Account of W. G. Beard incident, 1944

The best fast bowler

(In an Interview)

Opinions differ considerably on the question, Who was the best fast bowler? The passing of Ernest Jones, the noted Australian bowler who came to England with the 1896, 1899 and 1902 teams has raised again this absorbing topic. One of the few cricketers of long experience who can speak on the subject as an authority is the old Cambridge and England captain and Yorkshire player, Sir Stanley Jackson. He readily accepted an invitation to a chat, and has been good enough to agree to his opinion being set down in Wisden.

Of all the fast bowlers the Australians have sent to this country, I think Jones was the best in my time. I have very good reasons for remembering him, as I took part in the first match he played in this country against Lord Sheffield's XI at Sheffield Park, Sussex, in 1896. He was one of the most powerful men I ever met. I believe he was a miner, and in his early days of the tour was very wild in his delivery. This was probably because the Australians came practically straight off the ship to the match and were short of practice. Jones gave me the impression that his main effort was to show his immense pace. The wicket was dry and he bowled short, bumpy stuff.

I went in first with W. G. Grace and we had to dance about a bit. One ball from Jones hit W. G. under the arm, and later in the innings another one went head-high past him and over Kelly's head to the boundary. This was the ball about which the Beard Story originated. I can see W. G. now. He threw his head back, which caused his beard to stick out. Down the pitch went W. G., stroking his beard, to Harry Trott and said: "Here, what is all this?" And Trott said: "Steady, Jonah." To which Jones made that famous remark: "Sorry, Doctor, she slipped." I do not think the ball actually touched W. G.'s beard. That story was told after-wards, and I believe I was responsible. When I was out and returned to the Pavilion, I said: "Did you see that one go through W. G.'s beard?" The ball was bouncing, and only Ranji appeared to like it. The pace that Jones was bowling impressed me because in the second innings, when I had made about 10, I had the misfortune to stop one with my ribs, but with the assistance of W. A. J. West, the umpire, who rubbed me, I was able to continue my innings.

( F. S. Jackson was not out 95 when the match was left drawn.-- EDITOR.)

When I went to London I had a good deal of pain, and my father sent for the doctor, who said, "It's cracked horizontally." He strapped me up, and I did not play for three weeks. Within a month of Sheffield Park I faced Jones at Lord's in the M.C.C. match, and he came up to me and said, "I am terribly sorry", and he clasped my hand in a vice-like grip that left me wondering which was the more painful--my hand or broken ribs.

Following those early incidents, Harry Trott took Jones in charge and changed him into a very fine bowler. He made him shorten his run and taught him the value of length and control. Jones developed a beautiful action. I believe it has been suggested that he threw, but this I personally regard as absolutely absurd. At that time, the action of some bowlers was not fair, and Sydney Pardon, by his campaign in Wisden, did valuable work towards stamping out the trouble.

I think it is often forgotten that bowlers, well supported by the field, are the match-winners. You can generally find plenty of batsmen, but genuine bowlers are scarce.

Although I never played against him, I would say that Larwood appeared to me the best fast bowler I saw. I have a great admiration for him, with his beautiful rhythmic run and a perfect action which gave him complete control over pace, direction and length. It was these qualities that made him such a fine bowler. I think that he achieved this because at the moment he delivered the ball he was poised high in the air with his left shoulder well up and pointing towards the wicket. It was then that he was complete master of himself, and the control at the end of his run gave him time to deliver the ball the way he wanted. Jones was similar.

Tom Richardson and Lockwood were great bowlers. Lockwood appeared to me the more difficult of the two owing to his ability to change his pace imperceptibly. He had more kinds of deliveries, and his variety, with an occasional very fast ball, made him great. I think Cotter for a few overs was a bit faster than Jones. Kortwright was generally regarded as the fastest bowler of his time in this country. Not only was he a very fast bowler, but also a very good one.

While on this subject of bowlers I am very sorry that, besides Jones, another old Australian friend, Charles Turner, has passed away. I always regarded Turner as the best medium-paced bowler I ever played against. He had a graceful run and lovely action, with clever change of pace. I recall my first Test match (1893) at Lord's; I had made 91 when, late cutting one from Turner that kept lower than I expected, I was splendidly caught by Blackham. It was a grand catch. His gloves must have been almost under my bat, and he remarked "Bad luck, youngster. It is one of the biggest flukes I ever had." In that innings England scored 334, and Turner's analysis was: 36 overs, 16 maidens, 67 runs, 6 wickets.

F. S. Jackson, then captain of Cambridge, got his runs out of 137, added with Shrewsbury for the third wicket.-- EDITOR.

We are now thinking of cricket after the war and the best way to improve it. One of the most vital things is the preparation of wickets, and here Jones comes into the story again. The practice of artificial preparation was started by Apted at the Oval in 1899, and he had every excuse. There is very little soil there; within three inches, I believe, you come to gravel. It was the final Test Match, and Hayward (137) and I (118) each made a hundred. We scored 185 for the first wicket in two hours fifty minutes. During our stand Jones, who altogether bowled 53 overs and took four wickets for 164 runs, came to me and tossing the ball up in the air, let it light on the pitch. Instead of bouncing a bit, it stopped dead, and Jones said: This is going to ruin cricket.

So, you see, as far back as then we had our problems. Unfortunately one cannot lay down a set rule for making pitches because nearly every ground requires different treatment, but we must try to prepare pitches so as to provide a more even struggle between the bowler and batsman without making the conditions dangerous.

In Yorkshire we never put on anything artificial following the end of March. After that, merely roll and water. We used to get real sticky wickets. I remember the time at Sheffield when a side that made 70 against us on a sticky wicket did well because we had such bowlers as Schofield Haigh, Wainwright, Peel, Hirst, Rhodes and myself. Yes, I used to bowl, and I enjoyed it more than batting.

In 1902 at Leeds, F. S. Jackson and Hirst dismissed the Australians in the second innings for 23, each taking 5 wickets. Jackson's analysis was 7-1-12-5. The last four wickets fell to him in five balls. Hirst's five wickets cost nine runs. Each took four wickets in the first innings, Jackson's costing 30 and Hirst's 35. The two bowlers were mainly responsible for Yorkshire winning by five wickets. The Australians only other defeat that season was in the Test Match at the Oval when England won by one wicket.-- EDITOR.

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