The famous caricature of Digby Jephson by Spy in Vanity Fair. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia commons
The famous caricature of Digby Jephson by Spy in Vanity Fair. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia commons

Digby Jephson, born February 23, 1871, was one of the last of the lob bowlers and one of the very best. At the height of the Golden Age of cricket, he kept the flame of old-fashioned lobs burning, with the spectators switching between roars of laughter and applause of acknowledgement whenever he went on. He was a fine middle-order batsman as well. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the life and career of the lobster who also doubled up as a stockbroker and a poet.

Jephson s match

July 1899, the high noon of the Golden Age of Cricket. A pleasant breeze blew across the fresh and green Lord s as the ground was studded with the best cricketers of the land. 12,000 flocked to watch the first day s play even as the impending War in South Africa somewhat dampened the spirit of the summer. WG Grace won the flip of the coin against the Players skipper Bobby Abel and the Gentlemen batted.

One by one the greatest professionals sauntered into the field. Abel, Albert Trott, Billy Lockwood, Tom Hayward, Walter Mead, JT Brown and the two Yorkshiremen George Hirst and Wilfred Rhodes.

For the Gentlemen Archie MacLaren and CB Fry walked out to bat as KS Ranjitsinhji could be seen sitting with his pads on, the breeze drawing quaint curves on his silk shirt.

Major Robert Montagu Poore stood in the dressing room, in animated conversation with Stanley Jackson. WG himself, pushing 51 and having recently decided not to play any more for England, lowered himself into a chair. After all these years, he was content to go in lower down the order.

It was Fry who scored a century that day. An innings of 104, made in three hours, sedate and solid. But the drives of MacLaren against Hirst and Lockwood as he stroked his way to 31 and the footwork of Ranji against Rhodes and Trott as the Indian prince got a brisk 38 made the centurion s effort look pedestrian. The day ended with the Gentlemen on 373 for 6. WG was unbeaten on 33, thereby ensuring another huge turnout on the morrow.

The thousands who made their way to Lord s on the following day were not disappointed. WG, his timing crisp as ever, stroked his way to 78. Jack Mason batted sensibly alongside the great man, till the moment when he forgot his partner s age and bulk. He hit to mid-on and called for a run, and the Doctor was a good two yards short of his ground when Mead s throw struck the stumps.

At 439 for 7, the lean form of Digby Jephson made its way into the ground. One leg shorter than the other, an imperfection he had been born with, he walked to the wicket batting a bit lower than his class merited. The previous summer he had scored 1135 runs averaging 36.61 with two hundreds. Grace himself had fielded through his 166 unbeaten runs against Gloucestershire. Jephson had added 256 with Abel as Surrey had piled up 500 for 4. In another month s time he would be hitting 100 against a Lancashire attack spearheaded by Arthur Mold and Syd Barnes.

However, with the star-studded batting line-up at his disposal, the captain could not find a higher slot for Jephson. And as a result, although he started well enough, he ran out of partners quite soon. Lockwood dismissed Mason and Walter Bradley, and the innocuous slows of JT Brown saw wicketkeeper Gregor MacGregor stumped by his counterpart William Storer. The Gentlemen were bowled out for 480 and Jephson remained unbeaten on 17.

Abel and Brown started the response for the Players against the pace of Bradley and Jackson. It was Bradley who broke through, dismissing both the openers. But, the Surrey professional Hayward looked in commanding form, at perfect ease against the pace dished out at him. At the other end Albert Ward was growing in confidence as well. The score soon stretched beyond a hundred and with Charlie Townsend and Mason both failing to make inroads, the bowling of the Gentlemen looked rather thin.

It was now that WG, resisting the urge to exercise his own aging shoulders, threw the ball to Ranji. And the prince sent down a leg-break that Ward obliged by hitting down the throat of MacLaren.

Buoyed by the successful experiment, WG brought Jephson on from the other end. And this, as always, sent a buzz of anticipation around the ground.

