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In the 1990's the Australians, with Shane Warne as their kingpin, supported by the Pakistani spinners have played an important role in the successful reappearance of the leg spinner and googly bowler at test match level. What is not widely known today is the role that South Africa played in the original development of the art of googly bowling and of its introduction into test cricket.
During the late 1890's, just over one hundred years ago, when English cricket was dominant, their county cricket scene went through a period of major change, due to a number of factors. The first, was the improvement made in the preparation of pitches by the application of marl or liquid manure. This led to batting becoming easier, and unless weather conditions intervened, the bowlers were not able to achieve the levels of success they had previously enjoyed. Then two international players, Prince Ranjitsinhji and C. B. Fry, both of whom played for Sussex in the county championship, had made considerable progress in analysing their batting technique, and both were to wrote authoritative coaching manuals on the subject of batting. These were widely read by other leading batsman of the day and it led to a complete overhaul in the approach to batting, which took the long held initiative away from the bowlers.
The outcome, was that the bowlers quickly needed to rethink their strategy to regain the upper hand. In the north of England, particularly amongst the Yorkshire players, the art of swing bowling was introduced to neutralise the batter's advantage, but this tale is about the developments that took place in the south of England, where the googly was invented and the role that the South African national side and its players had of bringing it to the fore.
The accepted definition of a googly is `that of an off break, delivered with a leg break action from the back rather then the front of the hand'. The person credited with its invention was an Englishman with the grand name of Bernard James Tindal Bosenquet, who was known to all as `Bosey'. Bosenquet had made his first class debut for Oxford University as an all rounder who bowled at a brisk fast medium pace. When he completed his university studies, he moved down to London, and linked up with Middlesex, whose home ground was, and still is, Lords. The type of wicket being prepared there at the time frustrated `Bosey' no end and he began experimenting during breaks in the game caused by bad weather, with a tennis ball in the dressing room. The result was the googly which he decided to develop as a new form of attack and introduced it in 1900 with immediate success. He twice bowled England to an Ashes test victory against the Australians, who for many years honoured him by calling the googly `the bosey'. Bosenquet, however, always battled with keeping a consistent bowling length and his first class career was relatively short. In the Middlesex team at the time was another all rounder Reggie Schwarz, who was only occasionally used as a medium paced bowler.
Reggie, at the time, took a keen interest in Bosey's bowling experiments, but at the end of the 1901 cricket season he emigrated to South Africa, settling in Johannesburg, where he was employed as Company Secretary in Sir Abe Bailey industrial empire. Bailey, in addition was a provincial cricketer himself, and an early benefactor for the game in South Africa. Reggie Schwarz soon found a place in the Transvaal provincial team and in 1904 was chosen for the South African team to tour England, his role being primarily that of a batsman at second wicket down, although it was acknowledged that his medium paced bowling could be useful to the side in the English conditions.
The South African side opened their tour at Lords with a match against a strong M. C. C. side, which included Bosenquet who was to take nine wickets in the match for just over a hundred runs. This feat made a deep impression on Reggie Schwarz and, using his friendship with Bosenquet, he quizzed him on his bowling methods and the progress he had made. He was able to gain many useful tips in the art of googly bowling and when the tourists arrived at Cambridge for the third match of their tour Reggie Schwarz began practising this new style of bowling in the nets, much to the amusement of his team-mates. Their ribald comments did not deter him and he continued to practise assiduously on his own. By the time the fourth match was played against Oxford University he was ready, despite not having been called on to bowl at all in the three previous matches. In the Universities second innings, Frank Mitchell, the South African captain, brought Reggie on, instructing him to bowl his googlies. Once again his team-mates thought this hilarious but they were soon dumbfounded when in just seven overs and two balls Reggie captured five wickets for twenty seven runs. By the end of the tour he had progressed to become the mainstay of the tourists bowling attack capturing 96 wickets in all at an average 14.81 to head the bowling averages. On eight occasions he took five wickets in an innings and on one occasion twelve wickets in a match. On the batting front, although he dropped down order to number seven, he was also successful, scoring one century and two innings in the nineties and finishing with a batting average of 25.41. Reggie Schwarz, had established himself as a vital member of the team and, was destined to play an important role in establishing the reputation of South African cricket as a test playing nation.
