John William Henry Tyler Douglas (3 September 1882 – 19 December 1930) was an English cricketer who was active in the early decades of the twentieth century. Douglas was an all-rounder who played for Essex County Cricket Club from 1901 to 1928 and captained the county from 1911 to 1928. He also played for England and captained the England team both before and after the First World War with markedly different success. As well as playing cricket, Douglas was a notable amateur boxer who won the middleweight gold medal at the 1908 Olympic Games.
Douglas was the son of John Herbert Douglas (1853-1930) and Julia Ann (ne Tyler) and was born at Stoke Newington, London in what is now Belfast Road. He was educated at Moulton Grammar School and Felsted School and joined his father’s wood-importing firm, which supported his amateur status in cricket and boxing. Douglas also played football once for the England amateur side (occasion unknown, through loss of records). He served in the Bedfordshire Regiment throughout World War I, eventually as major (acting lieutenant-colonel).
In 1908 Douglas won an Olympic gold medal as a middleweight boxer. All three of his bouts, including the final, described by The Times as “one of the most brilliant exhibitions of skilful boxing, allied to tremendous hitting, ever seen.”, were held on the same day. The silver medal winner, Snowy Baker, 44 years later falsely claimed that Douglas’s father was the sole judge and referee.
Baker never publicly contested the close points verdict which Douglas, who scored a second-round knockdown over him and won in their Olympic final. Yet, in a 1952 interview, he claimed that Douglas’s father had refereed the fight, leading to widespread suspicion of a dodgy decision. In reality Douglas senior was at ringside, to present the medals, in his role as president of the Amateur Boxing Association of England (ABA). The real referee was Eugene Corri, who did not have to give a casting vote as the two judges agreed that Douglas was a narrow winner. Douglas Jr, his father and his younger brother, Cecil (‘Pickles’) were all prominent referees and officials in the ABA, the last also being the leading referee in the professional sport in the 1930s. Besides his Olympic gold, Douglas also won the 1905 ABA middleweight title.
Douglas was an untiring fast-medium bowler and obdurate batsman who was nicknamed with a play on his initials JWHT as “Johnny Will Hit Today”, or conversely “Johnny Won’t Hit Today” by Australian hecklers. He captained the school teams at Felsted and was a member of Wanstead C.C. He played for Essex in 1902 and for London County in 1903. In 1904 he returned to Essex where he remained, captaining the side from 1911 to 1928. He played for England before and after the First World War. Douglas was named as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1915, but play was suspended during the war years. After the war until 1923 had to carry Essex’s bowling on his shoulders except when George Louden turned out. He took over 100 wickets in a season seven times with a best of 147 in 1920. The following year against Derbyshire he produced perhaps the most remarkable all-round performance in English first-class cricket history. After taking nine for 47, Douglas stopped a breakdown against Bill Bestwick with an unbeaten 210 that tired him so much he did not bowl until the end of Derbyshire’s second innings. He then took two for none, giving him a match record of eleven for 47.
Douglas captained England eighteen times, with a Test match record of won eight, lost eight, drawn two. Successful as stand-in captain in Australia in 1911, he won the series 4-1. On the 1920/21 tour of Australia he led a depleted post-war side which suffered a 0-5 ‘whitewash’, a scoreline not repeated in an Ashes series until the 2006/7 England team lost by the same margin. Reappointed reluctantly by the M.C.C. in 1921, he lost the first two Tests at home to Warwick Armstrong‘s side and was displaced as captain but retained in the XI. He captained England in one further Test match, against South Africa in July 1924, and played his final Test on the 1924/25 England tour of Australia.