|Full name||George Frederick Grace|
13 December 1850|
Downend, South Gloucestershire
|Died||22 September 1880
|Bowling style||right arm fast (roundarm)|
|Relations||H. Grace, E. M. Grace, W. G. Grace (brothers); W. R. Gilbert (cousin)|
|Only Test (cap 23)||6 September 1880 v Australia|
|Domestic team information|
Source: CricketArchive, 1 July 2016
George Frederick ("Fred") Grace (13 December 1850 – 22 September 1880) was an English first-class cricketer active from 1866 to 1880 who played for Gloucestershire, the United South of England Eleven (USEE) and in one retrospectively recognised Test match for England. He was born in Downend, South Gloucestershire and died in Basingstoke, Hampshire. A right-handed batsman who bowled right arm fast roundarm, he appeared in 195 matches that are generally rated first-class for statistical purposes.[fc 1] In these matches, Grace scored 6,906 runs with a highest score of 189*. An outstanding fielder and occasional wicket-keeper, he held 170 catches and completed three stumpings. He took 329 wickets with a best performance of eight for 43.
Fred Grace was the youngest member of the Grace family. He had four elder brothers who all played cricket: Henry, Alfred, "EM" and "WG". In some contemporary texts, he was called "G. F. Grace", using his initials in the same way as for both EM and WG but in fact he was widely known as Fred while they were always known by their initials only. His two oldest brothers were always known by their first names, Henry and Alfred. Although the England v Australia match at The Oval in September 1880 was granted Test status retrospectively, it is the first instance of three brothers playing together in a Test match with EM, WG and Fred all members of the England team.
Fred Grace first attracted notice in club cricket, playing for his father's West Gloucestershire Cricket Club in 1864 when still only 13. It was said of him then that he did not play with so "straight a bat" as WG, but was "more resolute in his hitting". Mention was made of the great promise shown in his fielding, always an outstanding feature of his game; he was hailed as "a glorious field".
His earliest appearance in a match now rated first-class was 21–22 May 1866 at the Magdalen Ground, Oxford for a hastily organised Gentlemen of England XI against Oxford University (OUCC), the university winning by 10 wickets. Aged 15, Grace took a wicket and had scores of 0 and 10. WG, aged 17, was in the same team and it was at this match that WG received an invitation from Edmund Carter to join the OUCC, but he had to refuse because his father intended him for medical school. In due course, Fred would follow him into the study of medicine.
In September 1880, Grace was selected along with EM and WG to play for England against the Australian tourists in a match at The Oval that was later recognised as the inaugural Test in England. He was out for nought in both innings and so became the first player to be dismissed for a pair on Test debut. He made his mark on the match, however, by holding a celebrated, and possibly match-winning, catch on the boundary in front of the gasometer at the Vauxhall End. This was from a shot by the giant Australian batsman George Bonnor off Alfred Shaw. Bonnor hit the ball so high that he and his partner Harry Boyle had turned for their third run before, finally, the ball came down to Grace who had positioned himself perfectly to catch it cleanly. That catch became part of cricket's folklore and has been described as "the most famous deep field catch in history".
The Test match ended with an England victory on Wednesday, 8 September. Grace went to Stroud for a USEE "odds" match played 9 to 11 September. It was his last cricket match. He had caught a cold during the Test match which was made worse by being soaked twice during showers at Stroud. He returned home to Downend to try and recuperate but still had the cold on Tuesday, 14 September, when he travelled by train to Basingstoke as he was due to play in a benefit match at Winchester the following day. He took a room at the Red Lion Hotel in Basingstoke. He could not play in the benefit match because his condition had worsened and he became bed-ridden at the hotel where a doctor diagnosed a problem with his right lung. Grace's brother Henry and his cousin Walter Gilbert came to see him, Gilbert remaining with him throughout his illness. There were conflicting reports by telegram about his condition until the morning of Wednesday, 22 September, when he suddenly deteriorated and became critical. Several family members, including WG, set off for Basingstoke but Grace died at 13:15 that day. WG and Henry were told while awaiting a train at Bradford-on-Avon railway station.
The cause of death, though given as "congestion of the lungs", was pneumonia. Grace was buried in the cemetery at Downend and an estimated 3,000 people followed his coffin. The Australians wore black armbands during their last match which began on the day of the funeral. The Times wrote: "His manly and straightforward conduct and genial manners won him not only popularity, but the esteem of hosts and friends".
It has been alleged that Grace's illness developed "after sleeping in a damp hotel bed". Gilbert, who stayed at the hotel for several days, later wrote to the The Daily Telegraph: "It having come to my knowledge there is a rumour abroad that Mr. G. F. Grace's fatal illness was caused by sleeping in a damp bed at the Red Lion Hotel, Basingstoke, I beg to contradict it. He had a bad cold before he left home, and on my arrival at Basingstoke he told me that he had received another chill whilst waiting at Reading Station. By inserting this you will greatly oblige me, and also do justice to the members of a family whose attention and kindness to my cousin all through his illness could not have been surpassed had he been at home". The "damp bed" story is refuted by evidence to the contrary, as described above, because Grace's illness began with the cold he caught during the match at The Oval and he was already ill when he arrived in Basingstoke.
Fred Grace was unquestionably a top-class cricketer through the 1870s but, like everyone else, he was overshadowed by WG.
As a team, Gloucestershire declined in the 1880s following its heady success in the 1870s and one of the stated reasons for this was Fred Grace's early death, there being a view that "the county was never quite the same without him".
- "First-class cricket" was officially defined in May 1894 by a meeting at Lord's of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and the county clubs which were then competing in the County Championship. The ruling was effective from the beginning of the 1895 season. Pre-1895 matches of the same standard have no official definition of status because the ruling is not retrospective and the "unofficial first-class" designation, as applied to a given match, is based on the views of one or more substantial historical sources. For further information, see First-class cricket, Forms of cricket and History of cricket.
- Fred Grace at CricketArchive
- Fred Grace at ESPNcricinfo
- Rae, pp. 15–16.
- Midwinter, pp. 86–87.
- Birley, p. 104.
- Rae, pp. 57–58.
- Barclays, p. 14.
- Oxford University v. Gentlemen of England, 1866 – match scorecard
- Midwinter, p. 30.
- Rae, p. 63.
- Rae, p. 142.
- "Only Test: England v Australia at The Oval, Sep 6-8, 1880 | Cricket Scorecard | ESPN Cricinfo". Cricinfo. Retrieved 2017-03-22.
- "Records | Test matches | Batting records | Pair on debut | ESPN Cricinfo". Cricinfo. Retrieved 2017-03-22.
- Rae, p. 250.
- Rae, p. 256.
- Rae, p. 257.
- Rae, pp. 256–257.
- Birley, p.132.
- Altham, H. S. (1962). A History of Cricket, Volume 1 (to 1914). George Allen & Unwin.
- Barclays (1986). Swanton, E. W., ed. Barclays World of Cricket. Willow Books. ISBN 0-00-218193-2.
- Birley, Derek (1999). A Social History of English Cricket. Aurum. ISBN 1-85410-710-0.
- Midwinter, Eric (1981). W G Grace: His Life and Times. George Allen and Unwin. ISBN 978-0-04-796054-3.
- Rae, Simon (1998). W.G. Grace: A Life. ISBN 978-0-571-17855-1.