Category Archives: bowling

Scary red balls!

Poster from 1890.  Guess the lady batting looks a little bit frightened...

Poster from 1890. Guess the lady batting looks a little bit nervous…

I was listening to an  interview on our audio archive this morning.  Ken Medlock talks about all kinds of cricket related topics, ( http://mcc.adlibhosting.com/Details/archive/110000610), I was really interested by what he had to say about cricket balls and how they are made, during this section the interviewer David Rayvern Allen suddenly drops in a comment about blue cricket balls being used for the women’s game so ladies wouldn’t be frightened by the red balls!  A myth surely?  Like piano legs being covered up for decency’s  sake in Victorian times.  I had to find out – and found evidence that they did exist almost straight away.

According to an exhibition catalogue from a 1963 exhibition of women’s cricketana

“The BLUE BALL made specially by Alfred Reader at the request of Gamages Ltd. in 1897 to ensure that lady cricketers would not swoon at the sight of a red one did not prove practical as it could not be seen again the background of grass and sky.  Of interest is the fact that the weight of this ball, of which a limited supply was produced, is 5 ozs., the same as has been used by women cricketers since 1926.  The ball on exhibit is the only preserved memento of this curious experiment.”

Where is this ball?  We don’t have it, it doesn’t say who owned it in the catalogue – I want to see it!  If anyone has seen a blue ball can you let me know?  I would also like to hear from any ladies (or indeed gents) who have ever found themselves in a state of terror at the sight of a red ball.  This is all intriguing stuff!

fear

…actually, they ARE pretty frightening!

(Bibliography – 1745-1963: Exhibition of Women’s Cricketana by Molly Hide and Netta Rheinberg.)

Photography by Alan Rees.

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Filed under archive, bowling, Cricket, cricket balls, History, lady members, women's cricket

Too late?

Last week I had my first go at cricket.  I’m 35 years old and have been a cricket fan for 8 years but until last week had never bowled, caught or hit a ball.  I have never intentionally avoided it, the opportunity just never arose, we didn’t play cricket at school, I never came across any friends playing in the park.  I’ve actually been eager to have a go for sometime, but until now have never known anyone who has the gear.

So how did it go?  Well I wasn’t very good!  The batting was OK, although I think my friend was bowling quite easy ones at me, I did really enjoy the batting I loved the feel and sound of leather striking willow with a nice firm thwack, and didn’t even mind that I ended up with bruises all over my right palm (probably due to poor technique).  The bowling was way harder.  It feels so weird having to keep your arm straight.  I founding attempting a run up too difficult, running while doing a windmill thing with my arms – my limbs wouldn’t stay coordinated.  I tried it without a run up but couldn’t seem to generate enough power to get the ball all the way down the pitch (22 yards is actually a really long way).  My friend eventually gave up trying to teach me a run up and let me bowl my balls from half way down the pitch, which made it easier.  I think I’m more of a batsman.

taking a shot

So what’s next for my cricketing career?  Have a left it too late to realise my obvious potential and take my talent on to the international stage?  I would have thought so…until I came across James Southerton while cataloguing some old photographs.  Our cataloguing team here at the MCC are working our way though a massive collection of old photos, some still currently completely uncatalogued.

J Southerton 2nd from left center row (with a rather sinister looking WG Grace 2nd from right)

J Southerton 2nd from left center row (with a rather sinister looking WG Grace 2nd from right)

I’ve been working on this rather marvelous photo of the United South of England Eleven taken in 1875.  I was entering the details of all the figures onto our persons index and was very interested to read that James Southerton was (and remains) the oldest test debutant.  He made his debut at the age of 49 years and 119 days!  He did OK too, taking 3 wickets in a match against Australia, he also played in the following test before retiring from the international game to run a pub.  The important thing is it means there’s hope for me.  If I spend the next 15 years sorting out my bowling action, get my limbs coordinated and manage to get the ball all the way to the other end maybe I could be the one to break his record.  It’s something to aim for.  Wish me luck!

James Southerton - he made his debut at an age that all international cricketers these days would have retired by!

James Southerton – he made his debut at an age that all international cricketers these days would have retired by!

