In TandemMartin Chandler |
Author: Ferriday, Patrick
Publisher: Von Krumm Publishing
Rating: 3.5 stars
Big hitting batsmen and genuinely fast bowlers are the spectacles most likely to convert the non-believer to cricket’s cause, and by the same token books on those subjects have every chance of appealing to prospective purchasers who are not already in the habit of buying cricket books. So, just in time for the Christmas present market, Patrick Ferriday has published his perspective on the great fast bowling pairs the game has seen.
There are no prizes for guessing the eleven combinations that Ferriday chooses to focus on, and none will prove controversial. These are satisfying and rounded essays that have clearly been thoroughly researched. Running to around 8,000 words each they capture the personalities as well as the careers of the men involved, and are a rewarding read even for those of us who already know much about the individuals concerned.
In Tandem is organised chronologically, so it begins with Jack Gregory and Ted MacDonald, and concludes with Alan Donald and Shaun Pollock. Those familiar with Ferriday’s writing will know that he always explains his reasoning and there are a number of shorter essays interspersed with the meat of the book explaining why some pairs are included and others aren’t. Thus if you think the likes of Larwood and Voce, Amar Singh and Nissar and Willis and Botham deserve a slot you at least get an explanation as to why they are not there. Ferriday also uses these passages to give honourable mentions to the lone wolves, the great men of fast bowling who lacked a regular partner
The most thought provoking element of the book, and one which could certainly spawn a sequel, comes in the very first of these ‘fillers’. Ferriday gives the essay the Before The Lights Went Out, one he borrows from his own first book, an account of the 1912 Triangular Tournament. Although he doesn’t say so in quite such bold terms Ferriday’s view is clear, that being that before Gregory and MacDonald there was no such thing as fast bowling, and that Warwick Armstrong was the first captain to unleash a pair of fast bowlers at the opposition.
Whether Ferriday is right or not, on either count, these are contentious questions that cricket lovers can argue about for hours without fear of anyone being able to offer a definitive answer. All of the evidence is hearsay, and what little does exist in film archives does as much to obfuscate as it does to clarify. What we can see from old newsreels however is that Harold Larwood was bloody quick, and the footage on youtube that Ferriday helpfully refers to clearly indicates that Gregory was not all that far behind him in terms of pace.
Ferriday is dismissive of the speed of ‘The Demon’ and ‘The Terror’, Fred Spofforth and Charlie Turner, and quite rightly so given that both were clearly medium pacers. It is trickier however to do the same for three Englishmen, Charles Kortright, Tom Richardson and Bill Lockwood. There is no film at all of Kortright, but some who saw him never wavered from their assertions that he was the fastest ever, and these were men who also saw Larwood bowl.
Tom Richardson has a great reputation, and his wicket taking feats in the 1890s were prodigious. And therein surely lies the reality. In his peak years Richardson was sending down more than 8,000 deliveries in a summer. No one with such a workload could possibly bowl at full pace consistently, and whilst his county colleague Lockwood was not worked so hard he, a genuine all-rounder, had batting duties in addition. Lockwood also, unlike Richardson as far as I am aware, from time to time suffered from those very human frailties of injury and loss of form.
There is mention for all three of Kortright, Richardson and Lockwood from Ferriday but he is clearly not impressed by their claims to being genuinely fast, and there are others who merit a reference as well. One man who doesn’t is Lancashire’s Arthur Mold, who once prompted the comment from Neville Cardus that Mold’s speed was so terrific that the Kent batsmen apparently couldn’t see the ball.
Mold’s reputation is blighted by the suggestion that he had an illegal action. In fact so strongly held was that view that at one meeting of county captains only Archie MacLaren, Lancashire of course, was prepared to back the legitimacy of the Mold delivery. All contemporary writers say that as he got older Mold slowed down, and he was 37 when Cardus saw the match he was describing, so what would Sir Neville have made of Mold in his prime? Having said that I must of course acknowledge that Cardus, a man with as rosy a pair of rose tinted spectacles as anyone, was just twelve when he watched the match he was describing having seen only one game of cricket previously, and that he waited almost fifty years to write the piece in question.
In 1901 Mold was filmed bowling in the nets, the reel concerned being found only a few years ago (it is now available on Youtube). I don’t know if Ferriday has seen that, although if he had it would certainly not have impacted on his views. The somewhat portly Mold takes a short run and bowls at a distinctly pedestrian pace. He was however 38 by then and as importantly his arm appears perfectly straight, so strongly suggestive of the fact that the film is in no way representative of the way Mold bowled in his heyday.
As to the period when Mold was at the peak of his powers that was in the early 1890s, and in 1893 he was selected for all three home Tests against Australia. In the drawn first Test, in the manner of the times, England skipper Drewy Stoddart began Australia’s only innings with Lockwood and an orthodox left arm spinner, Bobby Peel, with Mold first change. In the second, won by England by an innings, a different captain, the legendary WG Grace, started in the first innings with Mold and Lockwood, and second time round with Mold and his county teammate Johnny Briggs, another left arm spinner. The third Test was another draw and was Richardson’s Test debut. He opened up with Mold in the first innings, before in the second Briggs rather than Mold shared the new ball with Richardson. So was not 1893 the first time a pair of fast bowlers opened the bowling in a Test match?
I perhaps ought to apologise to Ferriday for taking up most of my review of his book with a digression, but in my defence I do so in order to highlight one of the strengths of his writing, that it does make his reader think. Primarily though I am sure In Tandem is intended to enlighten its audience on the subject of the pairs of fast bowlers whose stories make up the bulk of the book. I cannot fault the way Ferriday does that, the stories of the men who have not previously been the subject of books, Jack Gregory, Neil Adcock, Peter Heine, Sarfraz Nawaz, Andy Roberts and Sean Pollock being particularly valuable. The writing of In Tandem was certainly an excellent use of Patrick Ferriday’s time, and I sincerely hope the book sells sufficient copies to encourage him to embark on another project very soon.