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Jack Hobbs
A black and white head and shoulders shot of a man wearing a cricket blazer and cap
Hobbs in about 1920
Personal information
Full name
John Berry Hobbs
Born (1882-12-16)16 December 1882
Cambridge, England
Died 21 December 1963(1963-12-21) (aged 81)
Hove, East Sussex, England
Nickname The Master
Batting Right-handed
Bowling Right-arm medium
Role Opening batsman
International information
National side
Test debut (cap 157) 1 January 1908 v Australia
Last Test 16 August 1930 v Australia
Domestic team information
Years Team
1905–1934 Surrey
Career statistics
Competition Test First-class
Matches 61 834
Runs scored 5,410 61,760
Batting average 56.94 50.70
100s/50s 15/28 199/273
Top score 211 316*
Balls bowled 376 5,217
Wickets 1 108
Bowling average 165.00 25.03
5 wickets in innings 0 3
10 wickets in match 0 0
Best bowling 1/19 7/56
Catches/stumpings 17/– 342/–

Jack Hobbs (Sir John Berry Hobbs, 16 December 1882 – 21 December 1963) was an English professional cricketer.

Early life and education

Parker's Piece, Cambridge - - 876342
Hobbs regularly practised cricket on Parker's Piece in his youth.

Hobbs was born in Cambridge on 16 December 1882, the first of 12 children to John Cooper Hobbs, a slater, and his wife Flora Matilda Berry. Hobbs was raised in a poor, run-down area of the city, and he spent most of his childhood in near poverty. Hobbs senior, a lover of cricket, changed his career to become a professional cricketer, and in 1889 was appointed groundsman and umpire at Jesus College.

From an early age, Hobbs played cricket whenever he could. His first games were played in the streets near his house. He was educated at a primary school affiliated with his local Anglican church, St Matthew's, and moved in 1891 to York Street Boys' School, a fee-paying establishment; Hobbs later admitted to being a poor scholar but was successful at sports. He played cricket regularly for the St Matthew's choir team and the York Street school team, and during holidays helped his father at Jesus College. In his final year at York Street, to supplement the family budget, Hobbs took a job working before school hours in the domestic service of a private house.

Early career

On leaving school in 1895, he worked as an errand boy until his father's connections at the university secured him a summer job as a college servant, chiefly assisting the cricket team. Aged 16, Hobbs became an apprentice gas fitter, and practised cricket on Parker's Piece, an open area of common land in Cambridge, in his spare time. He played for various local clubs but did not initially stand out as a cricketer: although better than most other Cambridge batsmen, no coaches or major teams approached him, and his batting gave little indication of the success which came later.

Hobbs' breakthrough came in 1901. His batting improved throughout the season, during which he scored 102 for Ainsworth against the Cambridge Liberals, his first century. At the end of the season, he was included in a Cambridge XI, a team chosen from the best local cricketers, to play a prestigious match against a team of professional cricketers brought by the Cambridge-born Surrey cricketer Tom Hayward. Hobbs' overall record was unremarkable, but at the end of the season he was invited to play as an amateur for Cambridgeshire; he achieved little in his appearances.

Early in 1902, Hobbs was appointed as assistant to the professional cricket coach at Bedford School, working as a groundsman and bowling in the nets. In late August, he returned to Cambridge to play as a professional for the first time. For a fee of ten shillings, Hobbs appeared for a team from the nearby town of Royston against Hertfordshire Club and Ground and scored 119 runs. His success delighted his family and made him a local celebrity. Hobbs' father, who had helped to arrange his appearance in the match, died from pneumonia a week later. Despite local fund-raising efforts for the bereaved family, Hobbs senior's death left his wife and children facing great financial hardship. Francis Hutt, a former friend and colleague of the father, contacted Essex County Cricket Club to request a trial for Hobbs. That county never replied—Hobbs later scored his maiden first-class century against them—but Hutt was more successful when he asked Hayward to look at Hobbs with a view to recommending him to Surrey. Consequently, in late 1902, Hobbs batted on Parker's Piece against Hayward and Bill Reeves, an Essex cricketer born in Cambridge, impressing Hayward in the process. In the winter of 1902–03 Hobbs assumed his father's duties as groundsman at Jesus College.

Professional career

Hobbs played for Surrey from 1905 to 1934 and for England in 61 Test matches between 1908 and 1930. Known as "The Master", Hobbs is regarded by critics as one of the greatest batsmen in the history of cricket. He is the leading run-scorer and century-maker in first-class cricket, with 61,760 runs and 199 centuries. A right-handed batsman and an occasional right-arm medium pace bowler, Hobbs also excelled as a fielder, particularly in the position of cover point.

Born into poverty in 1882, Hobbs wished to pursue a career in cricket from an early age. His early batting was undistinguished but a sudden improvement in 1901 brought him to the attention of local teams. Following the death of his father, he successfully applied to join Surrey, with the support of England batsman Tom Hayward. His reputation grew and when he qualified to play for Surrey, he scored 88 on his first-class debut and a century in his next game.

