The son of Jonas Laver, grazier and timber merchant, and Mary Ann, née Fry, Frank Laver was the 78th player to represent Australia. He was a right-hand batsman and right-arm medium pace bowler. In his first season with the East Melbourne Cricket Club, as a gangling six-footer from the country, he took 94 wickets and made three centuries, and held his place in the club for 25 years. In the 1892/93 season he scored more than 1000 runs for his club, including a record 352 not out. Batting with his friend and fellow Test player Peter McAlister in 1903/04 season, Laver scored 341 in a club record score of 2 for 744 in one afternoon's batting. Laver and McAlister later fell out over the management of overseas tours.
Pollard described Laver as "crude and unorthodox, [who] could thrash even classy attacks. He was a plucky fieldsman whose bowling was highly suited to the heavy atmosphere and damp pitches of England."
His first Test match was between Australia and England at Trent Bridge, Nottingham on 1 June to 3 June 1899. This match, the first to be played at Trent Bridge, was drawn with England needing 135 runs to win and Australia requiring 3 wickets. Laver's contribution was a modest 3 runs in each innings and a catch. The match was also notable as being W. G. Grace's last Test, and the first for Victor Trumper and Wilfred Rhodes.
In the 1905 tour of England, Laver was appointed player-manager by the Australian Board of Control, and finished second in the bowling averages, taking 115 wickets at an average of 18.19. Pollard described him as "a cricketer of character and perception, [who] could encourage aspiring players to great heights." He was again appointed player-manager for the 1909 tour of England. At the end of the tour Laver refused to produce his records of the trip, insisting that he kept books only for the players' benefit.
In the Test match at Old Trafford, Manchester on 26 July to 28 July 1909, Laver had, in Wisden's words "a great day against England", taking 8 wickets for 31 runs in the first innings. "English batsmen considered him a very good but not an exceptional bowler, and often wondered why they fared so badly against him", said Wisden. This was a record performance in a Test match at Old Trafford, equalled by Fred Trueman in 1952, until Jim Laker's extraordinary 10 for 53 and 9 for 37 in 1956.
Laver's last Test match was between Australia and England at The Oval, Kennington, London on 9 August to 11 August 1909, another drawn match with England needing 208 runs with 7 wickets in hand. Laver was 8 not out in his only innings, and took 0 wickets for 13 runs in 8 overs.
When another manager was appointed to lead the Australians to England in 1912, six senior players declared that they were unavailable unless Laver was reinstated. The Board of Control remained unmoved and, in spite of a heated selectors' meeting in which punches were thrown, Laver remained out favour with the Board. "Any suggestion that the players could have a free hand in selecting the manager was so much poppycock", declared Moyes. However, he managed a non-Test tour of New Zealand in the 1913/14 season.
Altogether, Laver played 163 first-class matches in his career between 1891 and 1914.
He married Katie Myrtle Adele Major at Kiama, New South Wales in 1914, and had two children. He died of a cerebral haemorrhage. At the time of his death he was living in Kew, Victoria and his occupation was given as a manufacturer.
- Frank Laver at ESPNcricinfo
- Cricket Archive
- Frank Jonas Laver (1869-1919) Gravesite at Brighton General Cemetery (Vic)
- Moyes, A. G., Australian Cricket: A History, Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1959.
- Pollard, Jack, Australian Cricket: 1893-1917, The Turbulent Years. Sydney, The Book Company, 1995. (ISBN 0-207-15468-6)
- Pollard, Jack, Australian Cricket: The game and the players. Sydney, Hodder & Stoughton, 1982. (ISBN 0-340-28796-9)
- Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1920 edition (obituary)