Joe Hardstaff was described as one of the most stylish and elegant batsman of his era. Another batsman to have a long career with Nottinghamshire, 25 years, he excelled at both domestic and international cricket, having an average well over 40 in both forms of cricket. He competed for a whole host of teams, with over 400 games for Nottinghamshire and 23 test matches for England. His international average was an impressive 46.74 in scoring 1636 runs, including a double century.
Joseph Hardstaff was born on 3 July 1911 in the Nuncargate area of Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. The son of Joseph/Joe, who also played for the county and represented England, Hardstaff began his playing days at the county at the age of 19. Four seasons later, he made an impact with 1817 runs in 50 innings, after a slow start to his career. There were four hundreds and ten fifties during that 1934 season. This led to a tour down under with the MCC team in 1935/36, and came away with over a 1000 runs to his name with matches in Australia and New Zealand. With a top score of 230 not out, he averaged an amazing 70.44 in the former country’s visit.
A tightening up of his defensive technique really saw his career take off in 1937 with a superb 2540 runs during the summer at an average of 57.72. Three of his eight hundreds were turned into doubles, and one came at a lightning speed of 51 minutes against Kent in a run chase – the fastest hundred of the season. He was duly named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year the following year. One of the greatest moments of his career came when he played in the famous England team that put together a monumental total against the touring Australians in the summer of 1938.
Coming in at number seven during the fifth test at The Oval, and with England already on a mammoth 555-5, he compiled an unbeaten 169 in over five hours and struck 20 fours. Hardstaff put on 215 for the sixth wicket with Len Hutton who went on to record the highest individual innings in test cricket, and he was there at the declaration when England had posted a massive 903 for 7, another record. The match was won by an innings and 579 runs, yet another record. He had another astounding season with 1827 runs at 60.90 with seven hundreds. A year later, he accumulated another 2129 runs at 54.58 before the Second World War stopped him in his prime.
Having competed in a few games in India whilst on the Burma front, he came back for the 1946 summer and compiled his one and only double century in test cricket. In front of a full house at Lord’s, Hardstaff produced an innings of 205 not out in five and a quarter hours against India. In his previous knock versus the same team in 1936, he had smashed 94 in only 75 minutes. His county form for Nottinghamshire continued to prosper with another 2396 runs in 28 matches the following summer. There were seven hundreds and nine fifties, with a scoring rate of 64.75 runs per innings. However, his test career took a turn for the worst when disagreements with the then England captain Gubby Allen, saw Hardstaff play his final match versus Australia in 1948. His 23rd and last test saw him in partnership with Denis Compton as England fought to save the game.
Undeterred, he remained one of the leading batsmen in the country. He topped the domestic averages with 72.61 in 1949 with another 2000-plus run season and eight centuries. There were calls for him to be reinstated into the England test team. Hardstaff played on for a few more seasons before eventually retiring in 1955. He had become one of the highest scoring batsman in the county’s history with 31,847 runs and a colossal 83 centuries. His son, also named Joe, became the secretary of Middlesex CCC and was awarded an MBE after serving in the RAF.
Joe Hardstaff Jnr was undeniably one of Nottinghamshire’s greatest ever batsmen. He was a consistent scorer for the county and played some fine innings in the international arena. He should definitely have competed in more test matches than he did. He passed away in January 1990.
*Article provided by Hitesh Darji (Cricket Correspondent)
*Main image @TrentBridge Joe Hardstaff was described as one of the most elegant batsmen of his generation.