CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1905

Bernard Bosanquet

BERNARD JAMES TINDAL BOSANQUET - There are few more interesting figures in the cricket field to-day than the man whose bowling won the fourth Test match, and with it the rubber for the MCC's team in Australia. Regarded for a considerable time as little more than a fine hard-hitting batsman he has within the last three seasons by reason of his remarkable development as a slow bowler risen to the rank of an England player. Had the Australians been here last summer the would beyond a doubt have been one of the first men chosen for the representative eleven.

Since the late Mr David Buchanan in the sixties changed himself from an average fast bowler to the best amateur slow bowler of his day, one cannot recall any instance of alteration in method of bowling bringing about such startling results. In his University days - he was in the Oxford eleven in 1898, 1899, and 1900 - Bosanquet was a very useful bowler, medium-pace to fast, but that was all, and had he kept to his original style real distinction at cricket would only have come to him through his batting. In 1901, however, he began to bowl the leg-breaks which have since made him famous. At first he tried to run the two styles together, but it was clear that this would never do and that he would have to make his choice and keep to it. He gradually dropped his fast bowling, but except for one remarkable piece of work against Notts, at Trent Bridge, no great amount of success rewarded his slows till 1903. In that season however, he took a great step in advance. His record in first-class matches was nothing particular - 63 wickets for 21 runs apiece -but the batsmen who played against him came to the conclusion that he had immense possibilities. While retaining his leg-break he had in some way acquired the power of breaking the ball from the off side without any apparent change in his delivery. This was something almost entirely new, and several well-known cricketers, P. F. Warner among them, did not hesitate to say that with more command over his length he would become the most difficult slow bowler in the world.

On the strength of what he might do on Australian wickets he was given a place in MCC's team, and, as everyone knows, the result fully bore out the judgment of those who selected him. The command of length is still to seek and will perhaps never be acquired, but, though he sends down more bad balls than any other front rank bowler, Bosanquet is now a distinct power in any eleven he plays for. On his good days he is more likely than any other bowler we have to get a strong side out cheaply on a perfect wicket. How he manages to bowl his off-break with apparently a leg-break action one cannot pretend to say. Even F. S. Jackson has confessed that he has not the least idea how it is done.

Bosanquet, however, has already found one successful imitator in R. O. Schwarz of the South African eleven, and no doubt many other bowlers are striving their utmost to master his secret. In the meantime English cricketers are looking to him to do great things against the Australians this year. As a batsman Bosanquet made his mark the first time the public saw anything of him. It was not until his last year at Eton - 1896 - that he gained a place in the eleven, but he made 120 against Harrow, at Lord's. He was then just a rough natural hitter with an unformed style, but there was no doubt as to his power. Born on the 13th of October, 1877, he had his first lessons in cricket at home in Enfield, and was at Sunnymede School, Slough, before going to Eton in 1891.

© John Wisden & Co