Obituary

Capt. Robert Fowler

ESPNcricinfo staff

FOWLER, CAPT. ROBERT ST. LEGER, M.C., born on April 7, 1891, died at Rahinston, Enfield, County Meath, on June 13, aged 34. Owing to his profession, he was not very well-known to the general cricket public, but he was the hero of a match which may, without exaggeration, he described as the most extraordinary ever played. The story of the Eton and Harrow match in 1910 has been told over and over again, but it can never grow stale. No victory in a match of widespread interest was ever snatched in such a marvellous way. As captain of the Eton eleven Fowler--it was his third year in the big match--found his side for about a day and a half overwhelmed. On the first day Harrow scored 232, and Eton, before bad light caused stumps to be drawn, lost five wickets for 40 runs. This was bad enough, but worse was to come. Eton's innings ended on the Saturday morning for 67, and in the follow-on five wickets were lost for 65. Fowler, scoring 64, played splendidly and received valuable help, but, in spite of all his efforts, the game reached a point at which the odds on Harrow could not have been named. With one wicket to fall Eton were only four runs ahead. But the Hon. J. N. Manners-- killed in the war in 1914--hit so fearlessly and had such a cool-headed partner in Lister-Kaye that the last wicket put on 50 runs. Honour was in a measure saved, no one imagined that Harrow would fail to get the 55 runs required. Then came the crowning sensation. Fowler bowled his off-breaks with such deadly accuracy that he took eight wickets--five of them bowled down -and won the match for Eton by nine runs. No one who was at Lord's on that eventful Saturday evening will ever forget the scene at the finish. Old Harrovians, bearing their sorrow with as much fortitude as could have been expected, said sadly that a grievous blunder had been committed in putting the heavy roller on the rather soft pitch, and there was a good deal in their contention. Still, nothing could detract from Fowler's achievement. Something heroic was demanded of him, and he rose to the height of his opportunity. From one point of view it was a pity he went into the Army. In Oxford or Cambridge cricket he would assuredly have played a great part.

In his three matches against Winchester he scored 113 runs for twice out and took fifteen wickets for 136 runs: altogether in his six big Public School matches he made 238 runs with an average of 29.75 and obtained 39 wickets for 10.10 runs each. For Eton he was first in bowling in 1909, and first in both batting and bowling the following year. For Sandhurst v. Woolwich in 1911 he carried out his bat for 137 and took seven wickets for nine runs in a total of 63, and in a small game at the R.M.C. that year, for C.Co. v. E.Co., he scored 112 in his first innings and 132 in his second.

When he made 92 not out for Army v. M.C.C. at Lord's in 1920 he and Capt. W. V. D. Dickinson (150) put on 237 together for the eighth wicket in ninety minutes, and on the same ground four years later he took seven wickets for 22 runs for Army v. Royal Navy. With the Incogniti he toured America in 1920, making 142 v. All Philadelphia at Haverford, and with the Free Foresters he visited Germany the same year and Canada in 1923. When it was contemplated sending an M.C.C. team to the West Indies in 1924-5 he was offered, and accepted, the captaincy. In 1924 he appeared in two matches for Hampshire. In the Great War he served as Captain in the 17th Lancers and gained the Military Cross.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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