Tag Archives: Wally Hammond

Quintessential Hammond, Right?

Wally Hammond reputedly abandoned leg side scoring shots and plundered the overwhelming majority of his runs through the off-side as portrayed in this much used photograph of the Great Man above.

On the morning of the Lord’s Test against Sri Lanka it seems fitting to take the Type III time machine back to St John’s Wood on 24th June 1938. Persistent followers of Third Man’s voyages through time will know that to help in enter Dark’s at will he keeps a set of step ladders in the bushes in Cavendish Avenue near the North Gate

Against a background of concern over the prospect of a new European war just twenty years after the end of the Great War and with the German Chancellor spitting out his claim to Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland, the crowd making their way to Lord’s this day want to escape their worst fears by immersing themselves in the Second Test of the Ashes series.

And the prospects look good.  England batting had dominated the first Test with Paynter not out 216, and centuries for Barnett, Hutton and the promising Compton walking jauntily in at number six.  Even 232 by McCabe in reply had not prevented Australia from following on and batting out a draw.

Here at Lord’s, despite a green wicket, England do not hesitate before electing to continue their subjugation of the Australians, but they have lost three wickets in half an hour for 31 when the hero of Trent Bridge, Paynter, walks through the famous gate and plunges down onto the outfield to join, Hammond, he or the searing cover drive.

With ‘careful’ application they take the score to 134 at lunch. Careful? At a rate of one a minute?  True, Paynter is unable initially to rediscover his touch and scratches about, but Hammond counter attacks and is dominant from the first ball.  His 50 comes in 68 minutes, his hundred in 2 hours 25 minutes.

In the afternoon to the delight of the crowd now oblivious to Herr Hitler’s aggression across  that moat, ‘defensive as to a house’, it is Paynter’s turn to outscore Hammond.

But on 99, with the total at 253, Paynter faces O’Reilly, is beaten and hears, as does all North London, the triumphant roar of Bill’s appeal for LBW. The top spinner?

The local boy, Compton, also falls LBW to the irrepressive O’Reilly who is finally challenging the English supremacy of a thousand and fifty runs for the loss of 13 wickets in the series to this point.

But Ames now provides the reinforcements that enable Hammond to continue his tyranny of the Australian bowling.  Other than a lashing drive that might have been caught by O’Reilly in the covers, a chanceless Hammond on 210 reaches the sanctuary of the Pavilion, a standing ovation and a cooling shandygaff.  England are 409 for 5, Ames not out 50.

But have generations been seduced by that iconic photograph of Hammond, front knee bent, head aggressively thrust towards the bowler, back knee almost touching the ground? Watch the first minute and the two drives contained in this .

Note the way that, when he strikes the ball, Hammond, has a straight and stiff front leg and how he pivots over the knee joint more like a bowler than the batsman of the coaching manual.

[UPDATE: Seventy-three years later, as revealed by super-slo-mo shots by Sky, Morgan uses the same front leg technique in his jewel of an innings against Sri Lanka on the same ground.]

‘Talking head’ after ‘talking head’ speak of Hammond’s ‘classical technique’ and how he puts ‘all his weight into the shot’. The film and the photograph below do not appear to support this.


Hammond uses that front leg as a fulcrum and as Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world!”


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Forgive Them for They Know What They Do – at Sydney D3 T5

At the SCG today, Phil Hughes knew immediately that he had not made the catch off Cook on 99.  Ian Bell knew immediately that he had nicked the ball.

From an early age those who go on to play cricket learn the difference between catching a ball on the way down and a ball rising as a half volley from the ground.  The two have a totally different feel on the hands.  Cricketers can tell with their eyes shut.

Similarly, but from a not quite so early an age, a batsman learns the feel that comes through the bat when he has edged the ball. There is no mistaking that sensation of ball on bat, however faint. It is totally different from the feel from a bat having clipped his pad or his foot on the way through its swing.

Both Hughes and Bell also gave the game away in their body language and ill-disguised hesitations when questioned by team mates or interviewers.

These are professional sportsmen who almost daily risk losing their livelihood, especially in the early stages of their careers, at the hands of poor umpiring decisions augmented by the ploys of their opponents. 

