Ted Peate (courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Ted Peate (courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

“Peate was blessed with the most perfect action of any man I have ever seen deliver the ball … He had no theories. Nobody ever bowled more with his head … His only principle, with all his variations, was always to bowl with a length — a golden rule he acquired from watching Alfred Shaw.”

— Lord Hawke.

Let us begin the narrative with Bob Hawke, the Prime Minister of Australia, delivering a speech at the Bicentenary Test Match dinner at Sydney on February 2, 1988. A witty man, the PM had begun his speech with; “When the first English team to tour Australia returned home in 1862, Roger Iddison of Yorkshire was asked his opinion of Australian cricketers. He replied (and perhaps Michael Parkinson, Geoff Boycott or Bob Appleyard could correct my pronunciation): “Well, I doan’t think mooch of their play, but they’re a woonderful lot of drinking men’.”

Referring to the iconic Oval Test of 1882 that had spawned the story of The Ashes, Hawke had quoted CP Moody’s description of the last over of the match: “Now Boyle’s pertinacious accuracy was rewarded. Off the first ball of his over Barnes was caught off the glove by Murdoch at point. Edmund Peate, last man in, swished the first ball to leg for two, flukily played the next one, tried to hit the last ball of the over, but missed, and it bowled him. The game was won by seven runs.” It may be topical here to mention that an over comprised four deliveries in those days.

As evocative and graphic as the description was, the epilogue to the incident turned out to be the icing on the cake. When he was severely criticised for the rash stroke that had cost him his wicket, and asked why he had not thought of allowing his batting partner CT Studd, a man of established batting credentials, with centuries against the Australians earlier on the tour, to farm the strike, given the critical situation of the game, Edmund ‘Ted’ Peate was reported to have explained: “Mr Studd was so nervous I did not feel I could trust him to score the runs.” That statement, apocryphal or otherwise, would have been typical of the cricketing philosophy of the quintessential White Rose man Peate.

The truth of the matter was, however, that Studd and two other England players had been unwell, which is why Studd had batted at 10. Before he had gone out to bat, Studd had spent most of the day shivering with a fever, and had been far from his natural self, either physically or mentally. Peate had not thought it necessary to go into these details with his detractors.

Peate was born March 2, 1855 at Holbeck. As the young lad grew up, he became interested in the culture of ‘Clown Cricket’. English professional cricket was then in a state of flux. William Clarke’s All England XI was in the process of disintegration, and the paladins of the recently formed MCC  were exercising organisational powers to an increasing extent, to the detriment of such itinerant cricket teams. There was, as yet, no formal structure of county cricket, although the public enthusiasm for cricket was unabated.

Seizing the opportunity of providing the public with their quasi-regular, if informal, modicum of cricket, there stepped up two peripatetic cricket entertainment groups, Thomas Edward Treloar managing a group called Treloar’s Clown Cricketers (later the Imperial cricketers, who had once undertaken a tour of North America) and another group called Casey’s Clowns. Cricket in the England of the 1870s and 1880s was frequently enlivened by these and similar groups, who not only provided the paying public with some cricket, but with jugglery, acrobatics, and similar modes of entertainment during the stoppages or intervals of play.

By his own admission, Peate joined Treloar’s Clown Cricketers in 1875 as a professional. During his one year with the troupe, the ‘Clown Cricketers’ reportedly played 63 games. The group consisted of “eight acrobats, eight talking clowns, and eight cricketers.” Not everyone was enamoured with the ‘Clowns’, however, and MCC took grave exception to their activities. At the conclusion of the MCC Members’ Meeting of 1875, presided over by Sir Charles Legard, the Secretary, RA Fitzgerald, made the governing body’s position clear on the “Clowns” issue with the following statement: “the Clown Cricketers were a burlesque upon cricket that could not be tolerated at Lord’s Ground.”

The left-handed Peate soon realised that the establishment of Yorkshire cricket was a very stern school and forsook his brief dalliance with the ‘Clowns’ after one year. In Talks with Old England Cricketers, AW ‘Old Ebor’ Pullin recalls the many conversations that he had had with the Yorkshire legend.

It seems that Peate had begun his professional cricket career as a left-arm fast bowler when he had joined a local club called Carlisle. After a year, in 1878, he had been recommended to Manningham by his old mentor Amos Marshall, the Yorkshire left-arm slow and medium-paced bowler. It was during a conversation with Marshall that the idea of becoming a slow bowler had first been suggested to him. In Peate’s own words, “Before going to Manningham I was engaged as a warp-twister with Messers Myers & Co. at Yeadon, and having time during the working hours of the winter to practise, I made the most of it. I used to bowl in a shed…I made a copy of Amos Marshall’s style. The result was that I found I could keep a good length and get some twist on the ball, and in the spring I had put the winter’s practice to such good use that I came out as a slow bowler.”

