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John Wisden (5 September 1826 – 5 April 1884) was an English cricketer who played 187 first-class cricket matches for three English county cricket teams, Kent, Middlesex and Sussex.[1] He is now best known for launching the eponymous Wisden Cricketers' Almanack in 1864, the year after he retired from first-class cricket.[2]

John Wisden
John Wisden 1859.jpg
Wisden in the England team to North America in 1859
Personal information
Full nameJohn Wisden
Born(1826-09-05)5 September 1826
Brighton, Sussex, England
Died5 April 1884(1884-04-05) (aged 57)
Westminster, London, England
Height5 ft 4 in (1.63 m)
BowlingUnderarm right arm slow
Domestic team information
Career statistics
Competition First-class
Matches 187
Runs scored 4,140
Batting average 14.12
100s/50s 2/9
Top score 148
Balls bowled 24,205
Wickets 1,109
Bowling average 10.32
5 wickets in innings 111
10 wickets in match 39
Best bowling 10/58
Catches/stumpings 169/1
Source: CricketArchive, 5 April 1884


Early lifeEdit

Wisden was born in Crown Street, Brighton.[3] His father, William, was a builder.[3] He attended Brighton's Middle Street School (formerly the Royal Union School, founded as a charity school in 1805).[3] He moved to London after his father died, and lived with the wicket-keeper Tom Box.[4][5]


In July 1845, aged 18, only 5 ft 4 in and weighing just 7 stone (44 kg),[5] he made his first-class debut for Sussex against MCC, taking 6 wickets in the first innings and three in the second.[6] He joined the All-England Eleven in 1846, moving allegiance to the United All-England Eleven in 1852.[3] He was engaged to marry George Parr's sister Annie in 1849, but she died before the wedding, and he never married.[3]

Initially a fast roundarm bowler, before overarm bowling was permitted, his pace slowed in later years so he bowled medium pace; he also bowled slow underarm. While bowling fast, he took on average nearly 10 wickets in each game.[4] In 1850, when he was playing for the North against the South at Lord's, his off-cutter technique won him 10 wickets in the second innings, all clean bowled (still the only instance of all ten wickets being taken "bowled" in any first-class match).[7] He was also a competent batsman, and scored two first-class centuries, the first, exactly 100, against Kent at Tunbridge Wells in 1849, and in 1855 he notched up 148 against Yorkshire, the only first-class century scored in 1855.[4]

He played almost all of his cricket in England, mostly for Sussex, but once for Kent and thrice for Middlesex.[3] He travelled with a touring team led by George Parr to Canada and the US in 1859, where eight matches in Montreal, Hoboken, Philadelphia, Hamilton and Rochester were won easily.[5]

Of moderate height, he was nicknamed the "Little Wonder" after the winner of The Derby in 1840, and later the "Cardinal".[3] He was said to be the best all-rounder of his day.[4] In all, he took 1,109 first-class wickets with a bowling average of 10.32. He scored 4,140 first-class runs with a batting average of 14.12, an average which was very good for the time.[1][4]

Business career and legacyEdit

J Wisden & Company, 21 Cranbourn Street, London

Wisden began a cricket-equipment business in Leamington Spa in 1850 and five years later opened a "cricket and cigar" shop in Coventry Street near The Haymarket in central London, in partnership with Fred Lillywhite until 1858.[5][3] He was also the cricket coach at Harrow School from 1852 to 1855, and owned The Cricketers, a public house at Duncton in Sussex.[3]

He retired from cricket in 1863 at the relatively early age of 37 as a result of rheumatism,[5] and started publishing his annual Cricketers' Almanack the following year.[4] He also published in Cricket and How to Play It in 1866.[3] In retirement he developed his business into a manufacturer and retailer of equipment for many sports, not just cricket. The shop moved to Cranbourn Street near Leicester Square in 1872.[5]

After his death the business grew into a major international sports brand, receiving a Royal Warrant in 1911 as "Athletic Outfitters to the King".[5] The business went into receivership in 1939, and was acquired in 1943 by a Co-operative society, which sold it on to Grays of Cambridge in 1970.[citation needed] Grays then ceased to use Wisden as an equipment brand, but re-established John Wisden & Co as the publisher of the Cricketers' Almanack. It is now an imprint of Wisden's owner, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.[citation needed]


Wisden died of cancer, at the age of 57, in the flat above his Cranbourn Street shop (next to Leicester Square tube station). He was buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.[3]

In 1913, 29 years after his death, he was the subject of a "Special Portrait" in the 50th edition of Wisden, replacing the usual Wisden Cricketers of the Year feature which was dropped from that edition.[citation needed] In 1984, a headstone was placed at his grave to mark the centenary of his death.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b John Wisden, CricketArchive
  2. ^ "Words on the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack". 5 April 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Eric Midwinter, ‘Wisden, John (1826–1884)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2013 accessed 13 September 2013
  4. ^ a b c d e f John Wisden, ESPNcricinfo
  5. ^ a b c d e f g The survival of Wisden, ESPNcricinfo, July 1992
  6. ^ Scorecard, Sussex v Kent. 3,4,5 July 1845
  7. ^ "Fagg's unique double-hundreds". ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved 16 July 2019.

Further readingEdit

  • Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
  • H S Altham, A History of Cricket, Volume 1 (to 1914), George Allen & Unwin, 1926
  • Derek Birley, A Social History of English Cricket, Aurum, 1999
  • Rowland Bowen, Cricket: A History of its Growth and Development, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1970
  • Arthur Haygarth, Scores & Biographies, Volumes 3–9 (1841–1866), Lillywhite, 1862–1867
  • John Major, More Than A Game, HarperCollins, 2007 – includes the famous 1859 touring team photo taken on board ship at Liverpool

External linksEdit