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Thread: Larwood 'medium paced'

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    International Captain watson's Avatar
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    Larwood 'medium paced'

    Bob Crockett was a leading Australian umpire from 1901 and 1925 during which time he stood in 32 Tests. Wisden commented that; "He was held in high regard by everyone for his accurate decisions. Recognised by cricketers the world over as one of the finest umpires of his time, his quiet demeanour, unfailing good humour and strict impartiality endeared him to all players with whom he came in contact."

    Bob Crockett | Australia Cricket | Cricket Players and Officials | ESPN Cricinfo

    After he retired from umpiring he began writing for the South Australian newspaper THE MAIL. Here is one of his editorials from 31st December 1932.

    It should be noted that the date corresponds to Day 2 of the second Test in Melbourne during the Bodyline Series. Australia ended up winning the second Test by 111 runs thanks to a not out century by Bradman in the second innings, and a 10 wicket haul by Bill O'Reilly.



    Fast Bowlers I've Known

    By R. M. (Bob) CROCKETT, the World-famous Cricket Umpire

    Ernie Jones Acclaimed the Fastest — Australians have faced greater men than Larwood and Voce without flinching - 'Squealing' was discountenanced in pre-War days — Australia favored for the Ashes.


    WHAT is all this fuss about fast bowling? It has so captured the public mind that one might be forgiven for thinking that Jardlne and his men had introduced something new Into the glorious game of cricket. It is highly amusing to have an awe-stricken Australian steal to my side (I usually sit under the canopy in the members' reserve at the M.C.G.) and ask with oh! so serious an expression, 'What do yon think of this fast bowling attack? ls it playing the game?' Of course, it is. There have been fast bowlers in the past who, by comparison, would have made Larwood a medium-paced bowler. Batsmen were hit in those days, but nobody complained! I recall that on one occasion W. Barnes (not Sid the bowler) was hit by an Australian bowler, who offered his apologies. Barnes, how ever, brushed them aside with 'Serve me dam well right; haven't I got a bat in ma band?' And that was the philosophy of the great batsmen of other days. Today our batsmen go out to bat covered with armor almost like a knight-at-arms. There is the thigh padding, the chest protector, and a covering for the forearm. Perhaps they have caught the spirit of ancient days, and believe that they, too, must slay a dragon. To me this extra protection suggests a lack of courage, a dearth of enterprise and no confidence — summed up, an inferiority complex. Although I have seen fewer than a dozen international fast bowlers I believe I have seen the best the game has produced. To name the men I have been associated with, there were Tom Richardon, W. H. Lockwood, and Arthur Fielder, of England; and for Australia Ernie Jones, Albert Cotter, Jack Gregory, and Ted McDonald. Here was talent that might have over-awed any batting list, but the contemporary batsmen accepted fast bowling as part of the game.

    Batsmen were hit very often, but there was no outcry; and many a sound pasting the bowlers received? I recall a game in South Australia where Victoria were the visitors. Ernie Jones was rolling them in at his top pace, but was meeting with little success. Jim Giller, who can be found still at the South Melbourne Cricket Ground was piling on runs at the expense of 'Jonah.' Ernie had been hit to every part of the field, and after such an over he could contain himself no longer. 'Bob, this chap is making me look like a school boy. What am I to do?' he asked.

