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Sammy Woods
Sammy woods.JPG
Personal information
Full name Samuel Moses James Woods
Born 13 April 1867(1867-04-13)
Ashfield, Sydney, Australia
Died 30 April 1931 (aged 64)
Taunton, Somerset, England
Batting style Right-hand batsman
Bowling style Right arm fast medium
Role All-rounder
International information
National side Australia
Test debut (cap 54/100) 16 July 1888 
Australia v England
Last Test 21 March 1896 
England v South Africa
Domestic team information
Years Team
1891–1910 Somerset
1889–1902 MCC
1888–1891 Cambridge University
Career statistics
Competition Test First-class
Matches 6[1] 401
Runs scored 154 15345
Batting average 15.40 23.42
100s/50s 0/1 19/62
Top score 53 215
Balls bowled 412 41195
Wickets 10 1040
Bowling average 25.00 20.82
5 wickets in innings 0 77
10 wickets in match 0 21
Best bowling 3/28 10/69
Catches/stumpings 5/– 279/–
Source: CricketArchive, 2 December 2008

Samuel Moses James "Sammy" Woods (13 April 1867 – 30 April 1931) was a Test and first-class cricketer. He is one of only five cricketers to have represented both Australia and England at Test cricket, making three appearances for each nation. In 1889 he was named as one of the inaugural Wisden Cricketers of the Year, subtitled the "Six Great Bowlers of the Year". He played his entire county cricket career at Somerset County Cricket Club, playing 299 first-class matches for the club between 1891 and 1910, although he had played 'second-class' cricket for them since 1887. He captained Somerset for twelve years from 1894. He represented Cambridge University 28 times, including four varsity matches against Oxford University. A.A. Thomson described him thus: "Sammy... radiated such elemental force in hard hitting, fast bowling and electrical fielding that he might have been the forerunner of Sir Learie Constantine."[2] He also played rugby union for England, and played regularly for Bridgwater & Albion.


Cricket career

He was educated at Sydney Grammar School and Royston College, Sydney, before Brighton College and Jesus College, Cambridge[3] where he won blues in both rugby football and cricket.

Although he was known mostly as a fast bowler, Woods lost his bowling at quite an early stage of his long career and retained his value to Somerset mainly as a hard-hitting batsman who played what are still some of the fastest innings in the history of county cricket. His highest score for Somerset, 215 against Sussex in 1895, took only 150 minutes, whilst in 1898 at Eastbourne he hit 132 before lunch to give Somerset their only victory of the season.

In his early days as a bowler Woods was not only fast and accurate but was renowned for his cleverly disguised slower ball and yorker. Between 1888 and 1892 Woods took 507 wickets in English first-class cricket for 8275 runs - an average of 16.32 runs a wicket, and was generally regarded as the best bowler of real pace in the world.[citation needed] However, his body was unable to sustain long spells of bowling as he grew old, and his decline as a bowler was apparent from 1893, so much so that he rarely bowled from 1896 onwards.

Woods played no first-class cricket in his youth in Australia, but in 1888 for Cambridge he bowled so well that, with support for Turner and Ferris desperately wanted, Woods was allowed to join the Australian team after the University season. He did not do well in the Tests, and took only eleven wickets for 298 runs for the touring team. For his overall performances that season, the following year's Wisden named him as one of its Cricketers of the Year, in the initial season of that feature. In the following two years he enjoyed success, with the highlight being his taking of all ten wickets against CI Thornton's XI in his first match as Cambridge captain. His figures of 10/69 remain (as of 2009) the best first-class return by a Cambridge bowler.[4]

The following year, after again bowling in his best form for Cambridge, Woods spearheaded the development of Somerset in their first season in the County Championship, where they showed their improvement by rebounding from a loss by an innings and 375 runs at The Oval in May to beat the previously unbeaten Surrey side in August. Woods also helped the Gentlemen beat the Players at the Oval with nine wickets - dividing honours with his former teammate Ferris.

