John Small (cricketer)

For other people with the same name, see John Small

John Small (born 1737 at Empshott, Hampshire; died 31 December 1826 at (Petersfield, Hampshire) was an English cricketer, generally regarded as the greatest batsman of the 18th century.

He was originally a cobbler but he later expanded his business to the manufacture of cricket bats and balls . It is sometimes said that he introduced the straight bat, instead of the old curved bat, after bowlers started pitching the ball instead of skimming or trundling it. It is more likely that he was simply the first batsman to master the use of the straight bat and that he subsequently made them .

Small was a playing member of the legendary Hambledon Club during its years of greatness. Indeed, it was largely because of him that Hambledon was such a famous club . Knowledge of the early years of his career are sketchy due to the lack of detailed records before scorecards became common from 1772, but it is believed he began playing in top-class cricket during the 1750s and may well have taken part in the earliest known Hambledon matches, a tri-series against Dartford in 1756. Small was definitely playing for Hambledon in 1768, when he is known to have scored 140-plus runs in a single match (a feat almost unheard of in those days) and his name is found in the club's scorecards right up to 1798 when he was over 60.

Small's most famous feat was to score the first-ever known century in a first-class match. He made 136* for Hampshire against Surrey at Broadhalfpenny Down on 13 July 1775 .

Like so many of his contemporaries, Small's fame is based largely on the testimony paid to him by John Nyren in The Cricketers of My Time . Small received high praise indeed for Nyren declared him to have been "a star of the first magnitude" (i.e., a superstar).

His son, Jack Small (1765 - 1836) was also a good batsman for Hampshire. His career was from 1784 to 1811.


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