How fast did they bowl on Broadhalfpenny Down?

What would it have been like to face Thomas Brett, Hambledon CC’s first strike bowler in the 1750s?  Or the daemon David Harris later in the century when he was aiming at a helpful bump on a ‘length’ on a pitch he’d carefully selected ?

Forget the idea of the sedate approach to the wicket and the arm trundled down with a slight whip of the wrist. Their deliveries would have been ‘full on’ underarm bowling from people who had spent their lives as labourers, potters and smiths.    

If the above photograph of the Olympic Softball star, Jenny Finch, is anything to go by their method of delivery would have been built on a huge delivery stride and a perfected body and wrist action that produced speeds of around ninety miles per hour; no doubt with a huge and intimidating grunt to rival that of any Wimbledon server of today.

Still images of Jenny Finch give an idea of the athleticism, skill and speed, but this film of her by Sport Science on YouTube (below) shows her in action and reveals the extent of the force generated by her ‘bowling’ at 70 mph with pinpoint accuracy.

Third Man suggests you drag quickly to 45 seconds for shots of Jenny in competitive action before moving on to 4 minutes, 20 seconds to see her in the ‘lab’.  

There is also some interesting analysis comparing the difficulties faced by baseball and softball hitters.



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2 responses to “How fast did they bowl on Broadhalfpenny Down?

  1. diogenes

    I am not totally convinced by the analysis of the difficulty of hitting a softball. If a rising trajectory makes it hard to adjust the stroke for a baseball hitter, can you imagine the gleam in the eyes of Jeff Thomson or Andy Roberts? The distance beween where their bouncers pitched and the batsman’s body must be less than the distance from softball pitcher to batter…the angle of ascent much steeper yet I recall Cowdrey hooking Thomson with ease at the age of 42 (don’t remind me of the time he “fell” for the Roberts 2-card trick, he was probably expecting the Wes Hall response) and Chappell v Roberts was always compelling watching. Ian Chappell used to hook Snow…even though he got caught a few times…memorable by MJK Smith out at long leg….why did Illingworth post him out there…was it some kind of class prejudice? It might even have been at Lords 1972…lol

    • However, unlike the baseball and softball strikers’ hitting zones, the hook is played upwards and backwards, with a ball discernibly ‘slowed’ by its steep angled impact with the pitch giving a wonderful view as it rises towards the nose. Even in unprotected days batsmen ducked to avoid getting out rather than to avoid being hit, just as today you wouldn’t expect a batsman to duck a free hit.
      What struck Third Man (ho, ho) was the athleticism of the underarm pitch which provides a great window onto the explosive release of energy that must accompanied a delivery by a C18th bowler like David Harris. Interestingly, an account of Harris’s starting point for a delivery might equally as well describe that of Jenny Finch.
      “Do the long leg f’us, Mike? Yer; both ends!” Thanks for your classy thought Diogenes. One can imagine Illy’s satisfaction at being able to say that.

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