December 5, 2000

'Typhoon' Tyson: 100 mph barrier has probably been broken already

Staff and Agencies

Frank Tyson has revealed to CricInfo that he believes the current crop of fast bowlers are probably not as fast as their predecessors. The former Northamptonshire and England fast bowler also provided a fascinating insight into early measurements of bowlers' speed.

"The current breed of media enhanced fast bowlers must show some modesty and admit that there might have been faster bowlers before them, just as certainly as there will be faster after them," Tyson commented.

Tyson was helping to answer a CricInfo users query about how fast the man known as 'Typhoon Tyson,' and his opening partner, Brian Statham, really bowled. Tyson revealed to CricInfo's chief statistician, Philip Bailey, that "early measurements of speed of fast bowlers were completely inaccurate. I have always maintained the only true judge of a bowlers speed is the batsman himself."

As Tyson himself explains: "We were measured at the NZ Aeronautical College in Wellington in 1955. A metal plate was attached to a ball, which was then bowled through a sonic beam. It produced a whistle, which was measured and then the speed was worked out according to the distance covered and the length of the whistle. I was measured at 89mph and Statham at 87mph."

However, that is only half the story. Tyson also revealed that he had neither warmed up, nor changed his clothes prior to the test. "We bowled in two or three sweaters," he commented, "and I cannot vouch for the length of our run-ups."

Tyson also recalls how attempts to measure Harold Larwood had produced wildly differing results: "Larwood, for instance, was measured by high speed photography at between 90 and 130mph! I sincerely hope I did reach 119 mph, and the odd ball might have done so. We shall never know"

Tyson was at his best on the Australian tour of 1954-55 when he took 28 wickets at an average of 20. Now aged 70, he joked about his current immobility following recent operations to replace his knees "after being worn out by fast bowling." A lengthy run-up and demanding action restricted him to 17 Tests in an injury blighted career, but he was regarded by most who played against him, including Richie Benaud, as being the fastest bowler they ever faced.