Reggie, whilst still on tour, realised that on the hard South African matting wickets he would be able to improve upon his performances. In those days the up country wickets, particularly in Johannesburg and Kimberley, consisted of rock hard, heavily rolled gravel grounds on which a matting wicket was laid. When the team returned home to South Africa Reggie immediately set about teaching the art of googly bowling. He found three willing recruits among his Transvaal team-mates in Gordon White, who had been on the overseas tour with Schwarz, and who was considered to be South Africa's leading batsman; Aubrey Faulkner, an all rounder, and Ernie Vogler, a leg break bowler. Taking advantage of the unique pitches on which they had to bowl, the quartet were able to obtain high bounce, sharp turn and hefty top spin. The results they were able to achieve with the googly were more prolific and productive then in that achieved in it's country of origin. The googly firmly took root in this country and it was to launch the first Golden Age of South African cricket which lasted from 1905 to 1910.
The 1905/06 cricket season saw the arrival of the fifth English side in this country, but the first under the auspices of the M. C. C. During the four previous tours eight test matches had been played in this country against England with disastrous results, South Africa losing them all and in ten innings being dismissed for less than one hundred runs. Plum Warner, the English captain was confident on arrival that his side was strong enough to keep their fine record intact. The South Africans had other ideas, they entered the series with their four leg spin/googly bowlers, Schwarz, who only bowled googlies; Vogler, who bowled a mixture of leg breaks, googlies, off breaks and fast yorkers; Faulkner, who bowled his leg breaks and googlies at a slow-medium pace on a perfect length with a puzzling variation in flight, in addition, he had developed a well concealed fast ball, almost a yorker, which he could move either way. The fourth member of the quartet Gordon White, did not have the same accuracy but his googly was difficult to detect. All four could be classed as all rounders for they were all capable batsmen. The three pace bowlers who operated as support to them were also true all rounders so that the side only had three specialist batsmen and a wicketkeeper Percy Sherwell, who batted at number eleven and captained the side.
South Africa recorded their first win in the first test by one wicket with the spin quartet taking 14 of the wickets to fall with Gordon White also scoring 81 runs in the second innings which proved vital in the end. Flushed with this success South Africa fielded an unchanged team, for the first time, throughout the series and went on to win the five match series 4 - 1 gaining a decisive victory in the final test by an innings and sixteen runs. In this test Ernie Vogler scored an undefeated sixty two at number eleven, which set a world record which was to stand for nearly seventy years. Gordon White headed the series batting averages at 54.62, well above the leading English player, Fane, who was at 38.00. Schwarz and Faulkner both had great success with the bat and ball.
Just over a year later, in 1907, the fourth South African side toured the United Kingdom. All the players who had appeared in the home series were selected in what was to prove an historic tour. It was the first time the cricketers wore the green and gold as the national colours with the Springbok head as the emblem. Also it was the first time that South Africa were given test match status in the U. K. The four googly bowlers caused a sensation on the unprotected wickets, being responsible for nearly 80% of the dismissals, which was a sharp contrast from the previous tour in 1904, when the spinners only claimed a third of the wickets.
Reggie Schwarz led the way with 143 wickets and topping the bowling averages at 11.51, followed by Ernie Vogler with 133 wickets at an average of 15.25. The English captain, R. E. Foster, went on record during the season claiming that Vogler was `the finest bowler in the world'. Both players being selected by Wisden in their five cricketers of the year, the first South Africans to receive this honour. Sandwiched between these two bowlers in the averages was Gordon White who collected 72 wickets at an average of 13.48 whilst Aubrey Faulkner finished fourth on the list with 73 wickets at 15.52. In addition Faulkner was second on the batting averages scoring 1288 runs with a highest score of 107. He was ably supported in this area by his three fellow spinners who all averaged over 20 runs per innings with Gordon White scoring 939 runs, including an undefeated century of 162 not out; Ernie Vogler, scored a century as well, and totalled 831 runs whilst Schwarz scored 656 runs at an average of 20.50. In the test series which was closely fought, the first match was drawn, whilst in the second played at Leeds South Africa dismissed the home side for just 76 runs with Faulkner being particularly impressive with the ball claiming 6 for 17 off eleven overs. South Africa managed to score 110 runs in their first innings in what was to be a low scoring match played in dismal weather conditions. South Africa then dismissed England a second time for 162, Gordon White claiming four of the wickets. The rain then interfered leaving the unprotected wicket a bowlers dream. South Africa were dismissed for 75 runs losing the match by 53 runs. The final test was drawn with South Africa being in a strong position just one hundred runs short of the winning target with five wickets in hand. The outcome of this performance was that South Africa was included in the regular programme of test matches and the Imperial Cricket Conference was formed with England, Australia and this country as the founder members.