    "Jonah's" Pace

    Now Jones was the fastest bowler of all time, and a good bowler at that. He was yards faster than Larwood, yet the batsmen of his day played him with confidence, and more often than not hit him about. 'Jonah' hit many batsmen, but be scorned the suggestion that it was deliberate. Nor would any batsman of that day have believed that Jones was bowling at his body. Both accepted the knocks as part of the game. On one occasion in England Jones hit Jackson, the English captain. While Jackson was writhing in pain the late Harry Graham went across to Jones and asked, 'Where did you hit Mr. Jackson?' He laid a slight emphasis on the Mr. That was 'Jonah's' cue. In the stomach, of course; where did you think I would hit the Honorable MB. Jackson?' The Englishman Lockwood was a devil may care fellow. On one occasion, to win a wager, he jumped off a boat into the Sydney Harbor and tried to swim ashore. Tom Richardson had plenty of pace, but here is a secret. I always had a suspicion that be threw his fastest ball. I was never sufficiently sure to no-ball him, but I never ceased watching his delivery. To illustrate what I mean by the initiative by oldtime batsmen, Harry Graham and Albert Trott were forced to face Richardson on a damaged wicket in Sydney. It was dangerous work, and many a resounding clout both batsmen received. The Little Dasher, as Graham was called, made light of the bowling, and knocked up a sound hundred. Albert Trott was not out for 76. The Englishmen were very disappointed at not having captured Trott's wicket, and Brockwell remarked, 'We have never been able to get Trott out in a Test match'.

    Defence Attacked

    The tactics of the fast bowlers of the past varied according to their natural swing; how ever, they wasted little time in bowling outside the stumps. They attacked the batsman's defence all the time. Fielder, whom I consider to be the best fast bowler I have seen, would pitch on the stumps, but his outswerve would carry the ball away outside the off stump. Fielder lacked concentration, but for this I blame his captains. They allowed him to maintain a general plan of attack. Often the field was not set for a surprise move by Fielder, and his figures suffered. Had his captain made him concentrate, as Noble or Armstrong would have done, the field and the bowler would have worked in harmony and with greater success. Fielder was a right hander with a high delivery. He ran a fairish way, and the delivery of the ball was full of body swing. His ability to make the ball swerve and nip made him dangerous. - As I have already said, Ernie Jones was the fastest bowler I have seen. He took a long run and throw his whole weight into the delivery. Jones, although bowling with such pace, was able to turn the ball back from the off. He was a great comedian — a man with whom it was a pleasure to play. Nevertheless, he played the game hard, and would never apologise if he hit a batsman. He just smiled, and made ready for the next delivery. Jones believed that it was the batsman's fault if he was hit. It was a view the bats men hurried to accept themselves. We could do with a little of that spirit today. Albert ('Tibby') Cotter, in some respects, resembled Jones, but his delivery was lower.

    The manner in which he made the ball kick up at the last moment always puzzled me. Cotter kicked higher than Jones, and on one occasion R. E. Foster and Johnny Tyldesley were having a hot time. Foster said to Tyldesley in my hearing, 'It is not worth while trying to play this fellow, Johnny; look after yourself.' I mentioned the conversation to several of his team-mates, and they were disgusted with Foster's attitude. 'Haven't we had to play Tom Richardson on worse wickets than this?' asked one. Anything savoring of a squeal was discountenanced by the pre-war batsmen. - The greatest fast bowling attack either country has sent into the field was that supplied, by Gregory and McDonald. They were great bowlers here, but in England were almost unplayable. The manner In which Gregory made the ball kick and the immaculate length of McDonald was the combination ideal for unsettling opening batsmen. Yet I have never thought for a moment that either bowled at file man. Both hit batsmen and hurt them, but it was part of a Test match. Neither man, however, placed a leg field. Great as Larwood and Voce might be, Australian batsmen have met even greater without flinching. The only left-hand bowler comparable with Voce was F.R. Foster. Foster was a really dangerous bowler, and in Adelaide repeatedly pitched outside the off stump and repeatedly hit Trumper on the legs. For a moment Trumper was annoyed and ac cused Foster of bowling at his body. When I pointed out that Foster was pitching outside the stumps, and that it was his swing that was doing the damage, Trumper was satisfied and apologised. Foster swung the ball so much that I never gave an L.B.W decision in his favour. One of the most promising fast left-handers Australia has produced was J. R. Massie of New South Wales. War injuries ruined what might have been a brilliant career. If you are searching for the Ideal fast bowler you must find a man who has strength and stamina. His delivery- should be high and his nip from the pitch a feature. Above all things, he must be intelligent rather than mechanical. Today cricket is replete with bowlers who are mechanical but who lack cricket instinct. I think it is a bogey to excuse mediocre bowling by blaming the wickets. A good bowler is a good bowler on any wicket. A fast bowler is essesntial but previously the mainline of attack was the spin bowlers. The fast bowler should be considered in the light of an unsettling influence, and any team that relies solely on fast bowling is a weak team.

