Gilbert Laird Jessop

From Academic Kids

Gilbert Laird Jessop (born May 19, 1874, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England; died May 11, 1955, Fordington, Dorset, England) was an English cricket player, known as the fastest run-scorer cricket has ever known.

Though short and stocky, Jessop was amazingly quick on his feet and would go out even to hit and drive fast bowlers like Tom Richardson or Arthur Mold. This lightning footwork allowed Jessop to score with amazing rapidity on extremely treacherous pitches where defensive cricket was virtually useless, as in the Fifth Test at The Oval in 1902. However, the liberties he took with good bowling were also often his undoing, so that he could never stay at the wickets very long.

In his early days he was a bowler of considerable pace despite his lack of inches: his stocky build gave him great stamina. Jessop was also probably the fastest fieldsman in the game throughout most of his career, giving Gloucestershire a reputation for brilliance in the field.

He first played for Gloucestershire in 1894, and a short innings of 30 against the deadly bowling of Mold and Briggs was seen as indicating a promising player. In 1895, Jessop developed into a capable fast bowler - though he was forced to play second fiddle to Charlie Townsend when he began to play for Gloucestershire - and went up to Cambridge University in 1896.

It was not until the following year, when Jessop did the "double" of 1000 runs and 100 wickets, that the remarkable nature of his talent was observed. His two innings against Yorkshire at Bradford - 100 in forty minutes and 139 in less than an hour - astonished the crowds and earned him a Cricketer of the Year nomination from Wisden. After two moderate years - despite a Test debut in 1899 - Jessop in 1900 took over as captain and secretary of Gloucestershire had his finest year, scoring 2210 runs and taking 104 wickets including a career-best 8 for 29 against Essex. The following year, whilst he lost his pace and his bowling declined to fewer than thirty wickets, his batting was even better, whilst 1902 was highlighted by his amazing innings to win the Fifth Test on a treacherous Oval pitch. So enthralling was Jessop's play that some spectator apparently kept the first ball-by-ball record of any cricket innings!

In 1903, Jessop played the highest innings of his career - 286 in 180 minutes against Sussex - and for the rest of the decade, as well as being captain of Gloucestershire, he was their batting mainstay and undoubtedly the greatest attraction for the spectator in the cricket world. However, he could rarely bowl after 1901 (and then at a much slower pace), and never played a Test innings like that at the Oval in 1902. This may have been because Jessop was unable to ever tour Australia or South Africa for business reasons.

Despite a major injury in 1909 keeping him off the fild for over two months, Jessop, though rarely successful in Tests, continued to be a major force as a batsman until he relinquished the secretaryship of Gloucestershire in 1912. In his last two seasons he was not always available and showed only modest form, and, at the age of forty-five, he did not play again when cricket resumed after World War I.

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