Published on November 4th, 2018 | by Abhishek Mukherjee1
Cricket history in quotes, part 11: “… it was so successful that I practised the same thing with a soft ball at Stump-cricket”🕓 Reading time: 4 minutes
Abhishek Mukherjee, cricketsoccer’s prolific writer, brings to you the words, verbal or written, almost never intended to be pathbreaking quotes in the history of cricket in this fascinating series…….
Quote: “It soon occurred to me that if one could pitch a ball which broke in a certain direction and with more or less the same delivery make the next ball go in the opposite direction, one would mystify one’s opponent. After a little experimenting, I managed to do this, and it was so successful that I practised the same thing with a softball at Stump-cricket.”
By: Bernard Bosanquet on his early experiments with googly in 1897. The quote was part of a piece he wrote in Wisden 1925, Sydney Pardon’s final year as editor.
Nobody expected South Africa to compete in, let alone win, the 1905-06 home series against the Ashes-winning England. There was little reason for the Englishmen to panic despite the 60-run defeat against Transvaal – though in hindsight they should have introspected more seriously.
Requiring 176 that day, England were bowled out for 115. The main destroyers were Reggie Schwarz (5/34) and the greatest all-rounder of the era (and of all era), Aubrey Faulkner (3/62). In the first innings, Schwarz had taken 4/80 and Faulkner 3/46.
South Africa went into the first Test at Old Wanderers with several debutants, including both Schwarz and Faulkner. Bertie Vogler, a third debutant, also bowled wrist-spin, as did Gordon White, essentially a batting all-rounder.
The first Test was South Africa’s first ever win: before that they had played 12 Tests across 16 years. This also meant that a third team had now won a Test match. The match figures of the leg-spinners tell the story: Schwarz 29-6-96-3, Faulkner 34.5-12-61-6, Vogler 14-3-34-3, White 9-1-28-2.
They thrashed England 4-1 in the series. Schwarz finished with 18 wickets at 17.22, Faulkner with 14 at 19.42, Vogler with 9 at 22.23, and White those 2, at 15.
All four bowlers had mastered an art never practised by a quartet in tandem by four spinners in history in international cricket before or after: the googly.
England were taken by surprise as the innovation, popularised – if not pioneered – by their own Bosanquet, had come to their own downfall.
Bosanquet and Schwarz had locked horns when South Africa had toured England in 1904. This was the greatest season of Bosanquet’s career: not only did the googly fetch him 132 wickets at 21.62, he also scored 1,405 runs at 36.02.
With 9/107 for MCC, Bosanquet had run through the South African first innings of 194 at Lord’s. Schwarz did not get a wicket, but this new sorcery had caught his eye.
Till this point, Schwarz was merely a batsman who bowled a few leg-breaks (his first four seasons of First-Class cricket had fetched only four wickets). Now he decided to try it out, in the match against Oxford. He took 5/27, all bowled.
Against Middlesex (who had Bosanquet in their line-up) Schwarz got 5/48, all bowled or leg-before. He finished the tour with 65 wickets at 18.26 and more importantly carried the trick home.
Four years before all this, in 1900, the left-handed Samuel Coe of Leicestershire were batting on 98 against Middlesex at Lord’s. The bowler was Bosanquet, once a bowler of genuine pace but now a practitioner of leg-breaks.
Bosanquet tossed the ball up, perhaps too much. Coe stepped out to cash in on what seemed to be a gift on a platter. The ball landed, went the other way, and bounced four times on its way to wicketkeeper William Roberts. So stunned was Coe by the treacherous ball that he forgot to return to the crease – and was duly stumped.
“The incident was rightly treated as a joke, and was the subject of ribald comment, but this small beginning marked the start of what came to be termed a revolution in bowling,” Bosanquet later recollected in a monograph in the 1925 Wisden.
The googly might have claimed victims before, but this is unanimously celebrated as the earliest known instance in professional cricket.
But how did he invent the googly? Let me quote him verbatim: “Somewhere about the year 1897 I was playing a game with a tennis ball, known as Twisti-Twosti. The object was to bounce the ball on a table so that your opponent sitting opposite could not catch it.
“It soon occurred to me that if one could pitch a ball which broke in a certain direction and with more or less the same delivery make the next ball go in the opposite direction, one would mystify one’s opponent.
“After a little experimenting I managed to do this, and it was so successful that I practised the same thing with a softball at Stump-cricket. From this, I progressed to a cricket ball, and about 1899 I had become a star turn for the luncheon interval during our matches at Oxford.”
The googly was a novelty Bosanquet used to hunt down the Australians as a shock delivery. With 16 wickets at 25.18 from 4 Tests, he played a key role when Plum Warner’s England regained The Ashes on Australian soil in 1903-04 (Warner was also his captain at Middlesex).
He recalled the first googly bowled on Australian soil, in March 1903: “[Victor] Trumper batting, having made 40 in about twenty minutes. Two leg-breaks were played beautifully to cover, but the next ball (delivered with a silent prayer), pitching in the same place, saw the same graceful stroke played – and struck the middle-stump instead of the bat!”
Bosanquet later played 3 more Tests, all in the 1905 Ashes, where his 9 wickets came at 22.33 apiece. By then he had already launched a “mystery ball” whose legacy carries on a century afterwards.
While “googly” and “wrong ’un” are the commonly used phrases, Bosie (or Bosey) – named after Bosanquet – is not too rare either.