Originally Posted by the big bambino
Include Fleetwood Smith here? If so then he helped win an ashes in Adelaide and defend them at Leeds. Not bad for 7 or 8 tests against Eng. True his ave was 37/wkt but were were distorted by his last test at the Oval.
There is a very interesting piece on Chinaman bowlers in Trevor Bailey and Trueman's The Spinner's Web
Although the name originated in the Caribbean, most of the leading exponents have come from Australia where the orthodox left arm leg spinner (finger spinner) has never been the dominating figure that he has been in English cricket. For more than a hundred years it has been impossible to imagine a Yorkshire XI, who, frequently, has also been an automatic choice for our national side. As a reult, a young left hander in England would be well advised to be an orthodox finger spinner because he is more likely to be successful in this role than as a wrist spinner and would not require as long an apprenticeship.
Leslie "Chuck" Fleetwood-Smith (1935-1938) : 42 wkts in 10 tests at 37.4 each
The first great Australian chinaman and googly bowler was Fleetwood Smith, O'Reilly reckoned he was the most naturally talented spinner he had ever seen, but he lacked the dedication required to devote himself exclusively to this trade and was a bon viveur, Handsome, with a keen sense of humour, the ability to embarass great batsmen and his ceaseless pursuit of the good life, he would provided provided plenty of copy for today's media and . . . been a natural for television.
At his peak and in the mood, particularly against the best players, he was surely the finest bowler of this type in the history of the game. because he was able to turn the ball on even the perfect pitches of the thirties. Unlike most bowlers, he was often not interested in removing the tail, yet he took 295 wickets for Victoria on 31 occasions and in only 10 Tests his bag was 42.
While on the subject of Fleetwood-Smith, I find it impossible not to write about this real "character" and for this one can do no better than read his eminently readable biography A Wayward Genius
by Greg Growden. Since I do not have this volume ready at hand I quote from Jeremy Malies Great Characters from Cricket's Golden Age
The piece comprising an entire chapter starts dramatically . . .
Under a 30 point banner headline, the Melbourne Argus for Tuesday 25th March 1969, describes the theft of a handbag on the previous Sunday by two vagrants in the vicinity of Flinders Street Railway Station, Melbourne.The incident would probably have warranted no more than half a column-inch were it not for the fact that one of the vagrants was a former Australian Test cricketer and, probably, the most gifted spin bowler the game has seen.
Rebellious from the cradle, Chuck (a nickname from a family joke about the Polo term "chukka") proved rebellios almost from cradle . . . playing truant from school and finding in the herding of wild goats a favourite pastime, bringing a couple of dozen or more into the schoolyard to go through the school children's lunch boxes. A naturally gifted sportsman, excelling at Autralian rules football, tennis and cricket he was fascinated by the new weapon in the game introduced by Bosanquet.
Sent to the exclusive Xavier Colleg in the Melbourne subarbs, Chuck was probably expelled in 1924. The school magazine records in the obituary tributes that he smoked a pipe from the age of 14 and carried a hip-flask and dated girls several years his seniors. He returned to Stawell where he was arrested, alongwith 20 or more youth for underage drinking, promptly reported by his father by name in his Stawell News
Extremely good looking, dapper and poised with a liberal allowance of pocket money, the teenager would board trains bound for Melbourne or Adelaide armed with a bottle of whiskey, frquently seducing female socialites in the sleeper cars.
In 1930, his parents packed him off to Melbourne after making him promise that he would conceal the fact that he was Catholic but he seemed to have behaved himself initially and the regular cricket practice resulted in his being spotted by Bill Ponsford who offered him trials with St Kilda CC. Bert Ironmonger, who he was to be standby for, when the senior was on state or Test duty, seems to have taken the youngster in his wings.
He switched to Melbourne CC towards the end of 31-32 and was included in the Victoria side to play the visiting South Africans. He took 6 for 80.
He demonstrated methods entirely his own, turned the ball considerably and posed problems which the South African batsmen found difficult to resolve." wrote the Melbourne Age.
Based on this performance, Arthur Mailey selected him for a private tour to America. He was a bad sailor but once recovered spent a lot of his time chasing skirt. In New York he met Yankees Pitcher Vernon 'Lefty' Gomez , an eccentric clown himself and an incorrigible womanizer. The two were 'inseparable' over the weekend.
His reputation with both ball and around skirts and booze was spreading.
On tour he took 238 wickets at 7.5 each.
As the English team under Jardine was starting its tour, Chuck took 6 for 22 against Queensland. England had not played a chinaman bowler of high quality for ages. Jardine got convinced that Fleetwood Smith could win the Ashes single handedly for Australia. He told Hammond to hammer Chuck out of the attack when MCC played Victoria. Hammond scored 203 consistently driving Chuck's off-breaks through covers. The press went to town and he was not considered by the Australian selectors although he had been a strong contender.
He took 50 wickets in that domestic season and 53 in the next at 21.9 and 26.1 respectively. This earned him a berth on the touring side for 1934 to England.