That is why there are umpires.  It is why the game must give them every possible technical aid as quickly at their disposal as technically possible.  Why administrators and referees must come down hard on any action that seeks to influence or pressurise the decision taking.  And why there must be no toleratation of descent once a decision has been made. 

Professionalised cricket is an industry. In each match there are in the region of twenty five small firms ‘in play’.  If the chairman and chief executive of one such firm stands, rather than walks, claims falsely, rather than fesses up, we should not be surprised.  It is a business decision.

But there is a place for ethical self-respect in business and in life.  The choice is with the individual.

Meanwhile Bell demonstrated the kind of batting described here yesterday with back foot shots played to the rising ball through a full arc around the field interspersed with sumptuous front foot drives that threaded the field. His balance footwork and timing were magnificent.

A compilation that in early November might have struck the reader as bizarre.

At close of play, Cook confided to an interviewer that, batting the way he has since Brisbane, there have been periods when, as for a Zen master encountering the sublime, time passed in a blurr.  ‘Is it really effing drinks already, mate?’. 

It was meet therefore that his 189 took his series total beyond that of Herbert Sutcliffe’s huge achievement in the Ashes of 1924/25.

Cook’s total is still some way short of W.R. Hammond’s 905 [at an average 113.12] made in 1928/29, which fact underscores Hammond’s achievement and in no way diminishes that of Cook.   1928/29 is still the closest template for this series that sadly for England supporters is drawing to its close.

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Crowd Psychology – 2nd Ashes Test Sydney December 1928

Percy Chapman preux chevalier now led his merry but generally elderly men on from their seismic victory at the Gabba described earlier to the cauldron of  Sydney Cricket Ground where the outfielder senses intolerable isolation in a crowded place and even the wicketkeeper can hear himself barracked.

Mead had played his last Test and made way for Geary.  For Australia, Richardson replaced Bradman, the gentle Nothling came in for the broken Gregory, who had therefore also played his last Test, and the off-spinner Blackie made his debut at the unlikely age of 46.  The effects of the carnage of the First World War are clear to see with each side missing the Lost Generation of young players who might have been.

Hobbs and Sutcliffe opened the innings and put on 37 before Sutcliffe's dismissal brought forth Hammond.

Australia were bowled out for 253 with Geary taking 5 for 35 in 18 overs and Larwood picked up 3 for 77 in 26.2 overs.  Controversy attended the early dismissal of Kippax who was bowled off his pads from outside leg stump but the batsman claimed that ‘keeper Duckworth had broken the wicket.

The scene was then set for Hammond to take command. Coming in with England at 37 for 1, he reigned supreme for 7 hours 41 minutes during which time he scored 251 in England’s total of 636 all out.

Wally Hammond - the economy of the cover drive

Australia’s second innings of 397 contained centuries for Barnacle Bill Woodfull and the multi-initialed H.S.T.L Hendry, but it was barely enough to make England bat again and the tourists won the second Test by 8 wickets and went 2 – 0 up in the series. 

Tate bowls to Hendry probably on his way to 112 in Australia's second innings. Some consolation for the crowd but not enough to to forestall an eight wicket drubbing which gave a cricket mad country much to talk about.

In the home side’s second innings the damage had been done by Tate with 4 for 99 from 46 overs, but Larwood’s influence, although on paper insignificant with 1 for 105 from 35 overs, was in fact considerable as batsmen took risks at the other end either to avoid him or to protect the lower order from him.  Barker and Rosewater in Test Cricket England v Australia suggest that, ‘There was an impression, too, that at times he bowled at the batsman.’

The Australian crowds and commentariat were in two minds. Either this was the worst, oldest and least worthy side ever to reach Australian shores or given the results so far, the luckiest. The temperature metaphorically as well as literally was rising as the antipodean spring turned into high summer.

Four years later Jardine was to use the following quotation from R.W.Thompson’s  Down Under, a non-cricketing account of a period he spent in the Dominion, to show that the reaction in 1932/33 was in many ways no different to that which had preceded it.

Of 1928, Thompson writes,  “A far more serious series of events now commenced.  I refer to the cricket Test matches between England and Australia.  The papers and the people relegated all other business and thoughts to the background.  I had not realised that cricket could be taken so seriously.  The attitude of the general public and of the crowds at the matches was amazing.  This was no game.  It was warfare …”

Thompson wrote that, ‘There was little sporting spirit … The merits of England’s players were belittled and scoffed at, dismissed as luck.”