The next M. C. C. team to visit our shores was in the 1909/10 season and the visitors brought out by far their strongest side to date which included, the legendary Jack Hobbs, still today the world record holder of 197 first class centuries, Wilfred Rhodes, Frank Woolley and Herbert Strudwick. The visitors lost to Transvaal by 308 runs in a match just prior to the first test, with the spin quartet playing a prominent all round role, Faulkner scoring an undefeated century and taking nine wickets in the match.
In the first test Aubrey Faulkner and Ernie Vogler were to dominate the game with Faulkner scoring 78 and 123 in his two innings and claiming 5 wickets in the first M. C. C. innings and three in the second whilst Vogler took the other twelve wickets to fall having a match analysis of 52.1 overs, six maidens and twelve wickets for 181 runs. Their performances enabled South Africa to win the close fought match by 19 runs.
The second test was again a triumph for Faulkner and Vogler in that the were responsible for fifteen of the wickets to fall with Faulkner also scoring 47 runs in South Africa's first knock but the batting hero was Gordon White, who scored 118 runs and South Africa were able to go two up in the series winning by 95 runs.
The third test, played in Johannesburg resulted in a victory for the visitors by 3 wickets but White with 72 runs in the first innings, Faulkner another fine double of 76 and 42 runs and bagging six wickets and Vogler scoring 65 and 22 runs and collecting eight wickets, all played a prominent role. Reggie Schwarz did not play in this match. South Africa were to gain their revenge in the next test winning by four wickets to enable them to wrap up the series. Each of the spin quartet making valuable all round contributions with either the bat, the ball or in the field.
The fifth test, which Gordon White missed, was won quite easily by the visitors, South Africa collapsing in their first innings, and for once the bowlers were not successful but both Faulkner with an innings of 99 and Schwarz with 44 tried desperately hard in their second turn at bat, to starve off defeat. Ernie Vogler set two South African records during this tour, that of 12 catches by a fielder in a series, a record which still stands today, and the other of 36 wickets which stood for over forty seven years before being overtaken by Hugh Tayfield in the 1956/57 season.
South Africa were ahead 7 - 4, with two drawn matches, over the last three series, the most successful run in our history against English test sides but at the end of this season, age, business commitments sickness and injury were to lead to the side breaking up and the first golden age in our cricket history was coming to an end.
Two further tours did take place in the four years before the First World War, the one to Australia was a disaster with the home side taking the test honours 4 - 1. Faulkner carried the batting and topped the tour averages with 2080 runs at an average of 69.33 but was not the force he had been as a bowler. Schwarz with the ball achieved considerable success both in the tests and in all first class games ending up with over 100 wickets. White was unavailable to tour and Vogler was in very poor form. There is a suggestion that Ernie Vogler had taken to the bottle rather heavily by this stage, which rendered him quite useless on tour.
What became of the main players in this story. Bosenquet, in 1905, had completely lost his ability to bowl, but continued to play for his county for a couple of seasons as a batsman before drifting out of the first class game. He had been ordained, and forsook the pitch for the pulpit. Reggie Schwarz, the man responsible for taking the googly out of the category of something to be used for special occasions and raising it into the realm of a match winning delivery, had a very distinguished career in World War One, serving in South West Africa and France with the South African forces, rising to the rank of Major, winning the Military Cross as well as surviving being wounded twice. Tragically one week after the armistice ending the war was signed, he died from influenza. A bachelor, he was described by his contemporaries as a man of exceptional charm, very popular and modest. In his younger days before coming to this country he won three international rugby caps for England at fly half. Of interest, in his will, he left all his money and possessions to his friend Bosenquet, the man who had started him on his international career.