He matched Grimmett and Orielly wicket for wicket on the tour with the three of them taking hundred wickets each and being head and shoulders above the rest of the attack. Here are the figures of the three wrist spinners during that English summer . . .
Bowler Overs Wkts Avg St Rate
Tiger O'Reilly 5220 109 17 47.9
Fleetwood-Smith 4283 106 19.2 40.4
Grimmett 5914 109 19.8 54.3
Only three wickets separate Chuck from his legendary fellow wrist spinner but he bowled 1600+ balls less than Grimmett and almost a 1000 less than O'Reilly !!
He warmed the bench as the two leg spinners ran through England Test after Test.
Chuck shrugged off his disappointment of not playing in the Tests and worked his way through a succession of hat-check girls and waitresses.
He was again in the team that went to South Africa in 1935-36. He met with great success in games leading up to the Tests and Mailey, now writing for a paper wrote,
Man who must be watched
While the fast men pounded fruitlessly over the turf, 'Chuck" had the time of his life. Here potentially is the Australian bowler who will cause most concern to the cream of South Africa's batsmen . . He is a nonchalant cricketer with the puckish mannerisms of Patsy Hendren.
Chuck played in the Durban Test and took 4 for 64 on debut. South African great Herbie Taylor wrote, "The batting tactics gave the visitors too much of a moral ascendency. Fleetwood-Smith alone commanded respect with devilish turn and lift."
He played three tests in the 1936-37 Ashes tour by Gubby Allen's side and took 5 wickets in the second innings of the third Test to bowl Australia to a big win. In the next test he took four in the first and six in the second innings and along with O'reilly (1 and 4) helped Australia to another big win. Four more wickets in the last Test gave him 19 wickets in the three tests he played in the series. Here are his figures alongside O'Reilly's for the series.
Bowler Tests Wkts Avg St Rate
Tiger O'Reilly 5 25 22.2 79.3
Fleetwood-Smith 3 19 24.4 55.4
Clearly he matched Q'Reilly as a strike bowler in the series and his strike rate, once again was far superior.
In the fourth Test of this series, Fleetwood produced the ball of his career.
In the first over of the morning Chuck produced the ball of his caree, a wickedly spun Chinaman that drifted away in the air before biting sharply, finding a gate and knocking Hammond's leg stump out of the ground. Chuck went down on his knees before performing a jig. He then strolled over to his skipper, Don Bradman, and enquired, "Was that what you wanted Goldie?"
With the possible exception of Shane Warne's dismissal of Mike Gatting at Old Trafford in 1993, it remains the ball of the century. For Neville Cardus, Chuck had been 'suddenly visited by genius' Cardus writes in his report of the day's play . . .
Fleetwood won the match by wonderful spin. He overwhelmed Hammond, Leyland and Ames with balls deadly in their swift break and beautiful in their seductive curve through the air. . . . I can not imagine the batsman who could have avoided for long the snares of Fleetwood-Smith. It can hardly be said that England collapsed. They got out by the inexorable law of cause and effect.
No cricketer has yet evolved a technique which will cope with the quick spinning-away ball. . . . Fleetwood-Smith has three tricks for the bewildering of his antoganists - his googly is waspish, and is hard to discover,; he also bowls a top-spinner, and the left hander's usual break from leg. In this engagement he mingled these tricks craftily, and kept his length good enough to make his long-hops and full tosses most artful blandishments.
In the morning's first over Fleetwood-Smith practically settled the issue. A lovely ball lured Hammond forward, broke at the critical length, evaded the bat, and bowled England's pivot and hope. The crowd roared their joy and sent three cheers into the sunshine for Fleetwood-Smith while Bradman ran to him and shook his hand.
The achievement set the crown on the most skillful and artistic bowler of the day. I know of no rarer beauty in the game than the slow spinning ball which compels a great batsman to reach forward against his inclinations, and whips across even as his bat gropes in the void.
. . . Some purist in the crowd stated that Fleetwood's trouble is that he often pitches too short or too full. But this is the secret of his ability to worry the finest defence. His bad bowling can never really be trusted. At any moment he is likely to spin an unplayable masterpiece. For folks who love cricket for other than competitive reasons, the capriciousness of Fleetwood-Smith's attack is a constant delight. Test matches, nowadays, are more or less in the control of precise mechanics who usually know what they are doing because they are attempting little and seldom venturing into the regions of the fantastic, or even the uncommon.
. . . Whenever Fleetwood-Smith dropped a slow alluring length, the ball as it struck the dry earth changed the pitch to a fast 'sticky dog', as cricketers say. The bowling was inspired by the evil spirit of the grotesque. I have seldom seen bowling more incalculable and original than this.
O'Rielly found the pitch so unhelpful that in vain he tried to spin the ball for eighty-five minutes. He then resorted to methods that called for collaboration of the leg-trap. Fleetwood-Smith alone could evoke the demons hidden in the ground.
~Neville Cardus reporting on the Ashes series of 1936-37 for the Manchester Guardian
. The entire series coverage is published in the form of a delightful book called Australian Summer
to be continued