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Supreme Bowling – Part One

Supreme Bowling cover

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 are indeed represented, 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 bowler’s careers 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, beginning with Martin and Sean Riley.

Bill Whitty – 16-7-17-6
Australia v South Africa, Melbourne 31 December-4 January 1911

by Martin Chandler

Between November 1910 and March 1911 South Africa toured Australia for the first time.
That they lost the five-Test series 4-1 against the full strength of their hosts is therefore not
surprising, but the South Africans were a decent side, and had it not been for Bill Whitty’s
bowling the Australian margin of victory would certainly have been less.

The second Test was played at the MCG. Australian captain Clem Hill won the toss and, in
this timeless encounter, chose to bat. The South Africans were doubtless happy to dismiss
their hosts shortly before the close for 348, and even more pleased to spend the whole of
the next day and part of the third taking a first-innings lead of 158, in large part thanks to
204 from Aubrey Faulkner.

Victor Trumper carried the attack to the South Africans in response and scored a run-a-ball
159 but no one else contributed more than 48, and 327 left the South Africans a victory
target of just 170. The correspondent of The Adelaide Register reported that the match
‘seemed to be almost a gift for South Africa’, and that ‘judged from the morning’s play there
was nothing in the state of the wicket to make them at all anxious regarding the result’.
Nonetheless the South Africans had some problems. Opening batsman Billy Zulch’s back
meant he would bat only in an emergency, and Dave Nourse had damaged his leg on the
fence after chasing a ball headed for the boundary.

Whether a fully fit Nourse and Zulch would have made any difference must be doubtful
because what looked like a thrilling finish in the offing turned out to be a procession and
the South Africans failed to get even half way towards their target. The innings lasted just
32 overs, half of them from Whitty and all bar one of the remainder from Tibby Cotter.

With Whitty taking advantage of a southerly wind and swinging the ball back into the right
handers the visitors were never in it from the moment Cotter removed stand-in opener
Louis Stricker with just a single on the board. Even the first-innings double-centurion
Faulkner was strokeless against the swing, break and relentless accuracy of Whitty, managing just
eight runs in 52 minutes. Dangermen Percy Sherwell and Jimmy Sinclair were both
removed before they could open their shoulders and the rest wilted. The Melbourne Argus
commented that; ‘the amount of swerve and work he got when considered with the pace
was remarkable.’ None of the batsmen could keep him out and it wasn’t until right at the
end of the innings when Zulch managed a pull for three that an attacking shot against him
succeeded. Little wonder, then, that after routing South Africa for just 80 Whitty’s bowling
was described as ‘beyond praise’. In the conditions he had bowled to perfection where a few
wayward balls could have tilted the balance and lost the game.

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

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.

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