Surrey’s Herbert Strudwick is regarded by historians of the game as being one of the finest wicketkeepers ever to have graced a cricket field. It is said that Bert Oldfield admired him most – which can be regarded as tribute indeed for he was probably the greatest of them all. His final haul of 1,493 first-class dismissals is a truly remarkable one for unlike Ames and Huish, who broke many records, “Struddy” kept at a time when the Surrey and England attacks possessed mainly quick bowlers.

Of all keepers before Godfrey Evans, Herbert was the quickest on his feet – standing up to everything except the really fast. Such was his keeness to save runs, he was often known to chase the ball to the boundary. This prompted Neville Cardus to describe him as one of the best outfields in the land. Studwick based his wicketkeeping on the philosophy that if you had patience and concentration to catch every ball, a stumping would come easily and naturally.

He owed his career with the gloves to a Miss Wilson, who was the daughter of the Vicar of Mitcham. Playing cricket under her supervision with the other choirboys of the parish church, it was she who suggested that he kept wicket as he was in the habit of running in from cover to the stumps to take returns from the field.

THE SURREY TEAM IN 1914: Back (l-r) - Hitch, Strudwick, Ducat, Rushby, Goatley, Sandham and Abel. Front (l-r) - Fender, Hayes, Wilkinson, Hobbs and Smith.
When he was sixteen, Strudwick was given a trial by Surrey but, after being hit on the head whilst keeping to Len Braund, was told he was too young and would be offered another trial when he was older. In 1898 he was given a second chance and this time engaged. Four years later Struddy made his championship debut and in his first full season, that of 1903, he went on to collect an amazing 80 dismissals for Surrey. The following summer he celebrated taking eight victims in the match against Essex at Leyton, and in 1914 claimed six catches in an innings against Sussex.

He was 41 before he played a Test in England, first A.A.Lilley being preferred to him and then E.J.Smith. Both were better bats and Smith was expert at taking the very difficult bowling of his Warwickshire team-mate Frank Foster, yet Herbert still managed to appear 28 times for his country between 1911 and 1926 (claiming a total of 72 victims – 60 caught and 12 stumped).

Although Strudwick was not regarded as much of a batsman, he did hit 93 in 90 minutes on one occasion against Essex at The Oval in 1913 when he shared in an eighth-wicket partnership of 134 with Harry Harrison. He also distinguished himself in the Second Test at Melbourne in 1920-21 with innings of 21 not out and 24.

Gnarled and twisted fingers were the legacy of the battering he had taken over 25 years of professional cricket and so, in 1927, at the age of 47, Struddy chose to retire. “In all my career,” he later wrote, “I have done nothing startling, except when I broke the wicketkeepers’ record; but I have tried to play the game, have never appealed unless I felt confident and I am more proud of this than any other performance of merit.”

His playing days over, Herbert Strudwick spent some quietly happy years as Surrey’s scorer. Towards the end of his career he had offered P.G.H.Fender some valuable advice whilst out in the middle and this did not end when he took up his new role. He would bring the bowling figures into the dressing room during the interval and, if things had gone wrong, Percy would ask him what he should try next. On one occasion his answer was: “The first thing, Mr.Fender, is to take yourself off – look at these figures.” The Surrey captain apparently roared with laughter and did not bowl when play resumed.