Final month, Rob Stephenson wrote this fascinating article on trendy England seam bowlers blessed with real tempo. It was a topic that resonated with a number of readers together with James Walker, who despatched within the following response that enhances Rob’s piece by going again somewhat additional in time. It additionally explores a few of the reason why we’ve produced so few fast bowlers with longevity. Take pleasure in.
Maybe one of many best tragedies of post-war English cricket is that John Snow and Bob Willis solely performed collectively 5 occasions – in two sequence. This was partly due to Willis’s accidents 1973-75, and likewise as a result of Alex Bedser & co. didn’t like Snow. True, he was a bit truculent, and he had allegedly barged into Sunil Gavaskar at Lord’s in 1971, and dropped after the MCC’s secretary Billy Griffith exploded into the England dressing-room. However, Snow was nonetheless England’s finest and most dependable fast from 1966 to 1976, and absolutely, if the skipper that the selectors had appointed had stated he may handle Snow, then the selectors had an obligation to choose him. For at the very least two-three years, these two may need been England’s ‘Lilian Thomson’.
The England selectors had been a somewhat pathetic cabal of indecisive, incompetents who had been managed by the MCC, who may reward compliance with standing and perks, or punish non-compliance. When Illingworth led the Ashes staff in 1970-71, somewhat than aiming to win the sequence, the MCC supervisor David Clark, and his MCC chaperones Gubby Allen and Cyril Hawker, plus staunch ally Colin Cowdrey (nominally vice-captain, however on his personal ‘farewell tour’), had been extra involved with pleasing Don Bradman and the ACB.
Illingworth, Snow, Boycott, Edrich and Luckhurst truly gained that sequence – with no due to the MCC. Galvanised by Illingworth, the entire squad had been winners. Ian Chappell credit them with instructing his staff the way to play arduous and win, after the Invoice Lawry years through which Australia (and everybody else) was aiming to not lose.
Again to the purpose. As alluded to within the piece, England’s downside has not essentially been discovering quicks; it has been maintaining them match. For that 1970 Ashes sequence, England took Derbyshire fast-man Alan Ward who broke down after two state video games. If he had been a race-horse, they’d’ve shot him. Jeff Jones was one other, who like his son Simon, had his profession ended by harm (each at comparable ages with an identical variety of take a look at caps) though I believe Jones senior would agree his son was a higher loss to England and Glamorgan. The careers of John Value and Ken Shuttleworth had been additionally dogged by accidents. Later, Greg Thomas was one other out-and-out fast who was typically crocked.
Quick bowling wants athleticism, dedication to health, an excellent, clean motion and naturally, luck. John Snow knew this instinctively, and his status for truculence stemmed from events when he definitely did refuse to bowl flat-out – or often even bowl! – for Sussex as a result of he knew the observe was lifeless and that he could be flogging himself. Because of this, he was repeatedly disciplined by Sussex. He additionally upset Alex Bedser, who was himself no shock bowler, however a prepared and correct 80mph trundler. Bedser merely couldn’t perceive the distinction in effort it took to generate the additional 10mph+ that Snow had in his back-pocket. Willis, in fact, was one other who was typically accused of diffidence and self-preservation.
Given this, it’s no marvel that – till Botham – the premier English bowlers of my early youth, Geoff Arnold, Chris Outdated, Mike Hendrick, John Lever, had been all 82 mph seamers – great cricketers, particularly Outdated, however not more likely to make batsmen hop round. Actually, however for Derek Underwood, Tony Greig and Snow, and later Willis and Botham, England would hardly have gained a sequence away from residence between 1967-79…..and occupied with it, they hardly did!
The opposite English pacemen of the final quarter of the 20 th century all suffered from harm and selectorial caprice – principally the latter. Between Botham (first cap 1977), and Anderson (2003), England capped 59 quick/seam/fast-medium bowlers and bowling all-rounders… 35 of whom managed solely a single-digit no. of caps, and 9 of them fewer than 20 – that’s 75% with fewer then 20 caps, and 60% with fewer than 10. Which means that in 26yrs, other than Botham solely 17 made respectable careers: Dilley (41 caps), Pringle (30), Foster (29), DeFreitas (44), Fraser (46), Malcolm (40), Lewis (32), Caddick (62), White (30), Gough (58), Cork (37) Flintoff (79), Sidebottom (22), Hoggard (67) and Harmison (62)……and 7 of them had been chosen as all-rounders!
