Locked in Mortal Combat – Great Cricketing Rivalries 1

Tony Lock and Johnny Wardle were the bitterest of rivals.  Lock of Surrey and Wardle of Yorkshire.  Both bowled left arm finger spin, though Wardle could bowl wrist spin and Lock had a quicker delivery that made even his Surrey spin twin Jim Laker wince with embarrassment for its similarity to a baseball pitch.

Both competed for England’s second spin bowling slot to partner Laker  in the 1950s.

In the outcome Lock  played in 49 Tests  and took 174 wickets and Wardle  played in only 28 taking 102 wickets.

Conjurer, joker, clown, satirist and holder of grudges, Wardle, said it as he saw it (and also wrote it as he saw it), ruffling feathers wherever he went, including to his cost in the Committee Room at Lord’s – ‘that Yorkshire so-and-so’.

Lock, capable of generosity to those he rated but incapable of disguising his scorn for those he did not, was as volatile as potassium in water.

These were the ingredients of the perfect storm: one long to bear a grievance that betrayed an underlying sense of inferiority; the another programmed to express contempt behind which he hid his vulnerability.  Both struggling to cope with life in the shadow of the Laker legend.

Yet Lock and Wardle once had to share a dressing room for a game against Lancashire.

Any ideas how this came to be?

* The work illustrated above is Gerhard Richter’s Mirror Brown Blue – 1991.  Gerry has placed the Brown of Surrey and Blue of Yorkshire in a harmonic juxtaposition perfectly representing the rivalry and mutual dependence of these two left arm bowlers.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Locked in Mortal Combat – Great Cricketing Rivalries 1

  1. backwatersman

    With a bit of help from Test Match Extra I see that they both played for a Lancashire League XI against Lancashire in 1965. I knew Wardle played in the leagues, but don’t remember Lock doing so.

    I see that they opened the bowling together in the second innings. Perhaps Lock was bowling his quicker ball that day?

      • Wardle played a number of years at Rishton. When Lock joined Leicestershire it was on a ‘weekday’ contract. He supplemented this by playing for Ramsbottam in the Lancashire League.
        The Lancashire League sides selected to play annually against Lancashire often resembled a Rest of the Whirled XI and must have offered good value to the spectators.

  2. John Wardle

    My father did indeed feel he had been unfairly treated but an inferiority complex is not something I associate with him. Just few facts help to explain his feelings. (1) He has the lowest average (20.39) of any bowler taking 100 Test wickets since the First World War. (2) Only Trevor Goddard and Hedley Verity have a better economy rate.(3) Only Warne, Murri, Laker and Swann amongst spinners taking 100 wickets have a better strike rate. (4) Lock’s Test average pre 59 when he had to change his action was 29.66, for the period after 59 it was 34.58. (5) Lock had what Alan Hill describes as “three phases” in his first class career, pre 52 avg. 22.95, 52-57 when his action was described at best as “suspect” avg. 14.78 and post 58/9 when he changed his action, avg. 23.19. During the seven years 52-57 Surrey won the Championship and frustration built up in Yorkshire who regularly finished second. Johnny had a very good life post Yorkshire and England and thoroughly enjoyed his years in the Lancs Lg but he was the best spin bowler in the world, at least pre-Underwood and England could have benefitted from his services. (6)Finally, just before Laker’s great year of 1956 in 13 Tests in England Wardle had taken 55 wickets at 19.41, Lock in seven had taken 25 at 23.40 and Laker 54 wickets at 25.53. Wardle only played two further home Tests… I could go on.

  3. It is very kind of you to contribute, Mr Wardle. Third Man hopes that he did not offend you, he wanted to celebrate a great and ‘unsung’ cricketer. He is remembered fondly and with admiration by those who played with and against him in the Lancashire League.
    Apparently he would point to the area behind the batting crease and inside the return crease and say, “This is all mine.” A wonderful lesson to spinners about angles and variations.

    • John Wardle

      Not offended at all. I’m just glad that people still remember him fondly. As Stephen Chalke said in the Cricketer a few years ago, “He is the forgotten man”. Sadly when he is referred to it is more about his sad departure than his achievements which is why I indulged myself with the “facts”.
      Best wishes
      John Wardle

      • The cricketing Establishment at the time has a lot to answer for. Third Man knew Harold Gimblett well. He often spoke of the time he hit a straight six on the first morning of a Test. Feeling good about his innings, he passed a selector on the way through the pavilion and expected a pat on the back. Instead he was told, “We don’t do that in Test cricket. You’ll never play again.” And he didn’t.

        Thanks for the comprehensive set of figures. They seldom lie.

        As a matter of interest, how did you stumble on the piece?

        TM

  4. Pingback: Throwing in Cricket – UnLocking the Evidence | Down At Third Man

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