HE was one of the greatest sportsmen of his era and, courtesy of an imposing bushel of trademark facial hair, easily the most recognisable.

Now the England cricket management have hinted that WG Grace could be recalled to international duty following the side’s latest debacle.

It is a bold and imaginative move with, alas, one fatal flaw – the free-scoring 166-year-old hasn’t walloped a leather-clad sphere of string and cork since departing for that big crease in the sky in 1915.

Impossible not to grin, really, when the satirical website The Daily Mash reported this diverting snippet of nonsense following England’s humiliating exit from the World Cup.

But with the centenary of the Father of Cricket’s death approaching later this year it is worth reflecting that The Doctor, as he was sometimes known, performed his manly magic in Swindon on several occasions, both at Faringdon Road Park and The County Cricket Ground, next to the football stadium.

The burly, bearded Bristolian also – and this is sweet – suffered one of the greatest humiliations of his immense, record-shattering career at the hands of a humble Swindon railway worker.

He was further involved in something of a farce when twins turned out for the Great Western Railway side in Swindon– prompting an irate Grace to accuse the GWR of putting in the same man into bat twice.

Widely considered one of the world’s greatest all-time players, and a key figure in the development of the game, the Force of Nature that was William Gilbert Grace played first class cricket for a record-equaling 44 seasons, from 1865 to 1908.

Details are scarce but we know the substantial wracker-upper-of-runs, who skippered numerous teams over the years, played in Swindon at least five times – probably a lot more.

In May, 1868 while opening the batting for the UK touring XI United South of England (USE) against the GWR, Young Grace – he was 19 – was bowled for ten in both innings by the same man, Edward D’Oyley Barratt

The three-day match – a 30 run victory for the Swindon lads — took place at Faringdon Road Park, then known as the GWR Ground which at the time was graced (sorry) with a cricket pavilion.

Same venue, same fixture the following year, Grace notched-up 23 in the first innings without batting in the second as the USE ran out ten-wicket winners.

The match, however, was memorable for, as Swindon historian Frederick Large put it, “a most unusual and remarkable incident.”

Tom Hogarth had already batted for the GWR but when his identical twin George trotted out, Grace, presumably with a furrowed brow, “closely scrutinised the newcomer” and “with some heat protested strongly against the unheard of proceeding.”

Never amiss to a spot of gamesmanship himself, WG suspected the Swindon club was attempting to play the same batsman twice – an outrageous slur upon the spirit of the game.

After Grace had huffily called his men off in protest, brother Tom was summoned from the pavilion and instructed to pad up. Examining them side-by-side, WG concluded that he had no idea which one had already batted.

Satisfied that no trickery had been exerted, he instructed his team to return and play ball.

Appearing for Stapleton against the GWR that year, he cheerfully whacked our boys around the park for 111. But the following year… humiliation.

Turning out for Bedminster against Swindon at Greenway Bush Lane, Bristol on May 7, 1870 Grace was caught and bowled for a duck by 25 year-old GWR worker John Laverick.

Back to make amends in the second innings, the Good Doctor’s scalp was again acquired for a big, fat, delicious nought, courtesy of a gleeful Laverick.

Despite Grace’s “non-contribution” Bedminster won by eight wickets.

For a man who batted almost 1,500 first class innings, WG was only clobbered with a double-duck on three occasions.

We don’t know whether Laverick was a fast bowler, a spinner, or whatever. We do, however, know that in a sporting sense the Swindon foundry worker singed a very famous beard.