It was during his second year with Manningham (1879) that his slow bowling caught the attention of Rev. ES Carter, an Oxford and Yorkshire player of a previous generation, who recommended him to the Yorkshire Committee. Peate made his First-Class debut for Yorkshire under Tom Emmett against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 1879. He took 2 for 31 and scored a duck. In his third match, against Kent at Sheffield, Peate had figures of 6 for 39 and 6 for 38, opening bowling in both innings with his slow left-arm offerings. Commenting on the Kent match, Peate recalled: “I really clenched my position in the Yorkshire team.”

The career of the first great slow left-arm orthodox bowler from Yorkshire was thus launched in emphatic fashion. In his inaugural season for Yorkshire, Peate took 75 wickets in his 15 matches at 12.44, with 9 five-wicket hauls and 4 ten-wicket hauls.

Peate had a relatively short First-Class career from 1879 to 1890. He played 209 matches in all, capturing 1,079 wickets at 13.49 with best figures of 8 for 5. He had 94 five-wicket hauls and 27 hauls of 10 wickets in the match. His overall strike rate was 44. Not for nothing is Peate remembered in cricket history as the first of the great line of Yorkshire slow left-arm bowlers. Not much of a batsman, he nevertheless scored 2,384 runs with a highest of 85, and an average of 10.64. He scored 3 fifties and held 132 catches.

Along with all-rounder and off-spinner Billy Bates, Peate formed a formidable combination for Yorkshire in the early 1880s. A case in point is the match against Kent at Sheffield in 1882. Yorkshire scored 172, but Kent were bowled out for 113 and 39 by Peate (7 for 31 and 3 for 25) and Bates (3 for 47 and 6 for 12).

 

Peate took a hat-trick in the second innings. He had fond memories of the feat: “I upset the House of Lords and knocked out Home Rule in three balls. In other words, I got rid of two live Lords and an Irishman with the hat trick. The former were Lords Harris and Throwley; the Irishman E O’Shaughnessy … For this hat trick I was presented with a silver mount for a walking-stick … You will see it is in the form of a fist clasping a revolver. I now tell my friends it is a facsimile of a mailed fist, presented to me by the German Emperor.”

The season of 1882 turned out to be the most prolific for Peate in terms of wickets, and was the only one in which he topped 200 wickets. He had 214 wickets that season from 30 matches at 11.52, with best figures of 8 for 32 against Middlesex at Sheffield.

A bittersweet experience awaited Peate at his hometown Holbeck in 1883, against Surrey. After Yorkshire put up 116, Surrey were dismissed for 31 and 82. Peate had figures of 8 for 5 in the first innings, his best First-Class analysis. He added 3 for 25 in the second innings, while fast bowler George Harrison, no relation to the celebrated musician of a later age, had 5 for 23. Yorkshire won by an innings and 3 runs, the game being over in the early afternoon of the second day. And that was when Peate’s problems began.

Before he could bask in the warm glow of a job well done, he was criticised and castigated, particularly from the organisers of the match, his own people, all Yorkshiremen, and this was the unhappy irony of it, just about a stone’s throw away from where he was born. The issue was the premature end of the game with the resultant loss of revenue for the organisers. When someone had suggested to a local Holbeck man that a collection should be taken as a reward for local man Peate’s outstanding bowling in the game, the ‘gentleman’ had protested vehemently on the grounds that Peate had ruined the gate receipts for the game and stated that he would personally oppose any move to pass a hat around.

Peate achieved his second hat-trick at Moreton-in-Marsh in 1884. After Yorkshire managed only 128, WG Grace’s Gloucestershire replied with 179. By the end of the second day, Yorkshire, already 51 runs adrift on first innings, were a sorry 80 for 6 with Irwin Grimshaw on 33 and Emmett on 9. In effect, then, Yorkshire were a mere 29 ahead with only 4 wickets in hand.

The teams were entertained at dinner that Friday night by a local nobleman and the conversation naturally turned to the precarious position that the Yorkshiremen found themselves in the ‘away’ game. During the after-dinner speeches, Grace had begun to dwell on the prospects of a Gloucestershire victory on the morrow. Emmett is reported to have remarked: “No, Doctor; we are Yorkshiremen, and we have never lost until the last run is got or wicket taken.” As it happened, the last 4 wickets added 55 runs on the last day, Peate contributing 29, and set the home team a winning target of 85.