The few crab-like steps, the body bent double, knuckles almost scraping the turf, the ball lobbed in a spinning flight, Jephson s curious old fashioned bowling always sent an element of excitement coursing through the stands. There would be encouragement and laughter, even some catcalls and boos. But they knew something would give. Even the most pacific of batsmen would be transformed into the personification of belligerence. There would be thwacks, big hits, and sometimes wickets.

The field was set in that radical approach pioneered by Jephson. Walter Humphreys had preferred a 5-4 offside-onside field. Later George Simpson-Hayward would opt to shift one fielder across to have a 4-5 set up.

However, Jephson was different. He preferred 2 on the off and 7 on the on. Two mid-ons, a long-leg and a long-on, a man in the country behind the bowler, all ready to retrieve big hits. Two men closer, preferably close enough to be short legs. One man manning mid-off, and another biding his time between point and cover.

Jephson came in round the wicket, as had become his trademark. Hair parted in the middle, handsome of face, the clean shaven look of the earlier years having made way for a long and drooping moustache, he was immediately recognisable on the ground.

Hayward had played Jephson enough in the Surrey nets. Batting on 77, with the score on 149 for 3, his eyes was well in. He backed himself. It seemed a half-volley on the leg-stump and Hayward drove it fiercely back. Jephson, following through down the wicket, flung himself to the right and clung on to the speeding ball inches from the ground.

The new man was Billy Brockwell, another Surrey cricketer who knew all about Jephson s lobs. Yet, those slow, inviting deliveries could snare the best of them. With 4 against his name, Brockwell hit against the spin of a leg-break, failing to keep his drive down. Jackson pouched it at mid-on.

At the other end, Ranji s leg-break found another victim as Lockwood touched one to MacGregor. The Players innings was now tottering at 168 for 6, but they did bat deep, very, very deep.

The next man in was Albert Trott. The Australian settled in England was one of the best all-rounders of his day. His abilities as a hitter were well known. In another couple of weeks he would hit Monty Noble over the pavilion of Lord s, a stroke that reverberates in discussions even today. What would he do to a lobster?

Jephson sent down a tice a steepling, high delivery that enticed the calmest of batsman to attempt huge hits. Down came Trott s prancing steps, and so did his mighty bat, and after a powerful heave the ball flew away. Soon it was hardly visible in the stratosphere, as miniscule as a golf-ball struck with a high iron.

But, the distance had been gained along the axis of height, not length. The ball began to descend and from deep mid-wicket MacLaren started to run. He ran and ran, covering huge expanses of ground, and was near the pavilion rails at deep mid-on when he caught the ball. The crowd rose to applaud. 173 for 7.

The Players were in trouble, but not bereft of resources just yet. At one end, wicketkeeper Storer was batting with immense circumspection. At the other, now the dependable form of Hirst took guard. Another man who had claims to the crown of the best all-rounder of the world.

And yet, for all the ability, Jephson s tosses proved too tempting. The Yorkshireman swung across the line. The ball hit the centre of the bat and travelled fast and flat towards deep square-leg. And once again, from deep mid-wicket, MacLaren started running. He sprinted twenty yards, towards square-leg, covering ground fiercely in front of the old figure-board. He was still running full tilt when his hands were flung forward. The ball was intercepted and it stuck. If the previous catch had been miraculous, this one was unprecedented. The crowd rose as one as Hirst s broad frame retreated towards the pavilion. A rheumy-eyed Grace made his way towards the boundary rails, clasped MacLaren s hand and said, Well caught, Archie. Perhaps he was recalling the catch taken by the late Fred off a great hit by George Bonnor a couple of decades earlier.

With Hirst s departure the man who took his place at the wicket was another Yorkshireman, another man who batted right-handed and bowled left-arm, another man who hailed from the village of Kirkheaton, and another man who would go on to become one of the greatest all-rounders of the world. Rhodes had not yet developed into the batsman he would become later on, who would regularly open the batting for England. But the talent with the willow was there for all to see.

