16th June 1882, Arbroath, Angus, Scotland
Scotland v South Africans, Raeburn Place, 27th June 1912
By any measure, Robert Sievwright is a true cricketing colossus, his international career spanning the best part of three decades while a marathon 43 years in the club game only ended in 1947 when he collapsed and died at the crease while batting for his home-town team – at the age of 65!
A late developer, Sievwright was 30 when he made his First-Class debut, but he quickly made up for lost time, claiming a clutch of illustrious victims with his teasing left-arm spinners. One of the most notable scalps was the great Jack Hobbs in a match between Scotland and Surrey, when Sievwright claimed five wickets, prompting Wisden to report that the Scot had bowled “with much skill.”
He played for Scotland from 1912 to 1929, six times against Australia, twice against South Africa, twice against Ireland, as well as against Oxford, Surrey, Northamptonshire, Australian Imperial Forces, MCC and Middlesex. Against Australia at Edinburgh in 1912 he captured 6 for 60, with C. G. MacArtney among his victims. In 1921 against the Australians he took seven wickets in two matches, and Warren Bardsley paid Seivy, as he was known wherever cricket was played, the compliment of describing him as one of the best spin bowlers he had ever encountered.
The quality of his opponents makes it all the more remarkable that he claimed a remarkable total of 81 wickets for Scotland at an impressive average of 23.70. If it is these high-profile performances which do most to justify his place in the Hall of Fame.
Sievwright’s club career is also worthy of note – and not just for its astonishing longevity. He remains the highest wicket-taker in the Scottish club game, having greedily garnered 2,242 dismissals. He took ten wickets in an innings on four occasions, the last of them against Aberdeenshire at the age of 54.
This of a man who earned his living as a master joiner and could only take time off to play the game he loved on a Saturday afternoon!
He was elected president of the SCU in 1932, but continued playing until that fateful day in1947 when he was batting with his son, Arthur, against Perthshire. Having just hit and run a three, he stood ready to face the first ball of the next over but collapsed at the wicket.
It is possible, even now, to imagine the eulogies: “It’s how he would have wanted to go.”