Although he was born and died in Ruddington, most of John (Jack) Sharpe’s cricketing career, and the time of his greatest achievements, was spent with Surrey, where he formed a much respected opening bowling partnership with the great George Lohmann.
Sharpe was perhaps overlooked by his native county in the 1880s as Notts had the match-winning pair of Shaw and Attewell as their new ball bowlers; he qualified, by residence, for Surrey in the late 1880s.
He emerged in 1889 with 5 for 5 against Oxford University but it was not until 1890 and his first full season in the First-Class game that his performances earned him high praise from Wisden and the Lillywhite’s Annual, the former commenting that “Sharpe’s advanced upon his form of 1889 was nothing less than astonishing…”, indeed he and Lohman shared 333 wickets in the 25 matches that Surrey played in that year. Such was his potency in the summer months that he was rated, for a time, to be the best ‘hard wicket’ bowler in England. His reputation on hard wickets meant he was an automatic choice for the 1891/1892 Ashes tour on which he met with considerable success, taking 6 for 84 off 51 overs in the First Test at the MCG.
His form, though, faded as quickly as it had risen – in 1892 he took just 25 wickets (but still made the Wisden Cricketers of the Year list) and fewer still in ’93 and ’94. Johnny Briggs, a team-mate, suggested that Sharpe had tried to bowl too fast and worn himself out. The 1894 season, the only one he spent with his native county, proved to be his last at First-Class level; he played five matches for Nottinghamshire, taking 10 wickets at 28.40 and had a highest innings of 23no – his batting frailties in part due to the fact that he only had one good eye! This did not, however, prevent him from being an excellent fielder with a good throw.
Away from cricket, he played briefly for Notts County, where he was known as Jack Sharpe, making just three appearances in the 1889-90 season as a forward but without scoring.
John William Sharpe was born in Ruddington, the son of Samuel Sharpe who nplayed twice for Nottinghamshire, on 9 December 1866. He twice played for the XXII Colts v Nottinghamshire, winning the prize ball on both occasions, but was not invited for further trials or engagement by the county. Having appeared for Bedford Town and St Helen’s CC, Sharpe joined Surrey and made his debut v Essex at The Oval in May 1889. In that year he represented the South v North; in 1890 he played his one home Test, scoring 5no and 2 against the visiting Australians, but that two was important – he hit the winning runs as England gained victory by two wickets.
Sharpe was a framework knitter by trade, Ruddington was a major centre for the industry at that time. He died at his home in Easthorpe Street, Ruddington on 19 June 1936.