For a cricketer born in Kimberley in 1853 to be umpiring a match in Newark thirty years later does not sound especially unusual or notable – except that for George Lane, he was standing in a game in Newark, New Jersey, not Newark, Nottinghamshire.
In fact, Lane played almost all his cricket in the USA – and did most of his umpiring in the States – being for some years recognised as the best bowler in the country, when cricket there was played to a pretty fair standard.
Born in the North Notts town of Kimberley on 25 July 1853, he was a left-hand bat and bowled left-arm medium-pace. His first appearance for a county side in 1875 for the XXII Colts was an almost total ‘blank’ – he scored 0 in both innings and took one wicket, for no runs. In 1877 Lane played for the Colts v Yorkshire Colts and for the XXII Colts of England v MCC without any significant success.
Chosen for the Nottinghamshire XI to play XXII Colts in 1881, he had the remarkable analysis of 49.1-36-26-9 – good enough to merit a place for his First-Class debut v Lancashire at Old Trafford. He played just two further First-Class games for Notts, ending his brief stint – which came whilst a number of leading Notts players were on strike against the Committee – with 28 runs at 9.33 and a top score of 19no and taking six wickets at 14.50, with 4-32 his best return.
Lane had begun his association with cricket in America in 1879, returned to England for the 1881 season and thereafter stayed and played in the United States. Of the 15 First-Class matches on his record, a dozen were played in America, where he represented Staten Island CC and Philadelphia CC as well as representative and select teams, including two games for ‘English Residents’ v ‘American Born’.
The Staten Island club still exists and have found references to Lane in their archives, confirming him as "Professional playing for Staten Island in the years 1879-1880". On the same page the following appears: "Its (referring to the club) professional coaches have included . . . George Lane, now of Philadelphia". There is no indication as to whether he had simply moved to Philadelphia or had joined the Philadelphia CC or another of the cricket clubs in that area. These references are found in a recently discovered book, History of the Staten Island Cricket and Tennis Club, 1872-1917, Livingston, Staten Island, by one Randolph St George Walker, printed on 15 March 1817. The ground on which the club now plays is in Walker Park, named after the writer. It is now a public park, then privately held (pic courtesy of Staten Island CC)
In Lane's matches other than First-Class only three – that of MCC v Colts of England in 1877 and two outings v the touring Australians for Rochdale in 1880 – were played in his native country; 120 more were played for a variety of US teams. He had great success, particularly for Staten Island where on three occasions he took more than 50 wickets in a season at averages of 6.00 or less.
George Lane took up permanent residence in the US and turned to umpiring as his playing career ended – standing in a couple of First-Class fixtures in Philadelphia, in one Halifax Cup match and in six other games, of which the 1853 game between New York Juniors and Staten Island CC at the Johnson Avenue Ground, Newark, New Jersey was one.
He had a sports outfitters shop in Haverford, Pennsylvania, and he died at Haverford College on 31 July 1917.
His brother John Lane was noted local wicket keeper and represented the Colts of England v MCC in 1878; another brother, Moses, was a cricket professional in the USA. A relative by marriage was Isaac Chambers who played for Nottinghamshire Colts in 1883.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 172