Well, Gloucestershire collapsed for 43 in 36 overs on the final day, the scorecard showing 5 ducks. The heroic John Hatton, one of the two home debutants, remained undefeated on 11, the only man in double figures. Peate bowled through the innings with figures of 18-10-13-6. His analysis included a hat-trick with the wickets of EM Grace, John Painter, and Frank Townsend. Yorkshire won by 41 runs, once again exhibiting the stoicism that has always been the hallmark of the cricketers from “God’s Own County.” In his souvenir collection, Peate always treasured a plate-inscribed cricket ball with the legend “From Moreton-in-the-Marsh to E. Peate, for his splendid bowling, York v. Gloucester, on 8th, 9th, 10th May 1884.”

Over the years, Peate had his share of confrontations with the Australians, against whom he played all his 9 Tests. He was part of the third Test-playing England team to Australia under Alfred Shaw. The 11-member all-professional group arrived at Sydney via North America at about noon on Wednesday, November 16, 1881. The team played 4 Test matches in Australia and 3 other First-Class games, 1 at Sydney and 2 at Melbourne.

Both Bates and Peate debuted in the first Test, at Melbourne. The match was drawn even after four days’ play. Peate’s contributions were 4* and 2, and 1 for 64. The outstanding individual bating performance of the game was the 124 by Tom Horan for Australia. The bowling honours went to Australian leg-spinner William Cooper (6 for 120 in the second innings).

Peate’s first five-wicket haul in Test cricket came in the third Test, at Sydney, when he opened the bowling in the first innings and captured 5 for 43. He added 3 more wickets in the second innings but could not prevent Australia from winning the contest by 6 wickets.

In the aftermath of the landmark Oval Test of 1882, Peate was pilloried in the British press for his “irresponsible” dismissal in the second innings. The August 30, 1882 issue of CW Alcock’s Cricket: A Weekly Review of the Game carried the following dolorous message: “Sacred to the memory of England’s supremacy in the cricket-field which expired on the 29th day of August at The Oval. Its end was Peate.” This notice was followed a couple of days later by the more well-known “mock obituary” of English cricket that had appeared in the Sporting Times that had first mooted the idea of the “Ashes”. Obscured by the veil of calumny heaped on his head, it is easy to forget that Peate had captured 4 for 31 and 4 for 40 in the Test.

An interesting story regarding Peate and one of his Australian ‘bunnies’ had once been revealed by George Giffen. It seems that one of the premier Australian batsmen of the times was having some difficulty reading Peate’s line and was being dismissed by him more frequently than he would have liked. Determined to lay the ghost of his mental block about Peate once and for all, the batsman practised playing imaginary shots in his hotel room, all the time speaking to himself to boost his own morale. He would feign a back-foot stroke and mutter, “That’s the way to play you, Peate.” He would play forward and say, “Not this time, Peate, my boy.” Rapidly gaining confidence against his absent foe, he had attempted an elaborate leg-side hit against an imaginary leg-stump delivery, smashing the ceramic jug and bowl that the hotel had provided in his room in the execution of the shot. The identity of the batsman had later been revealed to Peate by Charlie Turner. It was Billy Murdoch.

In this connection, Peate recalled one particular match on the 1880 tour by Australia, played at Huddersfield on July 22 between Yorkshire and the visiting Australians. After Yorkshire had been shot out for 78, the Australian innings began with Peate bowling to Murdoch. In Peate’s own words, “I opened at the top end to Murdoch. George Freeman missed him off the first ball at short-slip; [Ephraim] Lockwood missed him off the second ball at point; off the third ball he was missed at the wicket by [George] Pinder; while off the fourth Lockwood caught him at point. He was thus missed three times in four balls and caught off the fourth. Rather a glorious innings, wasn’t it?” The scorecard shows “Murdoch c Lockwood b Peate 0.

In his 9 Tests Peate claimed 31 wickets at 22.03 with best figures of 6 for 85. He played 20 other First-Class matches against the Australians, capturing 115 wickets at 11.92, with best figures of 8 for 23. This bag of 115 wickets was his best against any one opponent, his only other 100-wicket bag being his 103 wickets against Kent, at 9.88.

