A personal recollection

Grimmett v O'Reilly

David and John Liverman

Last month there was some mention of Clarrie Grimmett, and a request as to whether anybody could describe his bowling. I find these discussions of particular interest now that legspin bowling is prominent again in the game with Warne and Kumble. I passed the request to my father, John Liverman, a keen cricket fan in the 30's who saw Grimmett in the 1934 tour. He was also a student of legbreak bowling, being a proponent of the art himself (at a somewhat lower level). Here's his description and comments on other great spinners:

"Grimmett was a short man who bowled with a low action, halfway to roundarm, which helped conceal the googly as you don't have to bend the wrist so far with a low action. He gave the ball plenty of air and spun it a lot, getting a great deal of movement off the pitch. However, his figures may be flattering as I think that, like Titch Freeman, the tail-enders contributed a lot to the total of his victims.

"O'Reilly was unquestionably the greater bowler, and I am sure was the more feared by top class batsmen. He bowled a genuine medium pace, with an occasional fast-medium. He didn't turn the ball as much as Grimmett, but enough to beat the bat. His long loping run-up and general demeanour were the very picture of hostility, though he never descended to the level of bad temper and abuse of Lillee or Hughes. I saw one of his best performances, paradoxically against England's 903 for 7 at the Oval in 1938. His analysis was something like 5 for 187 in a tremendous number of overs. I don't think he bowled a loose ball, and he never had a fielder on the boundary. Laker may have been the best of all on a wicket that suited him but not otherwise."

My father was a little generous to O'Reilly at the Oval - his figures were actually 3 for 178, from 85 overs. I hope you find the recollections interesting, and you may be interested in the concluding sentence from the Wisden obituary - "When O'Reilly died, Bradman said that he was the greatest bowler he either faced or watched".