|Full name||Arthur Fielder|
19 July 1877|
Plaxtol, Tonbridge, Kent, England
|Died||30 August 1949
Lambeth, London, England
|Bowling style||Right arm fast|
|Test debut (cap 140)||1 January 1904 v Australia|
|Last Test||11 February 1908 v Australia|
|Domestic team information|
|1900 – 1914||Kent|
|Source: CricketArchive, 26 December 2008|
Arthur Fielder (19 July 1877, Plaxtol, Tonbridge, Kent, England – 30 August 1949, Lambeth, London, England) was the leading fast bowler in English cricket for the decade before World War I and one of the key contributors to Kent's four County Championship successes between 1906 and 1913.
In some ways the founder of modern fast bowling, Fielder was the first fast bowler to rely on swing rather than the traditional break-back. He took a fairly long run for his time and could make the ball move away from leg stump to off with great effect. On the very fast pitches that prevailed in his time in dry weather Fielder could be a very dangerous bowler, especially with Kent's array of slip fieldsmen. This swerve, and an occasional break-back that bowled many batsmen made Fielder still effective even when his pace declined after 1909.
Whilst strictly a tail-end batsman, he scored an undefeated 112 against Worcestershire at Stourbridge batting at number 11 and shared a partnership of 235 for the tenth wicket with Frank Woolley who scored 185. This is still the highest last-wicket partnership in county cricket. The pair came together when Kent were still 40 behind Worcestershire's first innings of 360 and raised Kent's total to 555. Kent went on to win by an innings. Woolley had retired hurt earlier in the innings after being hit in the mouth by a ball from Ted Arnold. Fielder also took part in a tenth-wicket stand with Sydney Barnes that gave England the first victory by one wicket in the history of Test cricket.
Fielder first played in first-class cricket in 1900, but was known only in local cricket until the decline of Bill Bradley caused Kent to search for another fast bowler. Though the summer was mostly exceedingly wet and it was often impossible for fast bowlers to obtain a foothold, Fielder bowled so well that with Richardson and Lockwood on their last legs, he was surprisingly chosen for that winter's Ashes tour. With several wickets affected by rain in a La Niña summer, Fielder had few opportunities: he was omitted from three Tests and did not bowl in one other. Though 1904 was a fair season, in 1905 Fielder fared so badly (though this was partly due to an incredible number of dropped catches against Nottinghamshire on a Gravesend wicket that was a fast bowler's paradise) that he was dropped from many games and only took 55 first-class wickets.
In the remarkably dry Home Counties summer of 1906, though, Fielder not only returned to form but surpassed everything he did before by far. Not only did he take 158 wickets in county matches on consistently hard pitches, but on an over-watered wicket - which was common then whenever very dry weather occurred in England - at Lord's he took all ten wickets for the Players against the Gentlemen. This made Fielder a certainty for Cricketer of the Year status and established himself in the elite of county bowlers. The bowling of Fielder and Colin Blythe allowed Kent to win eleven successive games to clinch the Championship. 1907 was a very wet summer that was all against fast bowlers, yet Fielder, taking advantage of any moisture on top or underneath whenever he could obtain a foothold, had so many deadly days against the weaker counties that, although against Worcestershire and Essex exceptional batting made him ineffective on helpful pitches, he took 172 wickets for only 16 runs apiece. Although he surprisingly did not play at Lord's or the Oval against South Africa, this made him a certainty for the Ashes tour that winter, and he did very well when the difficulties England faced due to the absence of leading players due to business are taken into account. For the whole series, he took 25 wickets at 25.08. Though he did not produce any startling performances, Fielder was for the moment the leading fast bowler in the world.
The three season 1908, 1909 and 1910 were plagued by injuries which prevented Fielder from taking part in many games, yet he showed many times that when fit he was still the best professional fast bowler in England. This was seen when he took 13 for 164 on a good wicket against Yorkshire in 1909, and when he took 12 for 76 at Northampton a year later. Injury prevented Fielder playing against Australia in 1909 - he would certainly have been picked for the Oval Test were he fit - and this meant Fielder was never to play in a home Test in his career.
The exceptionally dry summer of 1911, though he was fitter than in any season since 1907, showed Fielder rarely at his best: only in two or three matches was he the Fielder of 1906 or 1907, and this caused Kent to surprisingly lose the Championship and place him out of contention for the winter tour of Australia. 1912 was an absolute disaster: Fielder was so ineffective that he was dropped in mid-July and did not play again: though in the later part of 1912 fast bowling was utterly worthless because wickets were so wet a firm footing never existed and Kent did not miss him an iota. Nonetheless, when the first hard pitches came in 1913, it was a shock to see how Fielder rebounded: if not as fast as in 1906 or 1907, his swerve away from the bat made him still a very difficult bowler and this helped Kent have their best season ever in the County Championship.
After a disappointing 1914 - though he did take 7 for 34 against Warwickshire - World War I ended Fielder's career. However, in 1919 and 1920 Kent were so short of pace bowling that they considered recalling him at the age of forty-three, but common sense prevailed and he did not tarnish his reputation by playing when obviously too old.