    Ironmonger Best

    I consider Ironmonger to be the best bowler among the English or the Australians. He is a terror under any conditions, but if the wicket is damp or worn Ironmonger is almost unplayable. Some have questioned his delivery. I have taken particular pains to study Ironmonger's action, and have no doubt as to its fairness. It Is absurd to question his bowling.The batsmen of today rank with those of other years, but I would qualify this by pointing out that the bowlers of today are not nearly so good as the bowlers of the pre-war generation. Farther, today some really good batsmen are content to allow the runs to come along as opportunities are presented. They lack initiative. Their forefathers made the opportunities that presented them with the runs. Our batsmen should master their footwork and not be content with the repertoire of two or three scoring strokes. Too often I have seen bowling that has been anything but hostile treated with great respect. Batsmen of today should get to the ball more quickly and steer it through the unguarded places in the field. There is nothing like batting enterprise to unsettle a strong attack. Who will win the Ashes? I still like Australia, but time will tell.

    BOB CROCKETT

    31 Dec 1932 - Fast Bowlers I've Known
    The editorial is facinating because it either gives us an interesting window into cricket during the 1930s, or because it challenges some of our preconceived ideas. For example;

    1. Not all Australians had opinions that were automatically critical of Jardine and Larwood.
    2. Larwood was a 'medium paced' bowler when compared to some PreWWI quicks such as Ernie Jones who was 'yards faster'.
    3. Arthur Fielder was an outstanding fast bowler.
    4. Batsman during the 1930s did wear 'armour', and they weren't all brave.
    5. Tom Richardson may have chucked his 'fastest ball'.
    6. The greatest fast bowling attack to the 1930s was Gregory and McDonald. Gregory made the ball 'kick' and McDonald bowled an 'immaculate length'.
    7. Frank Foster was comparable to Bill Voce and swung the ball back into the batsman's body.
    8. 'any team that relies solely on fast bowling is a weak team'
    9. Bert Ironmonger was an outstanding bowler.
    10. 'The batsmen of today rank with those of other years, but I would qualify this by pointing out that the bowlers of today are not nearly so good as the bowlers of the pre-war generation.'
    Last edited by watson; 19-06-2014 at 10:46 PM.
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    International Vice-Captain Red Hill's Avatar
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    Fair enough if it is reckoned there were bowlers quicker than Larwood before him, but I don't accept that Larwood was medium paced at all. There is enough footage of him to see that he was quick enough to earn the classification "fast".
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    Cricket Web Staff Member fredfertang's Avatar
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    Clearly a piece designed to sell newspapers rather than to inform or enlighten its readership

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    International Captain watson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Monk View Post
    Fair enough if it is reckoned there were bowlers quicker than Larwood before him, but I don't accept that Larwood was medium paced at all. There is enough footage of him to see that he was quick enough to earn the classification "fast".
    'Medium paced' is not meant to be taken literally. It is a piece of hyperbole used by the Crockett to reinforce a point. That is, he is reminding his Australian readership that Larwood should be nothing new and scary to them as Larwood's kind have been around for 40 years or more.

    What I find facinating is that Jones, Cotter, Fielder, and so forth could have been near Larwood's pace. My preconceived idea is that 19th century, or early 20th century bowlers, weren't very fast at all in comparison.
    Last edited by watson; 20-06-2014 at 12:10 AM.