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Filed under Australia, bowling, cataloguing, Cricket, Cricket records, England, History, MCC, test cricket, WG Grace, women's cricket

Death of a Cricketer

Obviously a big death is in the news at the moment.  How we should remember her? what type of funeral? etc.  It’s got me thinking about death (cheery I know) and reminded me of the week I spent cataloging memorial and funeral service brochures.  Some of them were moving, some sad, some uplifting.  Here are a few of my favourites.

Larwood mem

As you may know if you read my ‘Villains?’ a few weeks ago Harold Larwood was a somewhat controversial figure due to the part he played in bodyline bowling.  Yet many believed his disgrace was ill deserved and the Rector’s words reflect this in the opening address.

“Harold lived as he bowled – honestly, steadfastly and wholeheartedly.  For various reasons, which are now part of the game’s history, he was not always appreciated but despite this he continued his spell with fortitude and preserved his own integrity.”

A very nicely put tribute I think.

Don Bradman mem

I like this one because it’s nice and joyful.  I love the picture on the front, it’s so 1930s and reminds me what incredible times this man saw (as well as being an incredible cricketer).  I think the cartoon on the back with the umpires signal of ‘out’ is touching and funny.

owzat DonMy very favourite though, makes me feel sad.

Hedley Verity mem

Unlike the first two, his life was cut short violently and prematurely   At just 38 he died in Italy as a prisoner of war from wounds received during an attack on a German battalion in Sicily.  Before he went missing in action his last known words were “keep going, keep going” urging his men on in the attack.  At first there was hope he might have survived his wounds and be in a prisoner of war camp but word was received of his death and the Telegraph & Argus paid this moving tribute on 2 September 1943…

Wherever good cricket is appreciated, wherever sportsmanship is accepted as an indication of character, wherever men are honoured not because they are wealthy or gifted, but because they are in the true sense of the word men, there will the name of Hedley Verity be ever respected.

The humble last resting place of Hedley Verity.

(Memorial and funeral service brochures are among the many interesting and quirky items that can be viewed in the Lord’s Museum, Archive and Library.  Catalogue available on-line soon.) As well as a brave and well respected man he was a great bowler with the best first-class average in his day and the only man to take 14 wickets in a single day in a test match.  His death was a terrible waste of talent.

Here’s me hunting for interesting things to show you.

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Filed under Australia, bowling, cataloguing, Cricket, death, England, History, injury, Librarianship, MCC

Villains?

A few words about the men who cause the brave cricketers' injuries.

A few words about the men who cause the ‘brave’ cricketers’ injuries.

Last week I dealt with the heroics of cricketers who played on in-spite of nasty injuries.  But what about the cricketers who cause injury to others?  The villains (depending on you point of view!).  Here are a few possible candidates.

Grievous Bodily Harmison –  On the first day of the Ashes 2005 Stephen Harmison took 5-43 in an extremely aggressive spell.  He hit Justin Langer on the elbow, broken Matthew Hayden’s helmet and smashed the grille on Ponting’s helmet causing a dramatic looking gash on his cheek.  Ricky Pointing recalls the moment in his Ashes Diary

“There was no pain, just a ringing feeling as the impact of the blow reverberated around my head.  I felt fine, but pretty quickly I began to feel something trickling down the side of my face, and when I looked at my shirt I could see bloody dripping onto it.”

A delighted Steve Harmison celebrates Damien Martyn's wicket

It was generally felt that England were attempting to show intent with this aggression.  It was not only the style of bowling that was aggressive but it was noticeable that Harmison did not approach any of the Australian batsmen to see if they were OK after they had been struck.  It was also felt that England were being unnecessarily aggressive in the field when throwing the ball at the stumps while the batsman was in his ground – Pointing accused Vaughan and his team of “macho posturing”.

So is Steve Harmison a villain?  Steve Harmison himself was later to describe the moment as one of the worst of his career.  And he was not referring to the balls he bowl but the fact he failed to show the courtesy of checking that the batsmen were alright.  I do sort of agree with him, it’s always nice to see good manners even in the heat of battle.  On the other hand I doubt Ponting would have welcomed his concern, in another match he was hit by Matt Prior while fielding at silly point, Prior asked if he was OK and Pointings reply was apparently a colourful range of expletives!   England were attempting to show a different, more competitive side and I think they went too far.  I won’t condemn Harmison as a villain however, as he has shown remorse, just a temporary bully.  What do you think?