Storer remained stroke-less, Rhodes sensible. The runs dried up, but the batsmen held fort. WG brought the field in. It was difficult to convince men to stand close to the bowling of a lobster. But Jephson kept it tight.

Storer was on strike. Jephson floated a teasing leg-break. The wicketkeeper pushed forward as he had been doing all through the innings. The ball lobbed up and the great palms of WG closed around it at short-leg. The ninth wicket was down and the lobster had taken 5.

Finally, it was Mead s turn. No mug with the bat, and fresh from a 72 against Kent. But, all the attempted big hits had not made him wiser. The ball was floated up. Mead struck it with all his might, his head in the air. It went over the bowler s head where Major Poore stood manning the pavilion rails. Playing in one of his final matches before going down to plunge into the midst of the Boer War, Poore held it with military precision.

Players were all out for 196. In 18.4 five-ball overs, Jephson had taken 6 for 21.

He was cheered all the way back to the pavilion.

Yet, wonderful as the feat was, the stature of the lob bowler had gone down to such an extent in recent times that the newspapers were grudging in acknowledgement. Manchester Guardian noted, The failure of leading professionals of the country against lobs was truly ludicrous.

It was left to The Times to produce a more balanced verdict: Lob bowling played a great part in yesterday s cricket at Lord s and led the professionals to having a very bad time, for last night, with 2 wickets down in the second innings, they were still 240 runs behind. But in these days, when a lob bowler s going on is a signal for a laugh from the crowd, it is a great rebuke to those who neglect the development of underhand slows that the only good lob bowler we have should get six of England s Players out for 21 runs. Deception in the flight of the ball and ill-timed hitting are the things sought for by the lob bowler and Mr Jephson certainly had them yesterday.

The only good lob bowler we have bit is particularly relevant. Humphreys had passed from the scene and other than Jephson almost no one bowled lobs with any degree of success.

With Lockwood, Tom Richardson, Charles Kortright and Arthur Mold, the fast-bowling scene of the land had never looked so bright. Ernie Jones had come over and shown Englishmen how fast a small red blob of leather could be propelled through the air. Hirst was discovering that he could swing the ball late to such a degree that it seemed to have been bowled from point. There were plenty of medium-pacers around the country, and finger spin was as full of riches as ever. In a few days, Bernard Bosanquet would send down the first googly and take the spinning world by storm.

In such circumstances, lobs seemed set in the distant past, a throwback to prehistory.

Yet, Jephson stuck at it, keeping the flame of this sort of bowling burning bright.

In the second innings of the match, he was given a long spell by Grace. This time the Players treated him with utmost respect, patting his enticing lobs away. Ward did hit one straight to Townsend. Hirst succumbed to temptation the second time, running out to drive and being stumped by MacGregor. But other than that there was no further success. Bradley took five wickets and Gentlemen won by an innings and 59 runs. Jephson s second innings figures read a respectable 27-5-78-2.

The showdown is still remembered as Jephson s Match.

It is strange to reflect that had it not been for some curiously fateful events, Jephson might not have developed into a lob bowler at all. Indeed, he had been a round-arm fast bowler and a middle-order batsman. And that is how he would have loved to continue.

The Lohmann Effect

Born in Brixton in modestly comfortable circumstances, the future lobster was christened a magnificent sounding Digby Loder Armroid Jephson.

It may be of some interest to note that a Reverend Jephson of the same family went away to serve as rector in a Fryerning church. The squire s son Augustus Kortright fell in love with the pretty daughter of the clergyman. Their subsequent union produced Charles Kortright, the Demon fast bowler. Thus, England s fastest and slowest bowlers of the era were linked by this curious thread of family connection.

Cuthbert Jephson, Digby s father, was a mechanical engineer who had a taste for adventure. When his son was just three months old, he joined the 3rd Rifle Volunteers as a junior officer. Later, in 1877, he resigned commission and became a gold miner, joining in the gold rush to South Africa. By the 1880s he had disappeared from the lives of his wife and son completely.

