GIFFEN, George (1859-1927)

GIFFEN, George (1859-1927)
was born at Adelaide on 27 March 1859. He played cricket with enthusiasm as a boy and attracted the notice of two brothers, Charles and James Gooden, who coached him. Early in 1877 he played for South Australia against a visiting East Melbourne team making 16 and 14, the highest score in each innings, but South Australian cricket was then much below the standard of the two eastern colonies. It was not until November 1880 that the first regular match between South Australia and Victoria took place at Melbourne. Giffen made 3 and 63 and took two wickets for 47 in the first innings. He became a regular member of the South Australian team and although he took a few seasons to develop his full powers, if he failed as a bat he usually made up for it with a good bowling performance. He was chosen for the 1882 Australian eleven but was not very successful, scoring 873 runs for an average of 18.18 and obtaining 32 wickets for an average of 22.75. He was also a member of the 1884, 1886, 1893 and 1896 teams, his best season being 1886 when he had a batting average of just under 27 and took 159 wickets for just over 17 runs each. But he was never quite so good a cricketer in England as he was in Australia, largely on account of the differences in the light and in the pace of the wickets. In Australia he had some remarkable performances, scoring 237 out of 472 in January 1891 against Victoria, and taking five wickets for 89 in the first innings and seven for 107 in the second. In the following November against Victoria he scored 271, his highest score, out of 562, and took nine for 96 in the first innings and seven for 70 in the second. As the years went on he became less consistent though still retaining his place in the South Australian team. He made a remarkable return to his best form in his last match against Victoria in 1903 within a month of his forty-fourth birthday, scoring 81 and 97 not out, and obtaining seven wickets for 75 and eight for 110. He retired from first-class cricket at the end of that year, but for many years continued to bowl at the nets and enthusiastically coach boy cricketers playing in the Adelaide parks. He was an official in the postal department at Adelaide from which he retired in March 1925. He died at Adelaide on 29 November 1927. He was unmarried. His portrait in oils is in the pavilion at the Adelaide cricket ground. A brother, Walter F. Giffen, was also a capable cricketer.
Giffen was the backbone of the South Australian team for many years, and may be said to have made South Australian cricket. As a batsman he had excellent defence and drove with power, making most of his runs in front of the wicket. He bowled slow medium pace with a good off break, and caught and bowled many batsmen with a deceptive slower dropping ball. He was the finest all-round Australian cricketer of his day and of the men since his time only Armstrong and Noble (q.v.) could dispute his pre-eminence.
The Advertiser, Adelaide, 30 November 1927; The Argus, Melbourne, 30 November 1927; G. Giffen, With Bat and Ball; C. B. O'Reilly, South Australian Cricket, 1880-1930.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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