Captain Gordon White, who was born in the Transkei but learnt his cricket at Pietermaritzburg, was the second casualty of the war, dying of wounds sustained in France just one month prior to the signing of the armistice. He was just thirty six years of age. In addition to his bowling skill he was considered South Africa's leading pre war batsman, being the only one to score more then one century against England. Business commitments had restricted his career and in fact he hardly played any Currie Cup cricket relying on Club cricket to keep him in form and successfully making the huge adjustment required to succeed in the Test arena.
Aubrey Faulkner, who came from the Eastern Cape originally, stayed on in England after the tour in 1912, accepting a school teaching post. Like so many others of his generation when hostilities broke out he joined up and also had a very distinguished war record, in the Middle East, reaching the rank of Major and being awarded the D. S. O., the Military Cross as well as the Order of the Nile from the Egyptian government. After the war he settled permanently in England opening a cricket coaching school, in London, and quickly building a name for himself as an outstanding coach who was responsible for discovering and developing a number of England test cricketers. His most redoubtable playing feat came late in his career, in 1921, at the age of forty, he was invited to play for an English XI in the last match of the season against an invincible Australian team who, up to that point, had been an unbeaten side and who had been promised a cash bonus of one thousand pounds per player, a considerable sum in those days, if they could keep their record intact. Aubrey Faulkner's contribution with the bat was a magnificent 153 and with the ball he claimed six wickets for sixty three which played a major part in the Australian defeat. He certainly was one of South Africa's foremost all rounders scoring 1754 runs in his twenty five tests at an average of 40.79, including four centuries and eight fifties. His top score was 204 against Australia. With the ball he claimed 82 wickets at an average of 26.58 and a best performance of 7 for 84. In addition he took twenty catches. His record compares very favourably with that of Trevor Goddard, Eddie Barlow and Brian McMillan, South Africa's leading all rounders in the post World War 2 era. Legend has it that as he grew older, to ease back strain when the cricket school was busy he would, in the morning bowl right handed, and in the afternoon bowl with his left. Unfortunately Aubrey Faulkner end was tragic, he suffered from melancholia, a mental disease accompanied by depression and he committed suicide gassing himself. He was only 48 years of age.
Ernie Vogler, the first South African cricketer to take ten wickets in an innings, and in fact took sixteen wickets in the day against Griqualand West was the only member of our leg spin googly quartet who lived to a good age, dying in 1946 at the age of sixty nine. He was only thirty three years old, when on his return to this country from the Australian tour, were he had only been able to claim four wickets in the series at a very high cost,he dropped out of first class cricket completely. This tends to confirm the legend of his problem with alcohol. A year later when South Africa toured England, he was reduced to playing club cricket there, a sudden demise for a player who had five years previously been called the greatest bowler in the world. Yet in wicket taking frequency he lies third iat 43.18 balls per wicket, well ahead of Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock. His period of fame was brief, only nine seasons at the top level and he spent the rest of his playing career in the leagues of Scotland, Ireland and England. Once he retired from that he returned to South Africa living quietly and not much is known of his life away from cricket.
Sadly, South Africa has never again been able to develop such a dominant spin attack and be in a position to field four top class leg spin/googly bowlers in its test attack. What success achieved in this field over the next eighty odd years has been isolated to a few individual players, mainly off and left arm spinners. The question should to be asked why, but there is no easy answer. The First World war did have a devastating effect on South African cricket, with the country losing more International cricketers, including two of the googly spin quartet, then either England and Australia. It took the country a number of years to overcome these losses. Their experience was not available to be passed on to the next generation. The two members of the quartet who survived, settled overseas and did not return to this country after the war. Whilst this had an effect, a contributory reason is possibly, that shortly after the war turf wickets were introduced and their texture was not conducive to the development of leg spin and googly bowling. Other reasons could be the excessive use of pad play, which was introduced by the English players to overcome the googly. In its early days, the googly aroused a lot of negative comment in that country, being considered unsporting, blatant trickery and close to cheating. Or could safety first tactics by our provincial captains played a role?. Whatever the reason Australia were able to build on our strong foundation and have rarely been without a top class leg spin/googly bowler in their ranks. One just has to think of Arthur Mailey, Clarrie Grimmett, Bill O'Reilly and Richie Benaud through to the modern day Shane Warne. Perhaps with Paul Adams being the role model, South Africa could re-establish itself in the art of googly bowling.
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