Hence, it was his mother Emily who brought Digby up, through adroit marshalling of strained resources. They settled in Clapham and it was there that the young lad grew up. And he studied at the Manor House School, which happily had a cricket crazy headmaster called Frederick Maxwell.

This headmaster was a keen promoter of Muscular Christianity and also a member of the Surrey County Cricket Club. He played a leading role in the development of Jephson as a cricketer. Not only did he bring the talents of his prot g to the notice of Surrey authorities, he also influenced Emily Jephson to send her son to Cambridge.

While at Clapham Common, young Jephson often played casual cricket with the boys of his neighbourhood. Once they were playing when they found a young, handsome man watching them. This man proceeded to play with them for a while, bowling a few balls and also batting a bit. When he was leaving, the boys asked his name. The answer was Lohmann .

George Lohmann, then 20, went on to become one of the greatest medium-pace bowlers of England. And Digby, as he continued to play in school and later at Cambridge, copied his action and tried to develop himself into a medium-pacer.

It was with limited coaching, and only with the support of Maxwell and Manor House School, that Jephson completed his formative years in cricket. It left him with plenty of love for the game, but big gaps in his technique.

Cambridge Blues

Jephson as a young man    Getty Images
Jephson as a young man Getty Images

Jephson went up to Cambridge in 1889. He spent three years in Porterhouse, got a second-class pass in the General Exam, but did not read for the Tripos.

He did not really blaze away at the University with either bat or ball. The success, whatever came his way, was in the club matches and some cricket he played in London. On tour with the Crystal Palace side at Eastbourne, he even took 5 wickets in 8 balls. But, it was achieved with round-arm medium pace.

In 1890 he did earn his Blue, but his 5 wickets came at an average of 59.20 apiece, while his exploits with the bat were just about moderate.

By 1891, his bowling skills had deserted him. He was trying too hard, analysing his run up and action with way too much scrutiny. He kept pulling up at the crease when he approached for a delivery. He bowled seldom in 1891 and almost never in 1892. At the same time, his batting was not really improving as well.

In fact, there was very little to write home about his cricketing deeds at Cambridge. But he did make some lasting friendships that stood him in good stead across his cricketing life.

Most of these were forged with his Cambridge captains. In his first year, Jephson s skipper was the superb all-round athlete Sammy Woods. In the second year, it was the Test wicketkeeper Gregor MacGregor. And in the third year, it was Stanley Jackson.

And finally, another important episode did take place in Jephson s last year at Cambridge. In the seminal match against Oxford, Cambridge (led by Jackson) were the clear favourites. However, they were in for a nasty surprise.

Firstly there was a big hundred by Malcolm Jardine, who would go on to father one of the most successful and most controversial cricket captains of England. And then a lob bowler named John Barry Wood captured three wickets in the first innings and four in the second. Jephson, who was leg-before to Wood in the second innings, started wondering about this type of delivery himself.

Wood did not play cricket beyond his Oxford days, preferring to develop into a famed King s Counsel. Thus his 53 wickets at 26.39 apiece do not allow him a separate section in this history of lobs. But, his contribution went way beyond his own deeds. Soon after his encounter with this bowler, Jephson was trying out lobs of his own.

Another close friendship Jephson forged during his Cambridge days was with a professional cricketer. Ostensibly Jephson was a Cambridge man. However, hailing from the Manor House School and having access to only the meagre allowance his mother could afford, he did not quite fit the mould of the Gentlemen cricketers although he would remain one all through. So, one day at Fenner s, he journeyed to the nets and during the subsequent practice with the hired professional bowlers developed a strong friendship with one of them. This was with a lithe lad with black curly hair who bowled extremely fast. He had been born in a gypsy caravan and answered to the name Tom Richardson.

After his Cambridge days, Jephson started on his cricketing career with Surrey. However, throughout his life, he enjoyed every form of cricket, revelling in representing the wandering clubs like Clapham Wanderers and Crystal Palace Club or turning out for the Old Boys of his school.