The cut required 8 stitches.

The cut required 8 stitches.

The West Indian Pace Quartets – these men were not only accused of bullying bowling tactics but of altering the whole game of cricket for the worse!

“Until we can breed 7 ft monsters willing to break bones and shatter faces, we cannot compete against these threatening West Indians.  Even the umpires seem be scared that devilish-looking Richards might put a voodoo sign on them!” (from a letter to Wisden Cricket Monthly, June 1990)

“Their game is founded on vengeance and violence and is fringed by arrogance.” (David Frith. editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly, 1991)

Bloody Windies! England tour of terror.’ (News of the World headline 1994)

The main accusation against the West Indian team was that they relied on violence and fear to get wickets rather than skill.  And that this tactic resulted in games than were less interesting to watch as they lacked bowling variety.  Fast aggressive bowling was nothing new but their speed and their use of four fast bowlers rather than the more traditional two gave batsmen little respite from the onslaught.

Mike Gatting had lost part of his nose after being hit in the face by a ball from Marshall

Mike Gatting lost part of his nose after being hit in the face by a ball from Marshall

So were these players villains?  Injuries were caused but then injuries have always been a feature of cricket as last week’s blog demonstrated, did they deserve the special vilification they sometimes attracted?  The allegation that they relied on terror is under serious dobt, the introduction of the one-bouncer per over rule in 1991 did little to dent the team’s success rate, so arguments that the relied on intimidation and lacked talent appear unfounded.   As to intimidation and aggression these are a traditional tactics to restrict a batsman’s scoring options, and unlike with Bodyline (see below), the fields set did give talented batsmen some scoring options.

Michael Holding bowling

“It would be naive and misleading of me to claim that I never bowl bouncers without trying to intimidate the batsmen. On the contrary, I want him to be aware that if he gets on the front foot against me he might find himself in trouble – in other words he might get hurt. But that is quite a different thing from actually wanting or intending to hurt him. I have no desire to hurt anyone.” (Michael Holding)

I don’t think the West Indies pace attacks were villains, just talented aggressive fast bowlers.  I also find the arguments of Savidge and McLellan quite convincing, in that much of the criticism levelled  at the West Indian quicks was tinged with jealousy, sour grapes, and at times, racism.

The Bodyliners – Now for the big one!  Possibly the most vilified group of cricketers in cricketing history.

So bad they almost caused an international incident! - Cable from the ABC to MCC.

So bad they almost caused an international incident! – Cable from the ABC to MCC.

Described as ‘leg theory’ by it’s proponents but more commonly know as ‘bodyline’ – bodyline bowling involves the bowler pitching the ball short and directed at the batsman’s torso or head while the majority of fielders are places on the leg-side.  It wasn’t a new technique, it was often used to restrict runs, what was different in the 1932-33 Ashes was the speed at which the ball was being bowled by Harold Larwood and Bill Voce greatly increasing the chance of injury to the batsmen.  During the series most Australian batsmen were struck resulting in a number of injuries.  It was thought captain Douglas Jardine chose to using this controversial style of bowling in an attempt to restrain the mighty Don Bradman.

So was there villainy afoot?  And if so who were the villains?  Amateur captain Jardine the mastermind, or professional bowlers Voce and Larwood who followed his orders to the letter?  Or none of them?  Or all three?

Jardine is often seen as the most likely candidate of the three for villainy.  An old school amateur cricketer, upper-class and utterly unapologetic about his choice of ‘win at all costs’ tactics.  Larwood also comes in for heavy criticism especially as he was the one who bowled the ball which hit Australian Captain Woodfull over the heart leaving him reeling in agony.

"the most unsportsmanlike act ever witnessed on an Australian ground." Selector Bill Johnson's verdict on that Larwood delivery.

“the most unsportsmanlike act ever witnessed on an Australian ground.” Selector Bill Johnson’s verdict on that Larwood delivery.