By 1907–08 Hobbs was playing Test cricket for England. He scored 83 in his first Test, and his international career continued until 1930. After some mixed Test performances, Hobbs' success against South African googly bowlers meant that his place was secure, and in 1911–12, he scored three centuries in the series against Australia. Afterwards, he was regarded as the best batsman in the world until the mid-1920s.

In county cricket, Hobbs developed an attractive, attacking style of play where he scored quickly, and he was very successful in the years approaching the First World War. After the war, Hobbs was again successful against Australia, but his career was threatened by appendicitis which caused him to miss most of the 1921 season. When he returned, he was more cautious as a batsmen and concentrated on safer, more defensive play. Yet he continued to be successful in Test and domestic cricket. He retired from Tests in 1930 but continued to play for Surrey until 1934.

StateLibQld 1 233104 Autographed photograph of the English batsmen, Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, 1928 Cropped
Hobbs and Sutcliff coming out to bat for England against Australia, Brisbane 1928.

An opening batsman, Hobbs established several effective opening partnerships; with Tom Hayward and Andy Sandham for Surrey, and with Wilfred Rhodes and Herbert Sutcliffe for England. His partnership with Sutcliffe was the most effective in Test history. Contemporaries rated Hobbs extremely highly, and critics continue to list him among the best batsmen of all time.

Retirement and final years

Following his retirement from cricket in 1934, Hobbs continued to work as a journalist, first with Jack Ingham then with Jimmy Bolton as his ghostwriters. He accompanied the MCC team to Australia in 1936–37 and published four books which sold well in the 1930s. In addition, he produced two ghostwritten autobiographies, but generally avoided self-publicity or controversy. He continued to work at his sports shop and he and Ada moved home several times. By the mid-1930s, his wife was becoming mentally and physically frail. Hobbs supported several charities in his spare time and continued to play cricket at club and charity level.

During the Second World War, Hobbs served in the Home Guard at New Malden. In 1946, Hobbs became the first professional to be elected to the Surrey committee. The same year, he and his wife moved to Hove, following several years of health concerns and worries over his business and children. Ada's health continued to deteriorate, and the couple spent some time in South Africa in an attempt to aid her recuperation.

In 1953, Hobbs was knighted, the first professional cricketer to be so honoured. He was reluctant to accept it and only did so when convinced that it was an honour to all professional cricketers, not just himself. In the same year, John Arlott formed the "Master's Club", a group of Hobbs' admirers who met regularly to celebrate him. Hobbs remained active into the 1960s, including working in his shop. By the late 1950s, Ada required the use of a wheelchair, and Hobbs spent most of his time caring for her. She died in March 1963.


Hobbs' own health began to fail shortly afterwards, and he died on 21 December 1963 at the age of 81. He left £19,445 (£433,263 in 2021 terms) in his will and was buried in Hove Cemetery. A memorial service was held at Southwark Cathedral in February 1964.

Personal life

Wife and son of Jack Hobbs 2
Hobbs' wife and son in 1925

In 1900, Hobbs met Ada Ellen Gates, a cobbler's daughter, at an evening church service held in St Matthew's, Cambridge. The couple married on 26 September 1906 at the church in which they met. Hobbs so disliked being separated from his wife during cricket tours that in later years she often accompanied the team overseas. They had four children: Jack, born in 1907, Leonard in 1909, Vera in 1913 and Ivor in 1914.

Style and technique

Hobbs had a batting technique which critics regarded as ideal. His success was based on fast footwork, an ability to play many different shots, and excellent placement of the ball. His technical ability allowed him to prosper at a relatively late age for a cricketer. He was particularly successful on difficult pitches for batting.

Reputation and legacy

Hobbs was twice selected as Wisden's Cricketer of the Year, in 1909 and 1926; only he and Pelham Warner have received this award twice. In 1963, Neville Cardus chose him as one of the best six cricketers of the previous 100 years, to mark Wisden's centenary. More recently, Hobbs was selected by a panel of experts in 2000 as one of five Wisden cricketers of the 20th century. In 2009, he was selected by cricket historians and writers as a member of England's all-time best team, and included in a similar team to represent the best players worldwide in the history of cricket. Hobbs' Test batting average of 56.94 remained as of 2016 the sixth best among batsmen to have passed 5,000 runs, despite a rise in the number of batsmen who average more than 50 since 2000. Among openers who have scored 5,000 Test runs, he has the third best average behind Sutcliffe and Len Hutton. He was comfortably the leading Test run-scorer during his career, and had the highest number of Test runs at the time of his retirement. Between 1910 and 1929, he averaged 65.55 in Test cricket.

Among his contemporaries, Hobbs was regarded as modest and kind, and never criticised other players. He avoided confrontation, although he was "quietly determined", according to Wisden, and tried to avoid publicity.

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