Ireland's Greatest Cricketers 9: Bob Lambert
Robert James Hamilton Lambert
Bob Lambert was a batsman without frills. Lofted straight drives and vicious hooks, brought him the bulk of his 101 hundreds and upwards of 37000 runs. Bowling, his keynote was accuracy, born out of hours of early morning practice on the Leinster ground. He delivered his big off breaks from a two pace run, extracting lift and turn from the blandest of surfaces, dismissing around 3700 batsmen. He first played senior cricket for Leinster in 1889, and the following year hit a brilliant 89* v Laytown, which attracted high praise from the Irish Field. He had a spectacular start to his Irish career in 1893, but really burst on the Irish domestic scene in 1895 with 2040 runs and 209 wickets, figures he rivalled the next season amassing 2231 runs at 67.10 and snaring 202 wickets at 10.00. In all he missed the double only three times before 1914, scored 86 centuries, dominating Irish cricket.
His batting performances are legion - amongst the best was a 125 minutes 248* against Fitzwilliam in 1895, a season which saw him hit 6 hundreds. Several half seasons in Scotland, while a veterinary student, saw a further 3 hundreds, the highest 202* for Leith Caledonian v Dunfermline in 1896. His career highest was 256 v Co Kildare at Rathmines in 1906, destroying the "Old Reliable" Bill Harrington. His bowling also attracted the crowds, often for the Vice Regal XI, against I Zingari, but he took 5 hat tricks in his career including one in an 8-35 spell for Leinster v Surrey C&G; at the Oval.
His Irish debut was v IZ in 1893 when he hit an undefeated 51. However later that year, on tour, he struck a remarkable 116 v WH Laverton's XI at Westbury. He batted with a runner and did not field during the match. This was the first of his 101 tons. He hit a beautiful hundred v Cambridge at Rathmines in 1904, but his best innings for Ireland is often seen as his 116* against the Philadelphians in 1908, even though Bart King, having just destroyed Ireland in the first match of a double header, played only as a batsman.
Bob took part in 10 century stands for Ireland, the best a 3rd wicket 170 with Tim O'Brien at Oxford in 1902, was an Irish record for 92 years. His unfinished 127 with Jack Crawford v Military of Ireland in 1921, ended tragically when gunmen fired on the match killing a young woman spectator. Bob scored 1954 runs and took 173 wickets for Ireland, thus becoming the first Irish player to reach the international double. He had 12 "5 fors" and took 10 in a match 4 times. He did the match double against Philadelphia in 1908, but his best performance was against Scotland in College Park in 1910. Ireland was destroyed by the leg spin of JH Bruce-Lockhart, but Bob with match figures of 14.3-6-14-11 ensured a home victory. However his most remarkable performance was, perhaps, in his last match against MCC at Rathmines in 1931, when he was 56. Playing as a late replacement, he bowled 27 overs unchanged and had overall figures of 32-2-102-4. He captained Ireland 13 times, winning four matches. His total runs and wickets shown here do not include the 12-a-side match v I Zingari in 1906 in which he scored 25 and 16 besides taking 6 wickets. His Irish performances also brought him a game for London County in 1903, he made 46* and 38. WG Grace thought his play "perfection."
League Cricket came to Dublin in 1919, when he was 44. He still contrived to reach 3277 runs, highest score 153* v Dublin University (1921) and take 329 wickets, captaining Leinster until his retirement in 1934. He was the first to 1000, 2000, and 3000 League runs. In 1921, he averaged 217.33. In all he scored 8 hundreds, and took 32 five fors", besides ten in a match 3 times. His figures included 9-35 v Phoenix (1919), 8-8 v Railway Union (1924), and as late as 1929, 6-24 v Clontarf including a hat trick. His hundredth 100, came v Halverstown at Rathmines in 1931, including two 6s and twenty 4s.
One last hundred followed the next season. Besides his brother Sep, and sons Drummond and Ham, all Irish players, another brother William, and another son Tom, also played for Leinster. A sister played badminton for Ireland as did Bob, who was ICU President three times. On that memorable day against Halverstown, as ball after ball crossed the boundary, one fed up bowler announced to his team mates, "This bloody Lambert just won't quit" Nor did he, as long as he had a bat in his hands or a ball between his fingers.
His obituary appeared in Wisden 1957 and he is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats.
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