It does seem, however, that the Australians forgave Larwood, he eventually emigrated to Australia and was well received.  Perhaps the former miner was a more likeable figure than the reticent upper-class Jardine.

The bodyline incident was a very unpleasant event in the history of cricket.  Larwood is hard to condemn as a villain, he was treated appallingly by the MCC post-bodyline and physically paid a high price for following his captain’s orders.  Jardine is harder to forgive so I’ve decided that he does qualify for a degree of villainy.

Finally – not a causer of injury, but the biggest villain of the bunch!  I was reading a story which I thought might be a strong contender for inclusion in my blog on heroes.  In 1919 in a match between Sussex and Somerset the scores were level with Sussex 9 wickets down, their number 11, H J Heygate, had problems with rheumatism and was crippled with pain.  But he bravely hobbled out to the wicket as he knew his team needed him.  He arrived at the crease and Somerset’s L. Braund immediately appealed to the umpire.  Heygate was given out as it had taken him longer than 2 minutes to arrive at the crease and the game was declared a draw to the disgust of the crowd.  Now that really wasn’t cricket.  What a villain!

bowler

(Further reading : Ashes Diary 2005 by Ricky Ponting & Brian Murgatroyd, Real Quick: A Celebration of the West Indies Pace Quartets by Michele Savidge & Alastair McLellan, Cricket’s Hall of Shame by Dave Warner – all available in the MCC library)

NB – This post was inspired by philgreaney.wordpress.com

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Filed under Australia, bowling, British Empire, Cricket, England, History, injury, MCC, Umpiring, West Indies

Six of the best

Zoe and graceI’ve now been working on Taking the Field for six whole months, and to celebrate I’ve selected my six very favourite digital stories from the website.  Please listen to them and let me know if you agree.

Here’s the count down…

At six – A Good Place for People to grow up

http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/abcc-good-place-people-grow

ABPh116a - Friday night youth (2)

I like this one partly because I’m just drawn to the lovely voices.  It’s an aspect of oral history I really enjoy, the tone of a voice gives so much more feeling than reading words in a book.  As to the content, I love the fact that the club has been a home to Fred for such a long time and that it’s just as central to the lives of today’s children as it was in the 1950s.

At five – How a feather and a glacier mint were a must for cricket coaches in Chirbury in the 1930’s

http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/how-feather-and-glacier-mint-were-must-cricket-coaches-chirbury-1930s-0

This shows that the neglect of cricket in schools is not a new development.  I wish I could have met Mr Shaw, it sounds like he provided the type of cricket lesson I would have responded well to!  I’m looking for someone to teach me cricket at the moment but no one I know who plays will volunteer, if only I had a Mr Shaw in my life.

At four – In at the Deep End

http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/chorleywood-cc-deep-end

CWPh289 - Club Day 11 (action)

I just love the drama of this story, it’s well told and really easy to imagine the moment and the bowler’s emotion.  (Plus I just love the ‘ASBO’ line!)

At three –  Grounds (1): The tea ladies and Royal Hill Road

http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/spondon-ccs-grounds-1-tea-ladies-and-royal-hill-road

I love the historical documents and photos in this one, you really feel like you’re getting a good look into their history.  The video’s great too, (although I didn’t know who Brian Clough was and had to look him up).  My favourite thing about this one is that it once again demonstrates the amazing contribution women have made to their clubs since the very beginning.

At two – Playing for the Pits

http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/playing-pits

Ernie Barber rescue team

I feel this one gives a fascinating glimpse into a lost world.  I was brought up in a mining village (although not in Wales) so I think this story represents part of my heritage, I can just about remember how much the closure of the pits transformed our community.  It makes me quite sad.

At one – The Final Over

http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/final-over

My very favourite story!  It’s another sad one, but I actually find it quite uplifting.  I won’t spoil it – listen for yourselves.

Darky waiting to go in - away at Savile Stars 2011a

(If any of you are in clubs/know of clubs who’d like to get involved with TTF, please get in touch – you never know one of your stories might make my next top six!)

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Filed under bowling, children, club cricket, Cricket, cricket grounds, digital stories, History, oral history, school cricket