Arthur Gilligan


Arthur Gilligan : biography

23 December 1894 – 5 September 1976

In 1914, Gilligan entered Pembroke College, Cambridge, but his life at the university was interrupted by the First World War. He fought in France with the Lancashire Fusiliers from 1915, serving as Captain in the 11th battalion. When the war ended, Gilligan returned to Pembroke and resumed his cricket career.

Cricket at Cambridge

Following the war, Cambridge University suffered from a lack of quality bowling at the start of the 1919 cricket season. Consequently, Gilligan faced little competition for his place in the team and took 32 wickets at an average of under 27 in Cambridge matches, which critics considered a poor return. He made a bigger impression when, batting at number eleven in the order, he scored 101 against Sussex and shared a last-wicket partnership of 177 in 65 minutes with John Naumann. A few days later, Gilligan won his blue—the awarding of the Cambridge "colours" to sportsmen—by appearing in the University Match against Oxford. On the last day of the three-day match, he took five wickets for 16 runs in 57 deliveries to finish with bowling figures of six for 52 (six wickets taken for 52 runs conceded). According to Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, this was the best bowling performance in the University Match for many years, although Cambridge lost the match. Towards the end of the season, Gilligan played three first-class matches for Surrey and made a further appearance in a festival game, although he accomplished little with bat or ball. In all first-class games in 1919, he scored 231 runs at a batting average of 17.76 and took 35 wickets at 31.57. At the end of the season, he changed counties; his family connections in the area, and the presence of his brother Harold in the team, led him to register with Sussex.Lee, pp. 147–48.

Gilligan retained his position in the Cambridge team in 1920 and once more played against Oxford. In the University Match, he was ineffective with the ball as the damp conditions did not suit his style of bowling. At the end of the Cambridge term, Gilligan, playing as an amateur, made his Sussex debut. The Times later commented that in 1920, Gilligan was "known as a fast but unreliable bowler, a dashing and vulnerable batsman and a mid-off without his equal in England". Wisden commented on his 1920 performance: "[He] remained stationary, doing nothing out of the common either as bowler or batsman for Cambridge, and proving a decidedly expensive bowler for Sussex". In all first-class cricket, he scored 624 runs at an average of 17.33 and took 81 wickets at 23.55. Subsequently, Gilligan left Cambridge and joined Gilbert Kimpton & Co., a general produce merchants in London in which his father was a senior partner.

England captain

Following heavy losses to Australia in two Test series immediately following the war, the England selectors needed to appoint a new captain. Frank Mann led the team during the tour of South Africa, the team’s only Tests between 1921 and 1924. According to the cricket writer Alan Gibson, Mann was slightly too old to be a realistic candidate and his batting was not quite of the required standard. Other possibilities early in the season included Fender and Arthur Carr. } Instead, the selectors appointed Gilligan as captain for the 1924 series against South Africa, in an attempt to assess whether he possessed the playing ability to justify his selection in the role.Gibson, pp. 123–24. Cricket journalist E. W. Swanton writes that Gilligan was the favoured candidate of the influential Lord Harris, which may have assisted his appointment.Swanton, p. 142. Gibson describes Gilligan at the time as "29 years old, an attractive, smiling personality".Gibson, p. 124. Gilligan began the season very well. He and Tate, in the weeks approaching the first Test, established a reputation as the best opening bowlers in the world. At the time, the best batting teams in England were Surrey and Middlesex; in consecutive matches, Gilligan and Tate dismissed these sides for 53 and 41 respectively. In the latter game, Gilligan took eight for 25, and he and Tate bowled several county sides out for low scores. In the first Test match, on Gilligan’s debut as England captain, the pair bowled South Africa out for 30 runs. Gilligan took six wickets for seven runs, and Wisden reported that "He bowled very fast and with any amount of fire. Three times during the innings he took a wicket immediately after sending down a no ball". When South Africa followed-on, he took five for 83, to finish the game with 11 wickets. England won the second Test, like the first, by an innings; Gilligan took five wickets in the game, and by the end of June had 74 wickets in all first-class matches at an average of 15. At this stage, the press and public had great expectations of success for Gilligan and Tate on the forthcoming tour of Australia.