In Lord Hawke: A Cricketing Legend, James Coldham says that several contemporary cricketers have remarked on the accuracy and control over length that were the hallmarks of Peate’s bowling. David Hunter, who used to keep wickets for Yorkshire towards the end of Peate’s career, had this to say: “Peate was the finest left-arm bowler I ever saw. He had a beautiful action and was extraordinarily accurate, seldom, if ever, losing his length.” In the opinion of RH Lyttelton, Peate was “the last of the genuine slow bowlers who relied upon length and natural break and whose bowling arm never raised above his shoulder.”

Peate himself always had a simple enough explanation for his success as a bowler: “People used to say that I ‘broke’ this and ‘broke’ that, but as a matter of fact, I never broke the ball much at all. I used to beat the batsmen by length bowling, by studying his weak points, deceiving him with pace and flight and so on.There is a length which no batsman can play, and I used to study to find it, and also go for the batsman’s weak points. I could break the ball both ways, but very little, and I never tried to break it much.”

The liaison with Yorkshire extended from 1879 to 1887, and involved 154 matches for 794 wickets at 12.57. This tally included 69 five-wicket hauls and 22 ten-wicket hauls. Peate’s one other important contribution to the Yorkshire cause was the way in which he mentored his junior fellow slow left-arm orthodox bowler Bobby Peel, who benefited greatly from the association.

Lord Hawke had become Yorkshire skipper in 1882, aged 22 and still an undergraduate at Cambridge. He was reputed to have taken on a team of “rogues and vagabonds” comprising “10 drunkards and a parson”, the man of God being opening batsman Louis Hall, a lay Nonconformist preacher known for his dogged batting style and for the fact that he was to carry his bat for Yorkshire for a record 14 times. The plight of the professionals of the times was a far cry from that of today: they were poorly paid and had to find what refreshments they could out of their meagre earnings from cricket. Taking advantage of their impecunious state, locals would often lure them into the beer dens. Many of them ended up in the sanatorium or in the workhouse.

Yorkshire had a poor season in 1886. Hawke, always autocratic by nature, became less and less tolerant of individual idiosyncrasies, failures and indiscipline. In the end, it was the drink, more than anything else, that turned out to be the bane of Peate. He also put on a considerable amount of weight, reportedly reaching 16 stones, and lost much of his effectiveness as a bowler. In the beginning of 1887, Hawke dismissed Peate from his Yorkshire team. Ironically, Peate’s protégé Peel, who replaced his mentor Peate in the Yorkshire line-up, would suffer a similar fate at a later date.

Wisden commented on the brevity of Peate’s cricket career: “There ought to have been many more years of good work before him, but he put on weight to a great extent, and in the summer of 1886, it became evident that his day was over. Without using a harsh word, it may fairly be said that he would have lasted longer if he had ordered his life more carefully.”

Fittingly, Peate’s last First-Class match was against the visiting Australians of 1890 at Leeds in 1890, for a team labelled North. This was his first First-Class appearance since 1887, when he had played his last match for Yorkshire. The visitors won by 160 runs and the home side bowling was dominated by Johnny Briggs, with 7 for 44 and 5 for 71. Peate took his last 2 wickets and scored his last 14 runs.

In connection with the cricketing career of Peate, mention must be made of his years with the local club Yeadon for whom he played from 1877 and 1878 before moving on to First-Class cricket. As part of the send-off, Yeadon had presented Peate with an illuminated citation with his performances mentioned on it. The citation stated that Peate had batted in 103 innings for the club for a batting average of 15.46. During the same time, he had captured 521 wickets at 5.64. The feat of 500 wickets for a single cricket club not engaged in First-Class cricket at an average of less than 6 speaks volumes for the quality of Peate’s bowling in his formative years in cricket.

A news item appeared in The Mercury (Hobart) on March 14, 1900 under the heading Bowled Out. It stated very simply, “The famous Yorkshire cricketer Edmund Peate, is dead, aged 44 years.”

His profile states that Peate had been another of those cricketers to pass away at a relatively early age, succumbing to pneumonia on March 11 Newlay, Horsforth, Yorkshire. There is a small unmarked grave in the Yeadon Cemetery of West Yorkshire, recorded in the local Council Register as Section A, Plot no. 241, where the great Yorkshire slow left-arm round-arm bowler was finally laid to rest, one of eight Yorkshire cricketers to be buried there, communing eternally with The Almighty together with Joseph Preston, Amos Marshall, Sam Flaxington, Joshua Penny, Fred Smith, Jim Yeadon, and Matt Myers.