Jardine obscures the names so that his 1934 readers might at first think it was a report of that winter’s tour, but in 2010 there is no need for such artifice.

Argument, thought Thompson, was now unavoidable.  “I thanked God for Hammond and his double centuries, and Larwood and his Ponsford-baffling bowling (actually hand breaking bowling – TM). These two were unanswerable.  Nevertheless, the Australians called Hammond a one-stroke player, and Larwood, they said was not as fast as Gregory.”

According to Thompson, “The Sydney Test provided the newspapers with copy for several weeks, and the general public with material for heated and scathing debate …”   Duckworth, he writes, “was barracked unmercifully for many days afterwards …”   The Kippax incident being “discussed unsportingly on every hand.”

Thompson found it very hard, “to get an acknowledgement of England’s worth from anyone, even though we were winning.”

Yet, if the temperature was rising, it was to soar yet further as both sides made their way to Melbourne and the New Year Test.

To be continued …


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The Emperor’s New Clothes or Wearing a T-Shirt for Douglas Jardine.

The not so humble T shirt, the undergarment that ‘came out’, self coloured or tye-died, ringer or billboard, utilitarian or expressive, mute or shrill – should we wear one for Douglas Jardine?

The boys at philosophyfootball think we should and for this winter’s Ashes tour they have selected for one of their garments the Harlequin’s strikingly modern campaigning assertion that “Cricket is a battle and service and sport and art”. 

History has been cruel to this Lion of England.  In every way, opinion has moved against him and towards his foes – the hecklers on the Hill, the journalists of Nineteen Thirties Australia, his Establishment familiars, even his ambitious Vice Captain. 

Yet, if anything, culture has moved towards his approach if not his heritage.  Who would not fancy him to bring back the Ashes in 2011 – as he did in 1933 – four, one?

Cricket has become more professional, more abrasive, more ‘win at any cost’.  In other circumstances Jardine might be regarded today as a hero of the game, but Third Man doubts he will be inducted into the ICC’s Hall of Fame

Cricket long ago clothed itself in a myth of fair play and idealised virtues. Was it the way the early aristocratic enthusiasts excused their dalliance with the lower orders in pursuit of the demeaning shepherd’s game?  Was it the pretence by which schools prepared their pupils for war and colonial administration?   Was it a convenient narrative by which old professionals romanticised their playing careers and obscured their humble origins and self-serving match-play? 

Big cricket cricketers have always found the garment course fitting, so why has Jardine, remained unfashionable?

The costume that today configures itself in the folds and frills of the Spirit of Cricket may be a fig leaf, but nevertheless it must be worn at all times with respect and subservience. 

He who questions too closely the Emperor’s new clothes risks becoming a lightning rod through which the guilt and greed of others reaches the ground.

Is it time therefore to rehabilitate Douglas Jardine? 

As in most things, we must start much earlier.  In November 1928 the genial Percy Chapman led a team Down Under.  As now, after a long period of dominance, Australia, with their great players aging or retired, were finding it hard to reconstruct their side.

Percey Chapman wore a funny hat and thumped Australia 4 -1 but the game has been far kinder to him than it has to Jardine.

England on the other hand were able to send the following batting order to the printing office at the Gabba as the series begun on the morning of November 30th: Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Mead, Hammond (a debutant in this match who was to score 905 runs in his 9 Test match innings on this tour), Jardine (another debutant), Hendren (who, coming in at the crisis point of the match, if not of the series, when England were tottering at 161 for 4 on that first day, scored 169 of England’s first innings of 521 in a five hour game-changing innings ) and Chapman himself. 

Patsy Hendred on his way to 169. Has he actually got a lot to answer for?

These batsmen were complemented by a bowling attack of Tate, Larwood, White, Geary (in subsequent Tests) and Hammond. 

In reply, Australia lost their first four batsmen for 40 in a disastrous last hour of the second day and eventually sunk to 122 all out.  The youth Bradman, who had already scored 295 runs against the tourists for twice out, was lbw to Tate for 18 batting at number 7.  Larwood took six for 32 in 14.4 overs. 

