Tales from the Boundary
Jack's All Right
The Essex player with the highest Test batting average is Charles Albert George Russell, otherwise known as A.C. (Jack) Russell. In 10 Tests between 1920 and 1923, he scored 910 runs at an average of 56.87 with five centuries. He was also the first Englishman to score two separate hundreds in a Test match – achieved in South Africa in 1922-23.
Russell made his first Test appearance on the ill-fated Australian tour of 1920-21. MCC had doubts about sending a team so soon after the Great War, but were persuaded by the Australian authorities. Though a financial success, on the field it was a disaster with Australia winning all five Tests. Russell played in four Tests, scoring 135 not out and 59 in the third Test but little else. The teams came to England for another Ashes series in the summer of 1921, Australia winning the first three matches with embarrassing ease. (The first Test ended before lunch on the second day). Jack Russell was not selected until the fourth Test, when he scored 101 in a draw. He followed this with 102 not out at the Oval in the fifth Test - also drawn.
The South Africa trip proved to be Russell's greatest triumph. In the Tests he scored 436 runs at 62.28. Next in the averages came Mead at 43.55 and Frank Mann at 35.12. Woolley, Arthur Carr, Gilligan and Sandham all averaged below 30.
In the decisive fifth Test at Durban, Russell scored 140 out of a total of 281, and 111 out of a total of 241. What made Russell's feat all the more praiseworthy was that he was far from well and had been advised against batting at all.
There Russell's Test career ended; by now Herbert Sutcliffe had emerged as Jack Hobbs's opening partner, and men like Hendren, Hammond, Chapman and Jardine were vying for middle-order places. In addition, Russell was no great stylist, and was primarily a leg-side batsman which did not appeal to Test selectors of the period.
Nevertheless, to score three centuries in two series against the formidable Australian side of that time says a lot about Russell's character.
Jack Russell was the son of Tom Russell, Essex wicketkeeper in the early Championship years. His Essex career lasted from 1908 to 1930.
He is fourth in the list of centuries scored for Essex, behind Gooch, McEwan and O'Connor. He took part in thirteen Essex partnerships of 200 or more and twice took part in century opening partnerships in both innings of a match.
All told, an impressive record at both Test and County level.