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Supreme Bowling – Part Three

Several of CricketWeb’s feature writers have contributed to Patrick Ferriday and Dave Wilson’s latest book, Supreme Bowling, a companion volume to Masterly Batting, which presents 100 great Test bowling performances.

In this final extract CW’s Sean Riley and Dave Wilson are featured, writing on Waqar Younis and Fred Trueman respectively. Note that you can still win a free copy, signed by the editors, by clicking here and answering the simple question.

In 2012, Patrick Ferriday’s first book When the Lights Went Out, covering the 1912 triangular tournament, was voted CricketWeb’s Book of the Year. Patrick’s next book, Masterly Batting – 100 Great Test Innings, was co-edited by CW’s Dave Wilson and featured several CW staff writers. A new volume, Supreme Bowling – 100 Great Test Performances, is now available. As with Masterly Batting, performances were assessed on a number of major categories on both a subjective and an objective basis, including strength of batting attack and quality of victims, conditions (and how they affected bowling and batting), match and series impact and a new measure, performance value (or worth), as well as such intangibles as captaincy, trying circumstances including illness or injury, other major contributions in the match and fulsome praise in contemporary reports.

All eras of Test cricket are represented, from the 19th century to 2015 and as might be expected many great names are featured, some on more than one occasion. Most high-profile names who might be expected to feature featured, such as Sydney Barnes and Curtly Ambrose, while others who would never get near a discussion of the greatest bowling legends enjoy an entry (take a bow, Dean Headley and Jerome Taylor) – that’s what can happen when individual performances rather than bowlers are considered. The book is composed of 500-word essays on the performances ranked from 100 down to 51, 1000 words on those ranked 49 to 25 and finally 3000 words on the top 25. The cream of current cricket writing is represented, including Stephen Chalke, David Frith, David Tossell, Ken Piesse, Rob Smyth and Wisden India’s Dileep Premachandran.

CricketWeb is delighted that contributions have also been made by no fewer than five of our feature writers old and new – Martin Chandler, Sean Ehlers, Sean Riley, Rodney Ulyate and Dave Wilson. As a taster for the book’s release we are proud to present several extracts from each of our authors, continuing with Sean Riley and author/co-editor Dave Wilson.

Waqar Younis – 18-5-52-5
England v Pakistan, The Oval 6-9 August 1992

by Sean Riley

Larwood and Voce. Lindwall and Miller. Lillee and Thomson. So many great fast bowlers have hunted in pairs (or, in the case of West Indians of a certain generation, in entire packs). It took Pakistan some time to produce a double act worthy of comparison, but when they did by God was it worth the wait. For a few years in the early 1990s Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were as fast and destructive a pairing as there has ever been, and while Wasim was, through age and experience, the senior partner – and in the long term the more durable star – it was Waqar who, in his prime, was indisputably the quicker and deadlier.

The 1992 series was all square as England and Pakistan arrived in south London for what England’s press were billing as a classic showdown. What it became was an exhibition of fast bowling at its finest to which the hosts had simply no answer. England were in trouble from the off – all out for 207 in a first innings which never got going, Wasim Akram the tormentor-in-chief. Useful contributions from several Pakistani batsmen in reply ensured a lead of 173, so as England’s openers returned to the crease they knew a substantial second innings was required to even save the Test, let alone have any hope of victory.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Waqar had been outstanding all summer, but when it mattered most, with the series on the line, he was at his very best. Steaming in from the Vauxhall end, he broke the back of the English batting and had all-but ended the contest just after tea on day three. Alec Stewart was first to go, done for pace and trapped lbw trying to flick a straight ball through the leg side. Atherton nearly followed immediately, beaten by a glorious inswinger which rocketed into his pads but pitched just outside the line.

It was merely a temporary reprieve for the Lancastrian. A searing bouncer glanced off his helmet and flew to the boundary, before a nagging off cutter confirmed the inevitable, Atherton nicking behind for just four. When Graham Gooch edged one that held its line to slip just before tea, Waqar had dismissed England’s top three. Worse was to come after the break when David Gower shouldered arms to a delivery which straightened just enough to clip his off stump. England had lost their four best batsmen with less than 60 on the board, and Waqar’s exhilarating spell had accounted for all of them. Wasim and Mushtaq Ahmed helped themselves to the lower order, before Waqar returned for the coup de grace, a scintillating in-swinging yorker which would have left far better batsmen than Devon Malcolm without a leg stump. Pakistan needed just two deliveries – one of them a wide – to knock off the five runs required to win both the match and series, and England had been well and truly ‘Waqared’. They weren’t the first, and they wouldn’t be the last.

Fred Trueman – 15.5-5-30-6
England v Australia, Leeds 6-8 July 1961

by Dave Wilson

It’s always amusing to see a large man cut down to size by a much smaller woman; in John Ford’s The Quiet Man the huge bulk that was Victor McLaglan sheepishly acquiesces to a tiny old woman yelling at him to wipe his muddy boots. And speaking of brusque men, it’s hard to imagine the gruff Fred Trueman being cut down to size by a diminutive female. Yet by all accounts that’s just what happened in the summer of 1961.

The location was Headingley, site of Trueman’s adoring home crowd when England faced Australia in the third Test, already one down to a side alleged to be in turmoil. England’s bowlers were facing a batting line-up featuring no fewer than six men who would go on to amass more than 1000 runs on the tour. However, there had been some controversy over the Headingley strip, which Wisden described as ‘a whitish-green piebald surface’, representing no small danger to the batsmen.

In Australia’s first innings, they found themselves nicely placed on 187-2 before Trueman, capturing his great rival Norm O’Neill with his first ball on his return, went on to decimate them with five quick wickets as Australia collapsed to 208-9 before limping to 237 all out. Though England were restricted to a first innings lead of 62, worse was to come for Australia in the second innings.

After being well placed at 98-2 Trueman returned, having earlier seen skipper Peter May drop Neil Harvey on 10. On May’s advice ‘Fiery’ shortened his run and bowled mainly off cutters to a leg-trap. Harvey always considered Trueman most likely to take his wicket, and sure enough he eventually holed out to Dexter in the covers to start the rout. Homing in on the patches of dust which had developed at the batsman’s end Trueman produced a spell of 5-0 in 27 balls in one of the most devastating bowling spells in Test cricket history.

Trueman’s analysis during the 35 minutes from his return was an astonishing 7.5-4-5- 6. By dint of metronomic accuracy allowing no peace on an unpredictable wicket the Australians were simply blown away. His final haul was 11-88, by far his best return in Tests to that point. His list of victims was no bury of rabbits, though, as he captured the wickets of Harvey, O’Neill, Simpson and Benaud in both innings, as well as Alan Davidson, Ken Mackay and Wally Grout.

And yet Trueman’s wife Enid had reportedly achieved what the might of Australia could not – ‘Fiery’ had apparently spent the previous night sleeping in his car outside the Yorkshire ground; cut down to size by a spousal ultimatum. Maybe if he’d slept in the car more often he’d have finished with 600 wickets, not the 307 he retired with. As John Arlott said, ‘Statham was accurate; Tyson was fast; Trueman was everything.’

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