|Batting style||Right-hand bat (RHB)|
|Bowling style||Round-arm right-arm slow|
James Southerton (16 November 1827 in Petworth, Sussex – 16 June 1880 in Mitcham, Surrey) was a professional cricketer who played first-class cricket between 1854 and 1879. After a slow start, he became along with Alfred Shaw the greatest slow bowler of the 1870s.
Southerton began his cricketing life during the 1850s as a batsman, but apart from a few good scores in 1858, when he at times opened the batting and averaged 22 which in an era pre-dating the heavy roller was exceeded by only two players with more innings, he did little for Sussex in this role and played in none of the major first-class games in the following two seasons. In 1861, Southerton was engaged at Southampton and resided at the Antelope Ground until 1867. During this period Southerton, operating in a period before regulations prevented a played from turning out for more than one county in the same season, played for both Sussex and Hampshire.
It was not until 1865 that Southerton developed the slow bowling for which he was to gain belated fame and set many records. At a time when bowling was mainly fast round-arm, Southerton’s slower speed with its deceptive flight and sharp break was a challenge for batsmen that they did not adapt to easily. Southerton had much more than spin and flight, however. He was able to vary his pace and pitch very well, often deceiving batsmen by bowling a ball outside the off stump which turned on the under-prepared pitches of his time viciously into the right-handed batsmen. Southerton typically would then bowl a faster, straighter ball as a contrast, and was exceptionally strong at knowing what ball would be most difficult for each individual batsman. Like Lancashire’s Alec Watson, who was often called "the Southerton of the North", the fairness of Southerton’s delivery was sometimes called into question, though he was never criticised as severely as the powerful Lancashire attack of the early 1880s. He had hardly bowled at all up to 1864, but in August 1865 with six for 50 against Middlesex and seven for 45 aided by six dismissals from wicket-keeper George Ubsdell against the team for whom he was later to carry out most of his major bowling feats, Southerton established himself as a permanent fixture in top-class cricket at the age of thirty-eight.
Upon leaving Southampton, Southerton turned out for Surrey as well as Sussex and Hampshire, and with more cricket to play because of Surrey’s longer programme, became the most successful bowler in England. Playing only for Surrey and Sussex, Southerton in 1868 was the leading wicket-taker in England with 151, aided by an exceptionally hot summer and very bad pitches even for the era. Two years later Southerton became the first bowler to reach 200 wickets in a first-class season, and played in as many as twenty-seven of only forty-nine first-class matches during the year. During this period it was said that Southerton was the one bowler able to defeat or even contain the brilliant batting of W. G. Grace as that player broke countless batting records and reduced fast bowlers who had been terrors for other batsmen to impotence. He continued as a leading force between 1871 and 1875, with the apogee being sixteen wickets for fifty-two runs in a day for the South against the North on a sticky wicket on 17 May 1875.
Although Southerton declined somewhat in the 1876 season with twenty-eight fewer wickets than the previous year, he toured Australia as part of James Lillywhite's side the following winter. This led to him playing in the two first-ever Test matches. Southerton was 49 years 119 days old when he made his Test debut, making him the oldest ever Test debutant, a record unlikely to ever be beaten. However, age was clearly catching up with Southerton as the following season saw him fail to reach 100 first-class wickets for the first time since 1866, and his average also increased despite very wet weather as Surrey (whom he had represented ever since qualification laws allowed a player to represent only one county in a season) turned to the younger Edward Barratt as its chief bowler. In the appalling summer of 1879 Southerton’s average did improve from 17 to 12, but he showed no plans to continue playing at the age of fifty-two in 1880.
In any case, Southerton became the first Test cricketer to die when he succumbed after a short attack of pleurisy just ten months after he had retired from cricket. However, as the games were not designated as official Test matches till much later, Southerton never knew about any of his records.
Southerton was involved in an unusual incident during the Surrey County Cricket Club v Marylebone Cricket Club match at the Kennington Oval in 1870. Southerton cut a ball hard to W.G. Grace, who picked it up on the rebound and did not throw it up as if he had made a catch. Nobody except Southerton thought he was out, but he walked away, and when recalled, refused to come back.
- For example in Kent v Sussex at Higher Common Ground in 1858
- First-Class Batting by Average in England in 1858
- "Antelope Ground, Southampton, England". www.cricinfo.com. Retrieved 9 March 2009.
- Grace, William Gilbert; "Forty Years of Cricket"; in The Sydney Mail; 21 June 1890
- Wynne-Thomas, Peter; The Rigby A-Z of Cricket Records; p. 53 ISBN 072701868X
- First Class Bowling in England in 1868 by Wickets
- First Class Bowling in Each Season
- Rae, Simon; W.G. Grace: A Life; pp. 94, 106. ISBN 0571178553
- South v North in 1875
- Obituary: James Southerton
- Brodribb, Gerald, "Next Man In", Souvenir Press, London, 1995
|Oldest Living Test Cricketer
15 March 1877 – 16 June 1880