WG Grace: Victorian run machine

William Gilbert Grace, born in Bristol in 1848, was a true Victorian hero and arguably the most important figure in cricket history.

Grace's first-class career spanned 43 years from 1865-1908, an era in which he was totally dominant and laid the platform for the game as we know it today.

The raw statistics - more than 54,000 runs and 2,800 wickets - are impressive enough but tell only part of the story.

Instantly recognisable due to his trademark flowing beard, Grace was a masterful batsman who made light of the defective pitches common to the period.

His high backlift and willingness to play off both front and back foot marked him apart from those who had gone before.

Grace's feats for Gloucestershire and England, including 124 centuries, transformed the sport from 19th century pastime into a major spectator attraction.

He did not make his Test bow until the age of 32 when his skills were already on the wane and, although he scored 152 on debut, he was also part of his country's first home defeat two years later, a loss that marked the "death" of English cricket and the start of the Ashes.

Despite his amateur status, Grace was always able to make plenty of money from his cricketing activities, almost certainly more than any of his professional contemporaries, and was also noted for his gamesmanship.

His expertise extended beyond the boundaries of mere cricket. He was also doctor, albeit one who only finally qualified in his 30s after more than a decade of training as his extra-curricular activities took priority.