Tests being timeless affairs in those days, England batted on to 342 (Mead 73, Jardine 65*) in their second innings before declaring 741 runs ahead in time to take the wicket of Ponsford before the close of play on the fourth evening.

Overnight rain then made batting conditions treacherous and White 4 for 7 in 6.3 overs, Tate 2 for 26 and Larwood 2 for 30  sent Australia to a crushing and demoralizing defeat by 675 runs.

The impact on the home side’s supporters, their media, their cricketers past and present and especially on Bradman would have far reaching consequences.

To be continued …


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The Tiger Who Bowled Like a Mouse and The Mouse that Kicked Like a Mule

The general consensus is that Bill O’Reilly bowled quickish leg breaks, googlies (bosies) and top spinners.  In fact he himself describes his bowling as ‘medium slow’.  He bowled from a thirteen pace run-up and the above photograph shows that he had a very long delivery stride suggesting that he came in more quickly than many spinners who use a short delivery stride to help them get height and a pivot over the front leg.  In his time, O’Reilly, opened the bowling for the Australians in a number of innings.

Today’s photograph above and yesterday’s here confirms much of this, with the front foot appearing to land on or over the popping crease (at a time when to be a legitimate ball the back foot had to land behind the bowling crease) giving a four or five foot stride.  His collapsed front leg suggests that he didn’t have an action that went ‘over’ the front leg.  At 6ft 3in he seems to have been less concerned with a high action.

But the really interesting thing is that Hammond in Cricket My World has a different interpretation of what was going on and Hammond, of course had the benefit of actually facing him.

“’The Tiger’, as they call him in Australia, took a long run to the wicket, and it was rather uncanny at first to watch this 6-ft 3-in. athlete gallop to the wicket, snarling with all his teeth, whirl his long powerful arms – and produce a slow ball that only ‘fired’ when it left the pitch.  The mountain laboured and brought forward a mouse – but the mouse tweaked under the bat and knocked down the wicket!”

O’Reilly admits that his googly was slower.  “Yes, it was quite a bit slower, but I hid the reason for it, and this was the substance or the basis of the success of the whole thing in that I was able to disguise the pace of it. It was very much slower and it bounced higher.”

Tiger, Mouse or Mule?

Indeed in the same interview  he admits bowling googlies at Hammond in particular at least twice an over, commenting that, “There was an old saying that you only bowled your bosey occasionally and kept it more or less as a secret weapon. That never entered my head. If I thought that I should bowl the bosey five times an over, I bowled it, because it depended entirely on the bloke I was bowling at. The thing that I was keen to see about a batsman was how quick he was on his feet and how good his eyes were to pick up where the point of contact had to be. If he made his mind up that the point of contact was to be a certain spot, then it was your job to make the ball fall short of that spot or to get to that spot quicker than he thought, and therefore you would have spoiled his shot altogether.”

This reference to ‘the point of contact’ is O’Reilly’s great legacy to the game and the art of spin.  The view that batsmen bat by reference to a chosen point of contact and that spin bowling is about either getting the ball to that point earlier than the batsman has predicted and so to bowl or trap him LBW or to get there later and so to induce a lifted shot is a really useful concept.

It is also a consensus that O’Reilly did not turn the ball a great deal.  It seems to Third Man that from the photographs of the grip yesterday he produced his revolutions by flicking the ring finger upwards with the palm facing the batsman for the leg-break.  He thus may have sacrificed the extra revolutions imparted by a flick of the wrist. 

With this method, turning the hand with palm to midwicket produces the top-spinner and moving the hand slightly further round with the palm facing back to mid-on for the right hander produces the googly.

The unorthodox grip might also have produced less obvious changes in orientation to effect the three deliveries described above.  The difference between leg break, top spin and googly could have been minimum, helping with disguise but reducing turn.  In fact the energy of the rotations would have brought the ball down and forwards in a preponderance of topspin.

The direction of the seam for the leg break would have been just off-straight (say towards first slip rather than gully) and just finely to leg rather than to backward shot leg for the googly.  This topspin would have produced a relatively high degree of ‘dip’ thanks to the Magnus Effect and therefore would have produced a relatively high bounce or ‘kick’ as described by Hammond and others.

Hammond thought that the mountain laboured and brought forth a mouse.  Well, the mouse had a kick like a mule’s.


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