s, Fry and Ranjitsinhji were dismissed without a run, but Jackson and AC MacLaren, contemporaries at Harrow, raised the total to 102 without being separated before rain washed out the match.

In the memorable Manchester struggle, which Australia won by three runs, five England wickets went down for 44 in reply to a total of 299, but Jackson and Braund pulled the game round with a partnership of 141, Jackson himself going on to make 128. At dinner in the evening of that great day, a lady sitting next to him said: “I was so disappointed that Ranjitsinhji failed” – and this remark was made to the man who had played the innings of his life. He was fond of telling this little yarn against himself. At The Oval Jackson scored 49, sharing in a partnership of 109 with GL Jessop, whose wonderful innings of 104 paved the way to England’s one-wicket victory. Altogether Jackson scored 1,415 runs in Test matches against Australia – all in this country – with an average of nearly 49, and took 24 wickets at an average of 33.

Jackson played first for Yorkshire in 1890, and his last appearance for the side was in 1907. During that period he scored 10,405 runs for the county, averaging nearly 34 an innings, and dismissed 506 batsman for 19 runs apiece. In 1898, the only season when he appeared regularly for his county, he scored 1,566 runs and took 104 wickets. His highest scores for Yorkshire were 160 against Gloucestershire, 158 against Surrey, and 155 against Middlesex. He appeared on many occasions for Gentlemen against Players, and in those games made a thousand runs, average 31.50, and took 50 wickets. His aggregate for all first-class matches was 16,251 runs, average 33, and 834 wickets at 19 runs each.

Among his bowling triumphs were eight Lancashire wickets at Sheffield in 1902 for 13 runs, and the last four Australian wickets in five balls at Leeds in the same year, his analysis being five wickets for 12; he and George Hirst dismissed the Australians for 23. This happened directly after England in a drawn Test match had disposed of Australia for 36; Rhodes, who took seven wickets for 17, did not bowl in the more remarkable collapse of the Australians for the second lowest total ever recorded by an Australian side in England. When in 1896 Harry Trott’s team fell for 18 before MCC at Lord’s, Jackson scored 51 on a treacherous pitch. In the Gentlemen and Players match at Lord’s in 1894 he and SMJ Woods bowled unchanged. Jackson took 12 wickets for 77 and, in addition, made 63 – the highest score of the match, which the Gentlemen won by an innings and 37 runs before four o’clock on the second day.

Going to India with Lord Hawke’s team in the winter of 1892/93, Jackson took 69 wickets at 10.27 runs apiece and tied for first place in the batting averages with AJL Hill, a Cambridge contemporary. When again captain of the Light Blues in 1893, Jackson gave Ranjitsinhji his Blue. At Lord’s he instructed CM Wells to bowl wides in order to prevent Oxford from getting a desired follow-on, and Cambridge won by 266 runs. This set an example followed by Frank Mitchell three years later, when Oxford won by four wickets, and so primarily led to an alteration in the laws, making the follow-on an optional choice for the side holding the upper hand.

President of the Marylebone Club in 1921, the highest honour that a cricketer can enjoy, Sir Stanley Jackson was chairman of Test Match Selection Committee in 1934, and in 1943 presided over the special committee appointed by MCC to consider post-war cricket.

Well-built and standing nearly six feet high, Stanley Jackson was equipped with special physical advantages for cricket; to these were added fine judgment, perseverance, and, above all, exceptional courage which amounted to belief in his own abilities. Free and stylish in method, he drove splendidly on either side of the wicket and was perhaps the finest forcing on-side batsman of his time.

Stanley Jackson made himself a great player in every sense

Stanley Jackson made himself a great player in every sense

While essentially a forward player on hard wickets, he had at his command on sticky wickets a strength and science of back play to which few men have attained. His great stroke sent a good-length ball through the covers; he cut square or late and turned the ball cleverly on the leg side with similar precision. Nothing was better than the way he jumped in and drove the ball over the bowler’s head, as shown in the life-like picture at Lord’s, and as I saw at Bradford, where he sent the ball high over the football stand.

A right-handed rather fast-medium bowler with a nice easy action and plenty of spin, he kept a good length and often got on a sharp off-break. On a difficult wicket he was a bowler who might dispose of any side. While always a keen and smart field, especially at cover-point, he was not in his early days a sure catch, but steadily improved in this respect and made himself in every sense a great player.

At Bradford on one occasion he was out to a brilliant catch in the long field, whereupon he tucked his bat under his arm and joined vigorously in the applause which greeted the fieldsman’s splendid effort.

On the same ground, where there is a stone wall in front of the pavilion, a ball bowled by Jackson was sent by a low skimming drive with such force that it rolled back from the wall into the middle of the field, coming to rest practically at the bowler’s feet. Jackson, in appreciation of the remarkable occurrence, made the ball a dignified bow.

In the South African War Jackson served with the Royal Lancaster Regiment of Militia, and in the first Great War, 1914-18, he was Lieutenant-Colonel of a West Yorkshire Regiment battalion which he raised and commanded. He entered Parliament in 1915 and remained Unionist member for Howdenshire Division of Yorkshire until 1926. One day in the House of Commons dining room Mr. Winston Churchill, who had been his fag at Harrow, said, “Let me introduce you to Mr Lloyd George.” There came a quick exclamation, “I have been looking all my life for the man who gave Winston Churchill a hiding at school.”

When he wanted to make his maiden speech the debate went unfavourably, and he received a note from the Speaker: “I have dropped you in the batting order; it’s a sticky wicket. Then, at a better opportunity, he sent this hint: Get your pads on; you’re next in.”

In 1922 he was appointed Financial Secretary to the War Office, and next year he succeeded Lord Younger as Chairman of the Unionist Party Organisation. In 1927 he went out to India as Governor of Bengal. There he proved equal to the most trying situation, behaving with splendid nerve and authority when he nearly fell a victim to attempted assassination by a Calcutta girl student who fired five shots at close range, narrowly missing Sir Stanley when presiding at a meeting. His London home was bombed in 1940, and in August 1946 he was run over by a taxi, receiving a severe injury to his right leg: a climax to unpleasant experiences which no doubt contributed to his last illness and hastened the end of this very distinguished Englishman.

Stanley Jackson passed away on March 9, 1947 in Hyde Park, London

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