Jack Platts - Derbyshire's first centurion

Tuesday 23rd June 2020

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Shawn Kewley lives in Perth, Western Australia, and wrote to us about John ‘Jack’ Platts. JTBD Platts was Derbyshire’s first centurion and also took the county’s first hat-trick.

Shawn wrote: “Derbyshire holds special DNA for the Kewley-Lees-Platts family tree as we had one of the great all-rounders from Chellaston. He played as one of the first professional cricketers during the 1870-80s, namely my Great, Great Grandfather John “Jack” TBD Platts. 195 wickets, best figures of 6-39, over 2,000 runs and one century to his credit. He later went on to umpire at first-class level as a foundation player of Derbyshire CCC.

John ‘Jack’ TBD Platts was originally sponsored by Lord Coventry in 1870 as a fast bowler to play for the MCC with W.G. Grace and in his first match he bowled a bouncer on the rough pitch at Lords hitting batsman George Summers in the head. George retired hurt and died four days later at home. A regrettable and accidental blow, a moment Jack never forgot and deeply troubled him for the rest of his life, turning from a fast to slow bowler. He apparently had a ripping quick ball. The MCC even paid for a testimonial stone for George Summers which also changed the way the Lords pitch was managed. Jack Platts was an excellent all-rounder during the 1870-80s for Derbyshire, playing against touring Australia XIs, he went onto first-class umpiring and ran the Rose & Crown Inn at Chellaston in Derby, England until his death in 1898.

Jack even had the pleasure of seeing the legend Fred ‘Demon’ Spofforth from Australia come to Derby to marry a local girl. Fred played in Test matches for Australia between 1877 and 1887, and then settled in England where he played for Derbyshire too. The other story about Jack pre-cricket was he was working in the local mine, practiced bowling with stones at targets which may explain his powerful shoulders, forearms, and hands. Lord Coventry gave him the life changing moment out of the mines and on to the cricket pitch forever. That’s stumps! Together, We Are All Derbyshire. Happy 150th Anniversary.”

Our Heritage Officer, David Griffin, writes;

This is a fascinating account from Shawn and there is not much of significance to add.

Prior to the official formation of Derbyshire County Cricket Club in November 1870, a side calling itself Derbyshire beat MCC and Ground at Lord’s over two days in July of the same year. The Derbyshire side included Platts and this result – along with several others – resonated around the game and helped to ensure that Derbyshire were accepted to the first-class ranks later in the year.

Jack Platts was the youngest member of the Derbyshire side which played Lancashire in their first ever match on 26 May 1871 – aged 22 – although he had made his first-class debut a year earlier for MCC against Nottinghamshire in June 1870.

As Shawn wrote, in the second innings of that game for MCC George Summers was struck on the head by a delivery from Platts which ultimately led to the batsman’s death four days later. The MCC wicketkeeper William Yardley said the ball must have struck a stone for it was impossible for a ball to rise so sharply on that pitch.

The first hundred for the county came in 1877 – in Derbyshire’s 32nd first-class match – when Platts scored 115 against Hampshire at Derby, an innings which included three sixes and eight fours. In the very next game – against Yorkshire – Platts almost repeated the feat, scoring 90 not out to save the game.

His hat-trick – another first for the county – came in 1880 against Yorkshire at Derby.

Platts played 90 first-class matches for Derbyshire scoring 2,064 runs and taking 184 wickets.

Undoubtedly, an important figure in Derbyshire cricket, especially for being the first player to make a century and to take a hat-trick, in those crucial early years Jack Platts was, along with Bill Mycroft, one of the two leading figures on the field.

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