Serene in temperament and efficient in execution, Sir John Berry Hobbs was the complete batsman; probably the greatest of his generation. Widely referred to as ‘The Master’, Hobbs scored 61,237 runs and 197 centuries in his career – more than any other player in the history of the game.

As a batsman Jack Hobbs was graceful and correct with good vision, the judgement of length, the gift of timing and positioning as well as remarkable reserves of concentration. If anything, he was a stronger player on the back foot. He always maintained a steady flow of scoring strokes, even in the most adverse conditions for batting. Hobbs was a brilliant cover fieldsman; often luring batsmen into a false sense of security by allowing them a few singles before making a lightning return to just above the bails where a colleague would be waiting to apply the coup de grace. In his formative years he was also a useful swing bowler.

It was in 1905 that ‘Jack’ came to The Oval from Cambridge, thus following in the footsteps of his mentor Tom Hayward. Hobbs and Hayward opened the innings for Surrey successfully in the years leading up to World War I. In 1907 they shared four three-figure stands in a week against Cambridge University and Middlesex. They made 352 together against Warwickshire in 1909 and 313 for the first wicket against Worcestershire in 1913.

Jack Hobbs (left) comes out to bat with
Herbert Sutcliffe at Headingley in 1926
Meanwhile, Jack Hobbs had been establishing himself as a Test match batsmen. On his debut in the exciting 1907 Melbourne Test against Australia he made 83 in the first innings. Four years later he made up for his poor performances in 1909 by recording three centuries in the 1911-12 series; the most famous being his unbeaten 126 at Melbourne, when he shared in a 323-run opening partnership with the great Wilfred Rhodes.

After the First World War Hobbs continued to add to his record. In 1925 he celebrated a remarkable 3,000-run season, which included 13 hundreds. In 1926 he made his career highest score of 316 not out against Middlesex at Lord’s and scored 261 against Oxford University; partnering Andy Sandham in an opening stand of 428. In addition, he averaged 82 with 2,542 runs and 12 centuries in 1928.

As with Sandham for Surrey, Jack Hobbs had the reliable Herbert Sutcliffe as his opening partner for England. Together they were the most successful opening pair in English Test history. In the 1924-25 series against Australia they shared four century partnerships, including 283 in almost equal time in the second confrontation at Melbourne. It was alongside Sutcliffe that Jack made his highest Test innings of 211 against South Africa at Lord’s in 1924 and turned defeat into victory in the 1926 Oval and 1928-29 Melbourne Tests against Australia. He made his very last appearance for England in 1930 at the age of 47.

Jack Hobbs’s last season was in 1934, when he averaged 41 in a handful of appearances. That year he was the only batsman in the country to record a century against the county champions Lancashire. It was reported that during that innings Jack Iddon, whilst fielding for the opposition, allowed a shot from Hobbs to run between his legs for two runs. In apology to the bowler he said: “I was so engrossed in his footwork that I took my eye off the ball.” – proof that even at the end of his career Sir Jack Hobbs was still ‘The Master’ of his art.