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Trevor Wedlake's Writings
MCC return

Published in the Village Journal April, 1975

Ever since the extremely fast bowling of Australia's Ernest Jones singed W.G. Grace' s beard back in 1896, fast bowlers have had in their armoury the weapons to blight the endeavours of the best of batsmen.

Used in pairs they have often won a series for their side. Correspondents on the spot claim that Australia's two opening bowlers Lillee and Thompson are as fast and furious as any there have ever been, and England's success in the 6th Test and in New Zealand confirms how effective they were.

MCC, returning this week, have made plain the paucity in present-day English cricket of the technique and temperament to play hostile fast bowling. But as inquests official and un-official linger on and very real concern is voiced about the technical and psychological
failures that have been exposed on this tour one or two points may be worthy of note.

Over the entire history of England-Australia Test Matches Australia lead by 86 matches to 70. In this century Australia lead by 67 matches to 44. In rubbers that is 17 to 11. Since 1945 Australia have won 29 matches to 15 by England -7 rubbers to 4. So Australia should always be backed to win, on form.

To be fair to the returning warriors one should also concede that some of the powerful England batting sides of the past may have been hard pressed by Thompson and Lillee, though one imagines they would not have been caught slashing at shoulder-high balls two feet outside the off stump.

In 1948 an England team which included Hutton, Washbrook, Edrich, Compton and Evans were beaten 4 - 0 by Australia which could call in Lindwall, Miller and Bill Johnstone. Meckiff and Rorke (throwing) did it to Peter May's team in 1958-59. England's turn came in 1954-55 when Tyson and Statham, fast and accurate tore through Australia in the form of Harvey, Morris, Miller, Benaud and Langley.

In 1932-33 Larwood and Voce were the two main agents of D.R. Jardine' s triumphant trouncing 4 - 1 of Australia's Bradman, McCabe, Ponsford and Fingleton. The great S.F. Barnes and the fast left-arm bowling of Frank Foster were too much for Australia in 1911-12.

So the dominance of a series by great fast bowlers is no new phenomenon. Fast bowling is one of the most thrilling aspects of cricket, it demands great fitness and athleticism. Like the heavy-weight division to boxing it is the great crowd puller. Australia have the fastest men at the moment and their star may be in the ascendant for some time.

Yet there is a glimmer of hope that England may fare better in the series this summer. Both Thompson and Lillee showed signs of strain before the end of the Australian season and broke down. Furthermore, The Guardian reporter claims that Thompson bowled many no-balls, most of which were not called. He could find life harder in England.

Finally, neither Larwood nor Tyson bowled with the hostility and penetration in England that they produced in Australia. Will Thompson and Lillee be able to?

English crowds in their thousands will be turning out this summer to find out.