Among the several illustrious players who retired from county cricket after 1957 were D. V. P. Wright, E. Hollies and B. Dooland, who together have taken more than 5,000 wickets. The remaining googly-type bowlers of any standing in English first-class cricket could afterwards be counted on the fingers of one hand--Goonesena, Jenkins and Greenhough, with the left-handers Tribe and, when so minded, Wardle. Moreover, among others retiring was J. T. Ikin for whom googly bowling was a secondary role.
The strategical and tactical changes in big cricket since the war have almost driven such bowlers out of the county game. In an age when field strategy is based on giving nothing away the googly bowler, who trades runs for wickets, has lost his popularity. County captains attend meetings at which they pay lip service to the need for encouraging attacking cricket. But, when they return to their counties, they discard venturesome batsmen and turn their backs on bowlers liable to give runs away, however great their wicket-taking potential may be.
Googly bowling is now out of favour, but none studying the performances of Wright, Hollies and Dooland can doubt that it will rise again. Wright, with his remarkable set of seven hat-tricks, used to take his wickets in fewer overs than any other contemporary bowler. The next change of strategy may well revive a demand for those who take wickets quickly.
Wright was the most controversial bowler of his period, regarded by some as an expensive luxury. There were times when he was costly, and his Test record was not remarkable. Others, and I number myself among them, regard Wright as a magnificent bowler. He bowled leg-breaks and googlies at a pace not attempted by his rivals, and there were occasions when he was quite unplayable. At such times, unfortunately, he was liable to beat bat, wicket, stumper and everything and thus often missed his due reward.
Wright's Test record is a faulty guide. He began on the too-perfect pitches of the 'thirties against an Australian batting side containing Bradman, McCabe, Brown, Fingleton and Hassett. Even then he was unlucky. When at last he found a favourable pitch at Leeds in 1938 and took three wickets so quickly that a remarkable win for England was in prospect, a missed catch in the slips allowed Hassett to play the match-winning innings. Again at Sydney in 1947 Wright had his chance. Once more a vital catch was dropped off his bowling, for Bradman escaped when only two and stayed to make sure that Australia would win.
Having begun handicapped on batsmen's pitches before the war, Wright afterwards suffered from playing in a wretchedly weak English bowling side. His only worthwhile support was provided by Bedser, and he was not then the great bowler he afterwards became. Wright, then, was not only unlucky in often missing the just reward for superb bowling but unlucky also in his period. Wright played in 34 Tests and had two tours each in Australia and South Africa. There has been no touring cricketer more dependable than Wright both on and off the field, and it was fitting that he should have been among the first professionals to be officially appointed captain of a county side.
Hollies also rose to the captaincy of his county. His first-class career for Warwickshire dates back to 1932, the same year that Wright first played for Kent. Whereas Wright was a speedy bowler with vicious spin, Hollies rolled up slower and more insidiously artful balls. There has perhaps never been an English googly bowler with such control of length and direction. In that he and Wright provided another contrast. They differed greatly, too, in their approach to the wicket. Before reducing his run Wright was electrifying with bounds and leaps; Hollies bobbed gently towards the crease.
Hollies has the distinction, if that is the right word, of having taken more wickets in first-class cricket than he made runs. Yet in one of his 13 Tests he saved England with his bat, for against South Africa at Nottingham in 1947 he and J. W. Martin put on 51 for the last wicket. The season of 1946 was his greatest. His 184 wickets then cost only 15.6 each, and against Nottinghamshire he took all ten wickets for 49, bowling seven of his opponents and having three others lbw. It may be that the M.C.C. selectors erred in not then including him in their team for Australia. It was not until 1950, when he was too old to adapt his methods to Australian conditions, that he toured there. Between the two tours he bowled one particular googly at The Oval in 1948 which will long be quoted. Bradman came to play his final Test innings, and Hollies, with that now famous delivery, bowled him second ball for nought.
The third googly bowler to leave county cricket was Dooland, a South Australian who suffered from lack of encouragement in a time of Australian plenty just after the war. In their more recent lean period his country must often have regretted the discouraging treatment which drove him into English cricket. In that he began in the northern league game and finally had five seasons with Nottinghamshire. In the 1946-47 season Dooland looked a better bowler each time he opposed the M.C.C. touring team. He played in two Tests and bowled excellently, but he was surprisingly omitted from the 1948 touring team. As a result he was lost to Australian cricket for a decade, during which their spin bowling became progressively weaker and weaker.
