Ultimately a tragic figure, Johnny Briggs was a left arm bowler of classical style, with a looping flight, subtle spin, and considerable accuracy. Almost unplayable on wet wickets - his 2,221 first-class wickets costing only 16 runs apiece - he was also effective in less helpful conditions. He came into the Lancashire side as a dashing bat, with a sizzling cover drive, but in later years it was his bowling that kept him a first choice for England, as his batting suffered from impetuousness. He was a superb fielder, both to his own bowling, and at cover point. He toured Australia on six consecutive occasions, and in 1888/89 took 300 wickets at less than 5 runs each on a tour of South Africa. H.S.Altham wrote "With his round but resilient figure, his quips and pranks and generous heart, Johnny Briggs was immensely popular wherever he went, and as long as he was on the field the game was sure to be alive and human". His career ended when after being hit over the heart by a drive from Tom Hayward, he suffered an epileptic seizure during the 1899 Headingley Test against Australia. This brought on mental illness that resulted in a complete loss of confidence, and he was confined to an asylum eventually ending his days there. It is said that he would bowl up and down the wards, a sad end for a much loved and talented cricketer.
(Article: Copyright © 1998 Dave Liverman)