Home > Features > Moments in history >

From England with love: George Lohmann’s stunning Valentine’s Day spell

From England with love: George Lohmann's stunning Valentine's Day spell

George Lohmann took eight wickets for seven runs and finished the Test with a hat-trick. Lohmann captured 112 wickets in 18 Tests matches at an average of 10.75 and a strike rate of 34.1 © Getty Images

On Valentine’s Day 1896, George Lohmann vanquished the South Africans with figures of eight wickets for seven runs. Arunabha Sengupta remembers the most monstrous spell of this demon bowler.

The country cared for him, provided the warmth to counter the cold viciousness of tuberculosis. Yet, the fair, blue eyed and handsome young man did not return the affection on Valentine’s Day 1896.

Had he been blessed with sturdier constitution, George Lohmann could have captured far more wickets in his career than the 112 in 18 Tests matches. The tally was acquired with a monster average of 10.75 and a strike rate of 34.1. Those who faced him unanimously marked him out as the most difficult to play. He hardly topped medium-pace, but could seam both ways, pitch them with uncanny precision on the proverbial coin, and experiment with flight, pace and angle without compromising on length and accuracy. More often than not he was unplayable, as borne out by his incredible figures – the best for any bowler with 15 or more wickets in the history of Test cricket.

Fifteen of those 18 Tests were played against Australia. And after the first two in the summer of 1886, his figures stood at one measly wicket for 87 runs. The avalanche commenced with 12 wickets at The Oval and continued till the end of his career 10 years later.

Wickets and woes

By the end of the Australian summer of 1891-92, Lohmann had played 14 Tests and had captured 74 wickets at 12.83. He was just 26, and his career promised to sail past every known and unknown horizon.

And then in 1892, fate inserted a deadly spoke in the joyous wheel of his cricketing and other fortunes. That summer he contracted tuberculosis. Following the instructions of the physicians of the day, he spent his winters in South Africa. Yet, he was far from a healthy man, a mere shadow of the youth he had once been.

He did turn out for Western Province and on the matting wickets of South Africa, he proved more unplayable than ever. When a second string England side toured under Sir Tim O’Brien in 1896, he joined forces with his countrymen and tormented the South African batsmen.

The first Test was played at Port Elizabeth – a three day fixture. Lohmann, a fleet-footed batsman with a good eye, opened the batting for England but could not open his account. Only CB Fry, batting with assurance and scientific acumen, scored 43, and the total of 185 hardly looked daunting.

By the end of the first day, however, England had commenced their second innings, and also lost a wicket.  Opening the attack and bowling unchanged for 15.4 five ball overs, Lohmann picked up seven for 38, including the vital wicket of Jimmy Sinclair. He used the matting wicket to diabolical effect – all his seven victims had their stumps rattled. South Africa managed just 93.

The Valentine’s Day annihilation

The following day, England lost wickets regularly, and CB Fry departed early enough to make it 72 for six. Arthur Hill and Sammy Woods got a partnership going and added 89 for the seventh wicket.

And finally, that colossal figure of English cricket, Lord Hawke, came in at number 10 and added 42 for the last wicket with Audley Miller. The total of 226 set an almost impossible target of 319, but importantly, the Englishmen batted long enough to make it almost inevitable that the match would spill into the third day.

But, Lohmann did not think so. He needed just 49 balls to skittle out eight batsmen for seven runs. Other than Robert Poore, who scored 10, no other man reached double figures. Five of the victims were bowled, and the monotony was broken with three men doing enough to get their bats to Lohmann’s deliveries to scoop catches. South Africa managed 30 in 18.4 overs, and the match ended with time to spare on the second day.

In his 16th over, Lohmann bowled Frederick Cook and Bonnor Middleton, and then had Joseph Willoughby was caught by Tom Hayward, to end the match with a hat-trick.

Fifteen wickets as cheap as they come was not enough for this young man starved of international cricket for half a decade. In the next Test at Old Wanderers, Johannesburg, brought on as first change, he took nine for 28.

Lohmann ended the series with 35 wickets at 5.80 apiece.

Yet, fate allowed him just one more Test match. After appearing for England at Lord’s against Australia three months later, his health failed him and he never played for the country again. At the end of the summer of 1896, he migrated to South Africa.

In 1901, when South Africa toured England, Lohmann was back in his homeland as manager of the visiting side. However, tuberculosis, which had plagued him for so long, claimed his life later that year. He was just 36.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 24, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Glenelg, Adelaide

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Sharjah

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 28, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Adelaide

Afghanistan tour of UAE, 2014

Nov 28, 2014 (15:30 IST)   at Dubai

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 29, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Colombo

More

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 28, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 21 runs

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 26, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 124 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 26, 2014  at Colombo

Sri Lanka won by 25 runs

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 24, 2014  at Colombo

Hong Kong won by 2 wkts

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 23, 2014  at Chittagong

Bangladesh won by 68 runs

Photos

Phil Hughes suffers head injury: In photos

Videos

Phil Hughes passes away: Video tribute

Sean Abbott will find the road ahead a living nightmare

Phillip Hughes’ death: What happens to India vs Australia Test series?

Phillip Hughes 63 not out, forever

Phil Hughes: Remembering his most memorable knocks

Phillip Hughes passes away: Crying for Phillip Hughes

Australia England India India tour of Australia 2014-15 New Zealand New Zealand tour of UAE 2014 New Zealand vs Pakistan New Zealand vs Pakistan 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs New Zealand Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014 Phil Hughes Phil Hughes Death Phil Hughes head injury Phillip Hughes

Bangladesh edge out Zimbabwe by 21 runs in 4th ODI at Dhaka

Phillip Hughes was destined for greatness: Steve Waugh

Afghanistan set 249-run target against UAE in 1st ODI at Dubai

Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014, 3rd Test at Sharjah Day 2: New Zealand finish on 249/1 at stumps

Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014, 3rd Test at Sharjah: Brendon McCullum reaches 150 off 137 balls

Phillip Hughes’ death: Cricket resumes, but with a heavy heart

Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014, 4th ODI at Dhaka: Highlights

Mushfiqur Rahim and Mohammad Mahmudullah record second-highest fifth wicket partnership for Bangladesh in ODIs

Sean Abbott will find the road ahead a living nightmare

Phillip Hughes’ death: What happens to India vs Australia Test series?

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

682 Posts | 6 Fans

Video: Phil Hughes suffers head injury, collapses on field during New South Wales vs South Australia tie

India is becoming our largest overseas market, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says

Pukaar’s Rannvijay Singh will face new challenges with ‘Zen Life’

Yami Gautam Birthday: The Vicky Donor girl turns 26 (In Pics)

6 medical miracles that will blow your mind

OPEC daily basket price closes over three US dollars lower

Badlapur new poster: Varun Dhawan stuns us with his deadly rugged avatar – view pic!

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

6 must-have aromatherapy oils for your medicine cabinet

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here