Born on 26 December 1873 died on 27 October 1953, and known as ‘Topsy’, Tom Wass was a Notts bowler who is best remembered, along with Albert Hallam, for bowling Nottinghamshire to a brilliant County Championship win in 1907. Wass also holds the record for the most wickets taken for Nottinghamshire - 1633 at 20.34 each.
Tall and solidly built, Wass had a highly rhythmic run-up that allowed him to be, in his prime, fast through the air. However, it was his leg-cutter that made him formidable and Wass, unlike most fast bowlers of the time, was very dangerous after rain but less effective on a firm pitch when the ball did not turn. He also had a very difficult slower ball that on his best days caught many batsmen unawares. Wass was a very moderate fieldsman and had no pretensions to be a batsman – though he did score 56 against Derbyshire in 1906, having been dropped four times.
Wass began his career in local cricket but became a professional for Edinburgh Academicals and Liverpool. Qualified by residence, Wass was offered a place on the Lancashire staff but declined, yet he still took some time to establish himself in a Notts side that was in the late 1890s exceedingly weak in bowling and it was never understood why he was given so little to do when he finally broke into the team in the last game against Lancashire.
In his first two full seasons, he had very modest records but in 1900 Wass became Notts’s chief bowler, in partnerhsip with John Gunn, and bowled the team to seven victories as against five in the three season from 1897 to 1899.
In 1901, apart from one match on a sticky wicket against a weak Derbyshire eleven, Wass was so disappointing he was dropped from the side. He took 58 wickets at a cost of 29.72. On the wet wickets of 1902 Wass became one of the most difficult bowlers in the game, capturing 140 wickets at 15.89 in all First-Class cricket. It remains noteworthy how Wass’s bowling was the decisive factor in each Nottinghamshire victory that summer.
In 1903, despite numerous soft pitches, Wass was less effective taking 76 wickets; though this was frequently attributed to the extreme placidity of the Trent Bridge pitches in fine weather. Still, in 1904, though overworked in unfavourable conditions, Wass appeared for the Players at the Kennington Oval, which was to remain one of only two appearances he ever made in a representative match. In 1905, he was at times deadly but handicapped by an injury in a local game, which kept him out of a third of Nottinghamshire’s county matches.
May 1906 saw Wass at his deadliest, including one of the most remarkable games in county cricket at Liverpool, where he took 16 wickets in a day on a sticky wicket, yet Nottinghamshire still lost. However, after he recovered from a strain sustained in the Whitsuntide game against Surrey, “the long-continued dry weather found out his limitations”. In 1907, however, Wass opened with something even more sensational: taking six wickets for three runs against the MCC after two blank days. This time, wet weather continued almost continuously all summer, allowing Wass and Hallam to dominate match after match to such an extent that they took 298 wickets between them in just 19 games; Notts won 15 of these and were never defeated. Nobody else bar John Gunn did any serious work, and Gunn took only 25 wickets in 17 matches in which he bowled.
Wass was chosen in the thirteen for the First Test against South Africa at Lord’s in 1907 but left out of the final eleven. In 1908, despite the fact that Hallam’s form declined owing to rheumatism in his right shoulder, Wass remained at his best and took 16 for 103 in a day against Essex. In 1909, a summer as wet as 1907, he was very disappointing; although Hallam was back to full fitness, Wass had his worst record since 1905, but in the following two years Wass recovered his form and, when helped by the wicket, remained as formidable as ever despite having lost much of his former pace. The wet summer of 1912 was disappointing with the wickets more helpful than ever; Wass took fifty fewer wickets than in 1907 and in 1913 he failed to reach 100 wickets in a full season for the first time in ten years.
In 1914, when Wass was handicapped by injury and missed seven games, he took only 69 wickets at his highest average since 1903. After WWI he appeared only once, in Joe Hardstaff’s benefit match. "Topsy" Wass was regarded as a character but was generally popular, drawing a remarkably warm tribute from Sir Pelham Warner when he died in 1953.
Tom started his early cricket career at Sutton-in-Ashfield village cricket team then went to Edinburgh Academicals team and Lancashire before finally playing for his home county. A great walker he also was very keen on following foxhunting, walking miles to hunts.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 242