When Dooland returned to his own country aged 33 after the 1957 season, he was a genuine all-rounder, who had either done the double or come close to it in each of his county seasons. On two occasions he played for the Players at Lord's, and none can question that his absence during the past ten years has been Test cricket's loss.
Ikin, who has suffered much in recent years from back and stomach trouble, has been one of the disappointments of post-war cricket. He was thrust forward at the start of the period, when there were gaps in all teams. It was perhaps his misfortune to be made to fill one of them in the Test team before he was sufficiently mature. Yet his start was promising enough. After beginning against India he went to Australia in 1946 and overcame the handicap of inexperience with considerable success in the first three Tests. His first in Australia was on the wickedly sticky pitch at Brisbane, but with his 32 he shared with Hammond the distinction of being England's top scorer in the match.
In the next two Tests Ikin also scored well, but subsequently he achieved little in big matches, and his record in 18 Tests was modest. He lacked neither the necessary temperament nor courage, for he was ever ready to interpose himself between his wicket and the fastest bowling. It may be that he lacked ambition. There were certainly the qualities in his rugged left-handed batting that make for success in the highest circles, and in addition to being a useful right-arm bowler he was among the greatest fielders at short-leg and in the gully.
Three county captains retired in 1957, and they included E. D. R. Eagar who had led Hampshire in every post-war season. Figures alone cannot tell the story of Eagar's part in the cricket of that period. He was a Gloucestershire man who gave everything to Hampshire as their captain-secretary. None has done more for that county, and none has made more sacrifice for any county.
In a period when the expression county amateur has concealed many a super-professional Eagar was too busy working for his adopted county to give thought to himself. He sacrificed any chance of a more financially rewarding career and also his own batting. In earlier days with Oxford and Gloucestershire Eagar was a bold, attacking batsman. The need in Hampshire was for someone more stubborn, and he did his best to become a solid number four. The damage to his cricket was obvious, though he still achieved much as a batsman for Hampshire, and in the field he averaged more than a catch a match. It was, however, off the field that Eagar achieved most. While other counties turned to football pools for revenue Hampshire existed on the tireless work of their captain. He toiled round the year to popularise the county's cricket, built up the membership to previously unimagined heights and persuaded more people than ever before to pay at the gates. As secretary he continues at that work.
The other retiring captains were C. H. Palmer and W. H. H. Sutcliffe. Palmer, like Eagar, was a cricket migrant. He made his name as a graceful stroke-making batsman with Worcestershire before becoming Leicestershire's secretary-captain. Those who saw his beautiful 85 at Worcester in the first match of the 1948 Australian touring team will number Palmer among the post-war disappointments. At his best he looked a Test class player, and several less able by far than Palmer batted several times for England. He played in only one Test, and it may be that he should have been given more chances.
In addition to his batting Palmer was a valuable medium-paced bowler, and as such he made his greatest impact on recent cricket. In the middle of Surrey's all-conquering run as champions Palmer took eight of their wickets at Leicester in 1955, while their innings crashed from 42 for one to 67 for nine and while not a single run was scored off him.
Unlike most of his predecessors Sutcliffe took over the Yorkshire captaincy at a time of a cricket slump in the county. He thus had to tackle a difficult task of reformation so unusual in Yorkshire that none existed there able to advise him from first-hand knowledge. He did not manage to restore the side to its more familiar position, but he himself always set a personal example of resolute batsmanship and played some doughty innings.
Another retiring cricketer was F. W. Stocks after 12 years of sound left-handed batting and useful right-arm bowling for Nottinghamshire. There are remarkable features about his career, for he started in 1946 with a century in his first match and with a wicket from his initial delivery. In the same season he played in a Test trial, his only representative match, and he had the unusual distinction of making his highest score, 171 in 1956, against an Australian touring team.
Finally, late in the year, another Australian exile and one of the period's oustanding left-handed batsmen, Livingston of Northamptonshire, announced his departure. And a season saddened by such losses threatened still greater sadness until Denis Compton revised his intentions from total to partial retirement.
|E. D. R. Eagar||12175||158*||21.93||1465||31||47.25|
|W. E. Hollies||1671||47||5.00||48656||2323||20.94|
|J. T. Ikin||17637||192||36.74||10159||332||30.59|
|C. H. Palmer||17118||201||31.93||8846||351||25.20|
|F. W. Stocks||11397||171||29.60||9794||223||43.91|
|W. H. H. Sutcliffe||7418||181||26.21||334||15||22.26|
|D. V. P. Wright||5907||84*||12.35||49305||2056||23.98|