Soon he would start writing poetry and publish some of his works. It is said that after his dismissal in an innings, he used to take his pads off and scribble a few lines. One of the poems, one that thoroughly describes his fascination for all sorts of cricket, ran as follows:

I sing of the joy of a contest keen,

On a classic ground or a village green,

Or the shard sown patch,

Where the urchins scratch

With the splintered half of what once has been

A bat.

Starting with the lobs

It was for Clapham Wanderers that Jephson started scoring heavily. At Norwood he scored 301 not out in just over three hours. His reputation in club circles grew. Not only did he enjoy travelling and playing cricket, he also had a knack for delivering speeches during the dinners.

However, the problems encountered while running up to the bowling crease were still not sorted. He stuttered and stopped and just could not deliver however hard he tried. It was during a Wanderer s tour, when he was playing at Reigate Priory, he decided to try lobs. It was a desperate ploy by one who had tried his hardest to bowl over-arm or round-arm.

The results were astounding. Jephson took 5 for 27, three of them stumped.

There was more than the inability to bowl over-arm and the experience of facing Wood at Cambridge that accounted for Jephson s change in bowling. Jephson had been at the ground in 1884 when Hon. Alfred Lyttelton had taken off his wicketkeeping gloves and captured 4 for 17 against Australia with his lobs. In Cambridge, he had also heard a lot of stories of Arthur Ridley and his star turn during the Varsity match of 1875.

However, it was also due to the influence of one of England s great cricketers WW Read.

Ever since Jephson had arrived at Surrey to play for the 2nd XI, Read had taken a great interest in him. Indeed, Read had been for all practical purposes his guide and mentor.

We have seen that this superb batsman was also an occasional lob bowler and had taken a First-Class hat-trick. Besides, Reigate was Read s home club. Thus, all indications suggest that Read had advised and encouraged Jephson to take up lobs.

And Jephson did. He tried them out at the nets and at club level. By 1894, he had improved his batting by leaps and bounds, scoring a fighting 94 not out against Kortright and company while playing Essex. In the meantime, he was working on his lobs. He also bowled a few lobs for his county but with limited success.

It was at this juncture, just as his career was blossoming, Jephson fell prey to his soft spot for wandering clubs. He decided to go on a three-week tour with Crystal Palace rather than play for Surrey. As a result he was not picked by Surrey for the next two years. In 1895 he played just three matches, for MCC and the Gentlemen. In 1896 he played none at all.

The return

For all practical purposes, it looked as if Jephson s career was over. However, even as he worked as a journalist, he honed his skills in club cricket and returned with roaring success in 1897.

A century against Kent helped him on his way to 568 runs at a high 37.86 for the summer. Besides, he was showing promise with the ball as well. He took just 12 wickets that season, but the 3 for 22 against Essex had been a revelation.

The Essex County Chronicle was grudging as they noted: As for Jephson s underhands, a little care and patience would soon have enabled the batsmen to deal with him. But they rose to the bait and were hooked . However, this match decided the Championship.

If Essex had won it, they would have been the champions. However, Surrey clinched the match and the crown. Kingsmill Key was the extremely rotund captain of the county. According to Jephson, he had taken a life s lease on mid-on. Key was in favour of the lobster playing as a regular.

To help him maintain his amateur status, and groom him as the next captain, it was necessary to reinforce Jephson s strained means. Through the good offices of CA Stein, a member of the Surrey Committee and a powerful figure in London, Jephson was introduced into stock-broking. His marriage with the wealthy Lina Behrend, at 39 twelve years Jephson s senior, also helped his finances.

It was, however, more than a marriage of convenience. The couple gave every indication of being happy and enjoying each other s company. However, some of Jephson s journalistic writings seem to express disappointment at not being a father. He often created imaginary children while writing in the first person about experiences in watching cricket.

