CRICKETER OF THE YEAR 1931

Ian Peebles

IAN ALEXANDER ROSS PEEBLES, now as a member of the M.C.C. Team paying his second visit to South Africa, was born at Aberdeen on January 20, 1908. Educated at Glasgow Academy, this young cricketer was first heard of through, Mr. P.F. Warner and from the late Major Aubrey Faulkner at whose school of cricket he was being coached.

It is no secret that at the outset very many people were under the impression that the abilities of Peebles as a leg-break and googly bowler had been over estimated. Certainly, there was nothing in his early performances to justify the eulogies about his bowling which at that time were being expressed in some quarters.

Picked at the age of nineteen -- before he had appeared in match of importance -- for the Gentlemen against the Players at the Oval and for the North against the South at Folkestone, Peebles had some rather unhappy experiences, taking one wicket for 95 at the Oval and no wicket for 59 at Folkestone.

Those occurred in 1927. At the end of that season he went to South Africa with the M.C.C. team, primarily as secretary to the captain, but he took part in four of the Test Matches and nine other games. He did not meet with much success in representative engagements, his five wickets costing 246 runs, but in all matches he took thirty-four wickets for just over 19 runs apiece.

Against Orange Free State he obtained in the two innings ten wickets for 80 runs, this and some other useful performances getting him in the first Test a place which he held until the last one. Still, he did enough to show that those who had previously spoken well of him were by no means so far out as had been thought.

In the following season in England he bowled in three innings for Middlesex and came out at the top of the averages but the work he got through did not compare with that of the five men immediately below him. In that summer he was again unsuccessful for the Gentlemen at the Oval, but without attaining to any great excellence he had a better match at Folkestone.

In 1929, however, he fully justified not only himself but those two good judges whose names have been mentioned and who stood to their guns through thick and thin. For Middlesex he took one hundred and seven wickets for less than 20 runs apiece, finishing up second in the averages. He did useful work for Mr. H.D.G. Leveson Gower's Eleven against Oxford University at Eastbourne and wound up 22nd in the first-class bowling averages for the season with one hundred and twenty-three wickets for rather under 20 runs each.

Last season he came right to the front, finishing fourteenth in the first-class bowling averages with one hundred and thirty-three wickets at a cost of less than 18½ runs apiece.

Going up to Oxford he was, after his previous year's work, certain of his Blue. Starting with twenty-four wickets in his first three matches for the University he wound up by taking thirteen for 237 runs against Cambridge at Lord's and, in all, obtained seventy for the Dark Blues for just over 18 runs each.

Further honours awaited him for he was selected for the Gentlemen against the Players at Lord's, taking six wickets for 105 in the first innings and one for 15 in the second, and finally came the realisation of his highest hopes when he was picked for England against Australia in the last two Test Matches.

In both he bore the brunt of the work and by general consent -- although his analyses did not suggest it -- he was the best bowler on the England side. Moreover, playing for Middlesex, after the term at Oxford had finished, he helped that county to retrieve to some extent a truly deplorable season. Against Worcestershire he took thirteen wickets for 72 runs, and against Warwickshire eleven wickets for 95 runs.

While almost entirely a product of Major Faulkner's school, he pays tribute to the help George Geary and Ewart Astill have given him in teaching him how to spin the ball. He met them at Inverness when he was about thirteen years old and during his first tour in South Africa they again tendered invaluable assistance.

Tall and nicely built, Peebles has cultivated a beautiful run up and an easy delivery, with the ball brought well over his shoulder. At first he was inclined to bowl a little too fast but, the disadvantages of this being pointed out to him, he corrected the fault and has been a better bowler ever since.

He delivers the googly with no apparent change of action, and even such a great batsman as Bradman confessed that at Manchester he could not detect it. Unfortunately Peebles, last season, lost for the time being the knack of bowling the leg-break. It was significant that one of the few leg-breaks he bowled in the Test Matches proved the means of getting rid of Bradman.

© John Wisden & Co