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    International Captain watson's Avatar
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    Another non-.cricketing reason that I find the article interesting is that Crockett used hyperbole at all. I assumed that the modern British tabloid press invented 'sensationalism', but obviously it's been ubiquitous for a long time now. And from an era that we normally think more reserved and stoic.
    Last edited by watson; 20-06-2014 at 12:56 AM.

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    Cricket Web Staff Member fredfertang's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by watson View Post
    Another non-.cricketing reason that I find the article interesting is that Crockett used hypobole at all. I assumed that the modern British tabloid press invented 'sensationalism', but obviously it's been ubiquitous for a long time now. And from an era that we normally think more reserved and stoic.
    Indeed - I wonder if it was just the furore over Bodyline that caused it?

    You'll have to go through the archive for the 28/29 series and let us know

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    Cricketer Of The Year zaremba's Avatar
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    I'm with how_zat on this. It's always good to have the received wisdom challenged. But whenever any retired sportsman (or umpire) drones on along the lines of "In my day, fast bowlers were proper fast and batsmen were proper men", or more generally "in my day, the sport was better", I find it difficult to pay too much attention.

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    Yeah, agreed - interesting as this is, the principal take-away from it is confirmation that the it-was-better-in-my-day sentiment is hardly a new phenomenon.
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    Hall of Fame Member Goughy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zaremba View Post
    I'm with how_zat on this. It's always good to have the received wisdom challenged. But whenever any retired sportsman (or umpire) drones on along the lines of "In my day, fast bowlers were proper fast and batsmen were proper men", or more generally "in my day, the sport was better", I find it difficult to pay too much attention.
    Absolutely, it is good to have ideas and established truths challenged. It makes us take a second look and review. I have taken a second look and reviewed and Larwood was quick
    If I only just posted the above post, please wait 5 mins before replying as there is bound to be edits

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    International Captain Migara's Avatar
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    A good idea would be to examine how far the keeper stood when these bowlers bowled.
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    International Vice-Captain BeeGee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by watson View Post
    My preconceived idea is that 19th century, or early 20th century bowlers, weren't very fast at all in comparison.
    The moral of the story is stop forming preconceived ideas. About anything. Ever.
    Last edited by BeeGee; 20-06-2014 at 12:42 PM.

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    Henry Thornton - Harold Larwood, the Unlikely Australian

    Excerpt from the above article by Roger Underwood

    I particularly liked the Australian Test player Bill O’Reilly’s description of batting against Larwood:

    He came steaming in, and I moved right across behind my bat, held perfectly straight in defence of my middle stump. Just before he delivered the ball, something hit the middle of my bat with such force as to almost dash it from my hands. It was the ball.

    The great commentator John Arlott observed: “Sometimes, depending on where you were standing, you couldn’t pick up the ball with the naked eye at all.”

    Douglas Jardine himself had an opportunity to assess the young Larwood when they first played against each other in a county match. Jardine had been sceptical of reports about the young speedster, but changed his mind after the first three balls he faced. Jardine’s teammate Percy Fender recalled:

    Larwood’s first ball was being returned by the wicketkeeper Lilley as Jardine completed his stroke. The second ball was on its way through to Lilley when the stroke was completed. On the third ball, Douglas finally made contact. Later Larwood clean bowled him, Jardine again beaten for pace.

    An intriguing aspect of his pace was that Larwood stood only five feet seven and a half inches tall—the same height as the great Australian tennis player Ken Rosewall, who was usually described by commentators as “diminutive”. The ability to make a ball rise sharply off a good length, which was Larwood’s trademark, is all the more remarkable when you consider it was delivered from such a low height. The two secrets were his strength (he was deep-chested and had powerful shoulders) and his technique, honed by countless hours of practice under the eye of Iremonger.

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    Englishman BoyBrumby's Avatar
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    Lol was famously barely above slow medium, tbh.

    Those Aussie cocks were just that soft in 32/33.
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