In 1892, Woods had his best season as a bowler with 153 wickets in all matches. His 85 wickets for 16.47 in the County Championship helped Somerset to its best season until the 1960s, and in the Festival matches, he accomplished two strong performances:

  • 13 for 109 for West of England v East of England at Portsmouth
  • 8 for 46 (first innings) for Gentlemen v Players at Hastings

In all matches in the 1893 season, his haul of wickets fell by almost 50 percent and his average went up by the same amount. Only once, against Sussex at Taunton, did he bowl in his previous form. Being appointed captain and secretary of Somerset the following year did little to reverse his decline as a bowler. However, the following year, Woods unexpectedly became known as a vigorous batsman, with his average increasing from 19 to 33 and he hit three centuries. In fact, only seven players bettered his 1405 runs that season, and his bowling was, for the last time, valuable to Somerset with 86 wickets in all games.

That winter, Woods went on a tour to South Africa, but had little opportunity because of George Lohmann's deadly bowling on the matting wickets, and in 1896 he did not take five wickets in a Championship innings but his surprise development as a batsman was fully maintained during the rest of the 1890s despite occasional injury problems. His captaincy also held Somerset together as the players who had helped them to prominence in their first couple of years in the Championship declined. He was an attacking captain, once famously observing: "Draws? They're only for bathing in."[5] His attacking instincts did not stop him from making a fine sporting gesture when WG Grace became the first batsman to make his hundredth century (in 1895). Woods was bowling and gave Grace a slow leg side full toss to help him reach the landmark.[citation needed]

In 1902 and 1903, aided by Len Braund's all-round play, Somerset improved, but Woods, after having long ago lost his bowling, was no longer able to "force" the game as he could even a few years before, and he last reached the 1000 run mark in 1901.

Although he resigned the Somerset captaincy due to his generally poor form as a player after the 1906 season, the team's lack of players was such that he appeared fairly often until 1910 (scoring a hundred against Hampshire in 1908) and remained as secretary for some years after that. Woods remained associated with Somerset right up to his death in 1931.

Other sports

Cricket was not Sammy Woods' only sport. He played and captained England at rugby union, playing a total of thirteen rugby union international matches for England between 1890 and 1895. At club level he represented Cambridge University and Blackheath, and was a founding member of invitational team, the Barbarians. He also played 'soccer' for Sussex, 'mixed' hockey for Somerset. He fished and hunted wherever possible and took up bowls in middle-age.

Other Notes

He served as a lieutenant in the 9th Somerset Light Infantry during the First World War. He later served in the Royal Warwickshire and Devonshire Regiments and fought at Gallipoli. Woods' final rank on leaving military service was captain, in the Labour Corps.[3]

Many anecdotes are told about Sammy Woods, in particular concerning his struggles with the examiners during his time at Cambridge, for he was no academic. One story recounted by Nancy Banks-Smith is that he was unable to answer a single question in his final Tripos at Cambridge. He wrote only "Dam" and then left the hall. His dons, all cricket enthusiasts, would - it is said - have passed him if only he had spelt the word correctly.[6]

He remained a very popular and well-known figure in the Taunton area even after his cricket-playing days were long over. When he died, Taunton was in a state of mourning.[7] R. C. Robertson-Glasgow wrote of him: "If you wanted to know Taunton, you walked round it with Sam Woods on a summer morning before the match. Sam was Somerset's godfather."[8]


  1. ^ Woods played in three Tests for Australia and three for England. His best batting and bowling figures were both for England.
  2. ^ Thomson, p160.
  3. ^ a b Woods, Samuel Moses James in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  4. ^ "Most Wickets in an Innings for Cambridge University". CricketArchive. Retrieved 24 March 2009. 
  5. ^ Wisden article with much on Woods
  6. ^ See the "Hard Spell" paragraph
  7. ^ "Sammy became a legend with cider county"
  8. ^ RC Robertson-Glasgow, 46 Not Out, first published by Hollis & Carter, 1948, p129 of the Sportsman's Book Club edition.


  • "My Reminiscences" (1925) by SMJ Woods
  • "Cricketers of My Times" (1967) by AA Thomson

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Herbie Hewett
Somerset County Cricket Captain
Succeeded by
Lionel Palairet


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