George    The Squire    Osbaldeston, epitome of the British sporting gentleman. Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
George The Squire Osbaldeston, epitome of the British sporting gentleman. Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

CB Fry, Drewy Stoddart and others notwithstanding, perhaps the most versatile individual among cricketers was George The Squire Osbaldeston. Arunabha Sengupta lists some of his accomplishments.

There is CB Fry, encompassing cricket, football, athletics, and numerous other non-sporting domains albeit many of them tinged by fabrication. There is Drewy Stoddart, in cricket, rugby and Australian Rules Football. There are quite a few who have distinguished themselves in different disciplines.

However, there was only one Squire George Osbaldeston.

One of the greatest batsmen of his day with centuries for MCC and Sussex, and also one of the best bowlers of his era, with an instance of 10 wickets in an innings.

In 1816, Osbaldeston hit 112 and 68 at Lord s for MCC against Middlesex. The following year, he made 106 against Epsom for Sussex, sharing a huge stand with William Lambert. And his under-arm bowling put wicketkeepers as much at peril as batsmen. Indeed, many a stumper stuffed their shirts with straw while keeping to him.

But his deeds were not restricted to cricket. Here is a partial list of his many, many accomplishments:

1. At Eton, Osbaldeston successfully forged letters to go shooting and fishing.

2. He used only his gloved hand to beat the French and Italian Real Tennis Champions at their game.

3. In boxing, he won several bouts, even when pitted against opponents four stones heavier. And he also refereed dozens of prize fights

4. In his 40s, he won prestigious rowing races.

5. As a rider, he was perhaps the best of his day:

– In 1826, he won 1000 guineas for a steeplechase against Dick Christian.

– In 1831, he rode 200 miles in 8 hours 42 minutes using 28 horses. The Squire, dressed in purple silks and black velvet cap, set off at 7.12 am and despite several rain showers, one fall and generous stops for brandy and food, achieved the 200 miles in less than 9 hours riding 28 horses. He then rode back to Newmarket, bathed and joined his friends for dinner. 162 years later, on the same course, the champion jockey Peter Scudamore only just managed to beat the squire s record although his breaks were much shorter and he spent more time in the saddle. On completing the 200 miles Scudamore declared himself exhausted and laid himself carefully on the ground for a massage .

– In 1836, The Squire bet 200 with Lord George Bentinck over a race he won easily. When His Lordship was slow to settle the money by claiming that Osbaldeston had been less than straight in the affair, The Squire s friction with the titled men came to the fore. The Squire and the Lord met at dawn, pistols drawn, on Wormwood Scrubs. Osbaldeston, unlike Lord Bentinck, was a crack shot and the duel could have ended in only one way if it had been properly contested. But, it is conjectured that his lordship s friends negotiated a compromise and both parties missed their mark.

– On another occasion Osbaldeston won a 100 guinea bet against Paul Methuen by driving a stage-coach from St Paul s churchyard to Greenwich, with the vehicle full of hefty Life-Guardsmen.

– He competed in his last race when he was 69.

6. As a shot he was unparalleled and once he brought down 98 partridges out of 100 shots. Osbaldeston used a gun with a bore of 1 inches. And he did not only shoot partridges. On one occasion, the notorious Lord Bentinck fired his pistol in the air while watching a race. Osbaldeston, who was taking part in the race, responded by shooting Bentinck cleanly through his hat. It was a warning shot.

7. Osbaldeston once dispersed a 4,000-strong rioting mob with the help of just five others.

8. At the age of 66 he went 72 hours without sleep, only racing and playing billiards.

9. He was appointed Lt Col of local militia during the Napoleonic Wars but got reprimanded because he organised sack races for his men instead of drills.

10. He was the Member of Parliament for East Retford.

For such a man, matrimony is a drag. Indeed, Osbaldeston married at the age of 65, supposedly because he was too busy with other things before that. However, the more valid reason is that he was plunged in debts and his wife, Elizabeth Williams, was a rich widow.