A lovely picture of Ted Macdonald bowling in a match.
A lovely picture of Ted Macdonald bowling in a match.
The long stop was one of the most important fielders in the side at one time. It appears laughable today and one would wonder what kind of nincompoops were keeping wickets if the best fielder had to be posted right behind the keeper almost on the fence. Well that has to do more with quality of wickets to start with than anything else.
Blackham became the first wicket keeper to stand up AND dispense with the long stop. It was looked at incredulously by the cricketing fraternity. It was unheard of. So whatever we say of standards, comparing to those days and the conditions as pevailed then, he must have been tremendous.
Bradman once saw a pair of gloves belonging to this "Prince amongst wicket-keepers" and was amazed at how little protection they offered. He writes ...
"He must have been stoic to have kept in them. Without doubt a modern player would have had his hands ruined if he was to use them for any length of time against fast bowling."
Denzil Batchelor, one of the greatest cricket writers of all time writes of Larwood...
There was no reason to suppose that Australian ascendency was to be challenged. And then came Larwood.
He came, as I remember, in that first Sydney Test, bowling with the press box behind him, with Allen, Voce, Leyland and Verity craning forward at short legs and silly mid on. He bowled faster than anyone I have ever seen bowl; faster than Lindwall, far faster than McCarthy. He bowled, according to my memory, far fewer bouncers than Voce; but he rose, at terriffic and dangerous pace, to threaten the short ribs; to threaten the heart. If you played a stroke at him, it was apt to be a defensive dab liable to send the ball in the hands of that on-side field. Such was leg theory and Larwood was the theorist transformed into lightening action. Those who argued against this form of attack said "it wasn't cricket. It got its effects, it got its wickets, from intimidation." Those who defended it said : "No game is worth playing by men without a spice of danger. Here is the game. There is the danger. Where are the men ?"
It remains to say that Larwood was (also) the most accurate bowler of all time.
For me the most interesting comment there is that his rising balls, rising at dangerous pace, did not threaten the head of the batsman. No, far from it. They did not even threaten the upper ribs. They threatened "the short ribs". They were frighteningly fast, deadly accurate, of a length and height that prevented you from playing a stroke and not high enough for you to duck under them at the last moment. No surprise that Larwood did not hit too many Australians nor could they get out of his way.
His great speed combined with his unerring accuracy made him, at his peak (which was at that time 1932-33) one of the greatest and fastest bowlers of all time if not the greatest.
Hence the legend of Larwood. Other than Bradman, I have read no account by any contemporary cricketer of Larwood (or writer) who did not stand in awe of his bowling at that time. The greatest tragedy of 1932-33 was not that the relations between England and Australia came to breaking point but that the reactions of the authorities deprived the game and posterity of one of the greatest spectacles we may have seen/read/heard in 1934 - Don Bradman (without doubt a phenomenon and the only player with the skill, the eye, the footwork to tackle this great bowler) getting to terms with Larwood bowling at his peak.
For me, Bradman's legacy is lessened by the removal of Larwood from the scene when both were at their peak.
Still a crying shame though.
He was another who met a tragic early end when he died in freakish circumstances at the age of just 46. Having collided with another car, he got out and moved to check on the other driver - only to be knocked down and killed by a third car as it then drove past.
" Gregory was without doubt the superior player because of his superlative fielding and fine batting but purely as a bowler, Macdonald was his superior.
The tall Victorian had a perfect rhythmic action, incredible stamina and real pace plus the ability to do things with the ball.
Taking everything into consideration, he would probably win a cricket Gallup Poll - take the points of the best of all fast bowlers. Very close behind him, in my opinion (on his 1948 form) is Ray Lindwall."
I have heard it said, by a man who to my certain knowledge met Jack Gregory, that the reason why MacDonald left Australia was because the authorities in Tasmania were after him for fraud - an Australian writer called Nick Richardson, who wrote a "biography" of Ricky Ponting has apparently written a biography of MacDonald but can't find a publisher - I suppose it's inevitable, but still sad, that publishers are more interested in a 2002 book about Punter than they are in a full length biography of one of the legendary figures of the game
this match He also got Archie Jackson and Vic Richardson to have the Aussies struggling at 49 for 3.
Maybe he won't have played enough matches though.
His FC record - 1,395 wickets at 20.76 - is wonderful though.
Even Ironmonger, who is never ranked in any list of truly great players and who played almost all his cricket in Australia, got his 464 first class wickets at 21.5.