Dick Howorth

HOWORTH, RICHARD, died in hospital on April 2, 1980, aged 70. A slow left-arm bowler, who kept an immaculate length and could spin and flight the ball, an attacking left-handed batsman, who usually appeared in the middle of the order but was prepared to open if wanted, and a good field close to the wicket, he did great service for Worcestershire from 1933 to 1951, scoring for them 10,538 runs at an average of 20.20 taking 1,274 wickets at 21.36 and holding 188 catches. Three times, in 1939, 1946 and 1947 he achieved the double in all matches, and he played five times for England. Born at Bacup, he appeared for Worcestershire in 1933, against the West Indians while qualifying and in the first innings was top scorer with 68. Qualified in 1934, he was disappointing, but in 1935 he jumped right to the front, heading the bowling averages with 121 wickets at 18.94, and from that time he never looked back.

In 1936 he played an important part in Worcestershire's sensational victory over Yorkshire, their first since 1909: in the second innings he took five for 21. Later that summer he made the first and highest of his three centuries in county cricket - 114 in two hours and ten minutes v Kent at Dover, scored out of 180 for the first wicket - and followed it by taking, in the two innings, eight for 91. Before the War, with Verity available, there was little chance in the England side for any other slow left-armer, but in 1947 Howorth was picked for the final Test v South Africa at The Oval and proved a great success. He took six wickets in the match, including one with his first ball, and was described in Wisden as "far the best England bowler"; he also scored 23 and 45 not out and made two fine catches in the gully. That winter he went with MCC to West Indies under G. O. Allen and played in all four Tests: so important was his steadiness to a weak attack that he was not left out of a single match. But the West Indies is not the ideal place for left-arm spin and his wickets were costly.

In his early days Howorth owed much to his captain, the Hon. C. J. Lyttelton, later Lord Cobham, who, whenever he showed signs of shortening his length and bowling too fast, insisted that he should pitch the ball up and flight it more. When in 1951, at the age of 42, he announced his retirement after a season in which he had headed the Worcestershire bowling averages with 118 wickets at 17.97 and appeared to be bowling as well as ever, Lord Cobham, upon asking him why he was retiring, received the reply, "Because it's not as much fun as it was". Howorth played later for Stourbridge in the Birmingham League, served for many years on the Worcestershire Committee and ran a newsagent's shop across the river from the Worcester ground. He was much liked and respected, though the partial disenchantment which prompted his retirement from the first-class game was never quite thrown off.

© John Wisden & Co