By 1898, Jephson was a regular in the team. Soon the very papers which had been harsh on him were singing his praises. Mr Jephson has not many superiors among amateurs at the present time, wrote one of them. Another went on to anoint his pen with glorious allusions as a precursor of Cardusian flourish: He is a cricketer from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet.

[read-also]577609[/read-also]

There were 38 wickets in 1898, including 6 for 38 against Derbyshire. Alongside there were 1,135 runs with that 166 not out against Grace s Gloucestershire.

There were 66 more wickets in 1899, two five wicket hauls in addition to the Gentlemen-Players triumph. He scored 1,079 runs as well, hitting 100 against Lancashire.

Uneasy Crown of Captaincy

In 1900 he was offered the captaincy as Key decided to call it a day.

Jephson responded to the challenge with a lot of gusto. He scored five centuries in all, four of them for Surrey, including 213 against Derbyshire when he and Abel put on 364 for the first wicket. But the best knock came against Rhodes, Hirst and Schofield Haigh at Bramall Lane when he put his head down to score 109.

His lobs had never been more effective. At The Oval he captured five wickets against Players for Gentlemen yet again. Then there was a pair of great returns in another star-studded match, when he claimed 7 for 132 and 5 for 66 against North for South. 1952 runs at 41.53 and 66 wickets at 23.40 were superlative figures. Yet, there were problems.

Jephson was a fine batsman as well    Getty Images
Jephson was a fine batsman as well Getty Images

Throughout his tenure as captain, Surrey was suffering from inner strife. There were six professionals with England caps in the team and they resented the intrusion of amateurs. Additionally, the throwing controversy of the era had affected all the county captains and unwillingly Jephson was embroiled into the controversial issue as well.

It was a crown that did not sit easy on his head. He personally had another fabulous year in 1901. Against Derbyshire he scored 133, and against Leicestershire he hammered 174. He routed Gloucestershire at The Oval with 7 for 51.

With the ball, 1901 was the most successful season, with 77 wickets at 24.49. The bat was not silent either, with 1,436 runs at 35.02. But, the tussles with the players and Surrey s limited success in the games were taking their toll. He was regularly suffering from nightmares, picturing himself in difficult cricketing conditions, unable to go in when he was the next man in and so on.

When he was run out at Bristol in Surrey s return match against Gloucestershire, Jephson allowed the stress to get to him. He took a four-wheeler, a Victoria, and drove through the bypaths and hedge-grows of Bristol to return in the late afternoon. Thus, in some sense, he deserted the team. However, he redeemed himself by going on to capture 5 for 71, opening the bowling with Richardson in a spectacular study of contrasts.

Jephson s journalistic endeavours increasingly demonstrated his inability to cope with critics. When Surrey won their first match in 1902 in early June, critics were quick to point out that the previous success had been in July 1901. Jephson responded with enough dignity, but rather ill-advisedly added in his column that it seemed that the current practice was to kick a man when he was down.

A number of anonymous letters, with hostility dripping from every line, did not help him either. He brooded on them, and was sufficiently disturbed to write: The anonymous letter writer is certainly of the same breed as the men who scrawl on walls, of the same genus with individuals who, with a blunt knife, turn seat into eat in our railway carriages., to all of whom nuisance is too mild a word to apply. He is a difficult subject to handle, for we know not the lair of the beast; he works in the dark in secret places, and his methods of work are those of the dirty alien who stabs in the back with a rusty skewer. Come out, you reptile.

As 1902 progressed, Jephson became more and more depressed. Further problems plagued him. He was not selected for the Gentlemen vs Players fixture, the Match committee preferring HDG Leveson Gower instead. And his close friend Frank Crawford, whom he publicly hailed as his favourite cricketer, applied for a post as secretary at Leicestershire and got the job.

The 1902 season was moderately successful with the ball, although rather patchy with the bat. But after the summer he resigned as captain.

This cricketing and personal decision was sadly a blow to his business career. Support from the Surrey Committee ended almost immediately. He continued in the Stock Exchange for a while, but a regular income eluded him.