Even with central contracts, I believe maybe that we’re in an identical place at this time. Since Anderson, there’s been 32 such bowlers capped and 22 (69%) have solely managed single-digit appearances – although six to seven of them will certainly add to their totals. That solely leaves Broad (159), Bresnan (23), Finn (36), Woakes (45 and he has by no means delivered away from residence), Stokes (89), Wooden (28) and Sam Curran (24) with established careers. Reece Topley’s may need joined them however his physique appears insufficiently strong for Check cricket. General, it is a poor return. The place would ENG have been with out Anderson and Broad? Again within the Nineteen Seventies in all probability… or Nineteen Eighties or Nineties.
Most likely, the 2 most important disappointments have been two males with vital bounce and tempo: Chris Tremlett, who bowled magnificently in Australia in 2010-11 however solely managed 12 Checks as a consequence of harm and the inconsistency of taking part in when not absolutely match; the opposite Steve Finn who even together with his run-up ‘troubles’ took 125 take a look at wickets with a strike price of 51.7
Then once more, quick bowling has by no means actually been an Englishman’s factor has it? How may it have been when bowlers have had inexperienced tops and gray skies to use, with chilly situations and a slog of 20-odd video games to endure.
The nice technology of West Indian quicks who got here to UK from the late-Nineteen Sixties for twenty years, had been magnificent athletes, naturally sturdy and most with sustainable actions; however virtually each one in all them, was made an entire bowler by the ending college that was county cricket. Their video games had been improved by English pitches and situations, and by the know-how that county coaches and execs shared with them.
Sadly, the method didn’t work in reverse; solely the Almighty can bestow pure expertise, tempo and the athleticism required to maintain match while scary batsmen. Expertise couldn’t be shared out within the nets like knowhow. Most of our British boys have both lacked that essential bit further, had it coached out of them, or else crushed out of them by the lengthy, arduous season and/or a jarring motion.
That’s to not say that the ECB don’t make it arduous for home-grown gamers. In 2023, the County Championship begins on sixth April – that’s in 11 weeks, when it’s nonetheless more likely to be fairly chilly and damp. My staff performs 4 video games in April, 2 in Could, 2 in June, 3 in July, none in August and three in September. That’s it.
Q1. Why are quick bowlers anticipated to work so arduous at each ends of a season when the climate in chilly and damp?
Q2. What number of overs will quicks bowl with the solar on their backs and when the pitches have hardened up – like they do in Australia?
Q3. Off the purpose – however – how on earth can spinners get overs underneath their belt, and study to bowl in comparatively dry situations once they solely play 5 purple ball video games within the precise summer time?
A1-3. The sport is run by clowns. That’s the backside line. They suppose that English crowds will nonetheless flip as much as Check matches, and that concomitantly, there is no such thing as a actual have to develop Check cricketers by having them play when the solar shines.
Nonetheless, regardless of respectable success at residence, England’s file away is patchy to poor. Sure, there have been good wins in SA and SL, and naturally the latest sequence in Pakistan was marvellous. Nonetheless, England haven’t gained a match, not to mention a sequence in Australia since 2011; not a sequence in NZ since 2008; just one win in India since 1984, and worse, just one sequence within the West Indies since 1968 – and Windies had been speculated to have declined within the final twenty years. Substantial firepower is due to this fact required. The place is it going to return from? Archer, Wooden and Stone have persistent harm points – though it was nice to see the previous choose up six wickets within the third ODI this week.
I can’t assist however fear concerning the health of our quicks, which mixed with the ageing of our greats, Anderson and Broad, may fairly simply depart the cabinet fairly naked. With respect to them as actually implausible cricketers, an England tempo/seam assault of Robinson, Overton, Woakes, Curran and Stokes doesn’t carry fairly the identical menace as Archer, Wooden, Anderson and Broad or Robinson (and Stokes).
Nonetheless, first issues first, good outcomes – and performances – in New Zealand will encourage each one in all us. We dwell in hope that in 2023 England may need a full secure of quicks to pick from in order that Archer and Wooden can stick it up the noses of Smith and Labuschagne, thereby forcing them to lose focus and nick off cheaply to 2 of Robinson, Anderson and Broad.
PS A fast phrase about Andrew Flintoff. I might say that in Checks he was a bowler of nice spells, somewhat than a fantastic bowler. I noticed him at Lord’s in 2009 – solely 5-92, however actually two or three of the most effective spells of quick bowling I’ve ever seen. Magnificent. Maybe unselfishness was his downside – that and being burdened with an excessive amount of expertise and a famously mischievous temperament.