He played for the county only occasionally after that, making his last appearance against Middlesex in 1904. In that final match he got Bosanquet stumped, and bowled Ken Nicholl and his old friend MacGregor to complete a hat-trick.

He ended his career with 7,973 runs at 30.66 with 11 hundreds, and 297 wickets at 25.10.

The style of the lobster

With relish for the turn of phrase, Jephson summarised his role in lob bowling: We, the solitary few who still strive to uphold the tottering pillars in the ruined temple of lib bowling, unto whose shrine the bowlers of olden times ever flocked, today we are of but small account; but there is scarcely a ground in England where decision is not our lot, or where laughter and taunting jeers are not hurled at us.

In bowling style Jephson was close to William Clarke. Stooping very low, he made two or three shuffling paces to the wicket and delivered the ball in the exact attitude of a man putting down a bowl, except that the bowl would be tossed up in the air at the last moment almost from the ground.

The Spy cartoon, published in Vanity Fair in 1902, is enduringly famous and has almost come to represent all lobsters. It shows him bent double, left leg forward and bent, right leg well back and also bent, back nearly parallel to the ground. The ball is held comfortably in the right hand, enclosed by the thumb and fingers. The most remarkable feature is the facial expression. It seems full of wiles and deception.

He broke the ball both ways, spinning from leg and from off. The off-break, according to Fry, got him most of his wickets. There were also many occasions when he got his man bowled with a straight ball, as batsman after batsman played for the non-existent break.

The guileful full-pitch, or the toss, was aimed at the leg-side, delivered at the batsman s body, at his ribs, with three fieldsmen beyond the square-leg umpire, two close in. It was an early form of bodyline, only delivered extremely slow. The tices, those high, steepling deliveries that dropped surprisingly short, were an important part of his arsenal as well.

However, he did not bowl the daisy-cutter and the donkey-drop aimed at the top of the stumps. He considered them bad form.

Like all lobsters, Jephson thrived against the lesser cricketers. Although he was not any less successful against First-Class batsmen than some leading bowlers of his day, the odds teams and club cricketers found him extremely difficult to play. Twice his lobs accounted for all ten wickets in an innings in 1894 for Wanderers against Chiswick Park in 1894 and in 1902 for G. E. Bicknell’s Eleven against Streatham.

The final days

The after-cricket phase of Jephson s life was a sad one.

His business never recovered. When Charles Alcock passed away, Jephson applied for the position of the Surrey secretary and made it to a short list of nine. However, the committee, led by Lord Alverstone, rejected him in favour of the Oxford wicket-keeper and Old Etonian, William Findlay.

By 1910, his wife s family had incurred financial losses and could not continue to support the couple. For the rest of his life, Jephson tried to make his living through cricket journalism. He also ghosted for his former teammate Tom Hayward, and published his own book of cricket poems and cricket writings. His book of poems, A Few Overs, had a foreword written by Fry and managed to find a place in the Oval bookshop for a long time. However, it did not earn him any money.

After the Great War, Jephson worked as the Cambridge correspondent for Plum Warner s new magazine The Cricketer and enjoyed being around the new Blues. His writings from that period are aglow with his love for the game, and sadly nostalgic in his lament for his own lost youth.

He did coach in Cambridge as well, mostly part-time, but never quite managed to produce another lobster.

Not that his efforts were without reward. In 1921, with England crashing to defeats against Warwick Armstrong s Australia, MacLaren took up the challenge of captaining a England XI against the visitors at Eastbourne. Jephson prevailed upon him to pick five members of his Cambridge side, the Ashton brothers, CH Gibson and a batsman called Percy Chapman. It ended in a fascinating victory for the Englishmen.

Passing 50, and having growing health problems, Jephson still played a bit of cricket around Cambridge and sometimes came down to Lord s for reunions.

Digby Jephson, one of the greatest lob bowlers, passed away in January 1926 at the age of 54.