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Reggie Schwarz – instrumental in ensuring the art of googly bowling lived on

Reggie Schwarz Picture courtesy: Wikipedia
Reggie Schwarz Picture courtesy: Wikipedia

Reggie Schwarz, born May 4, 1875, learnt the tricks of the trade from BJT Bosanquet himself and was instrumental in ensuring that the art of the googly lived on. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the life and career of the man who was one formed a quarter of the famed four googly attack of South Africa in the first decade of the twentieth century.

The passing of the torch

 

London, 1904

Bernard Bosanquet was weaving his magic for the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) against the visiting South Africans at Lord’s. With his leg-breaks and newly invented googly, he had helped England win the Ashes Down Under in 1903-04,when he had toured with Plum Warner’s team. Now, in the following summer, hewas busy running through the Springbok side, capturing nine for 107. However, he was being watched keenly by a very good friend.

A handsome, modest man with a particularly pleasing voice, Reggie Schwarz had won three caps as a half back in rugby for the England XV. He had played against Scotland in 1899 and against Ireland and Wales in 1901. He had also played a bit of cricket for Middlesex in 1901 and 1902, mainly as a batsman. So, he had been a teammate of Bosanquet.In 1901, Schwarz had toured USA with a side led by Bosanquet himself. That was before he had moved to South Africa, taking up a position as secretary to the Transvaal financier Sir Abe Bailey. Now, in the summer of 1904, he had returned as a part of the touring party. At Lord’s, he was one of the four Springbok batsmen to be stumped off Bosanquet.

Three weeks later, Bosanquet came across the South Africans once again, this time playing for Middlesex. He hit 110 in 85 minutes in the first innings, scored 44 in the second, while bowling Louis Tancred and Jimmy Sinclair. But something unusual took place in this extraordinary match that ultimately ended in a tie. Reggie Schwarz picked up five for 48 in the second innings, sending balls twirling out of the back of his hand and making them break from the off. He had mastered the trick.The googly had found another established practitioner.

A few days earlier, after being stumped off Bosanquet, Schwarz had tried his version of googlies against Oxford University, capturing five for 27 in the process. Three weeks after the tie against Middlesex, he was back at Lord’s, bowling only googlies and top-spinners against an England XI. He captured four wickets in each innings, trapping KS Ranjitsinhji leg before in one knock and getting him stumped in the other. He also bowled the great hitter Gilbert Jessop.

By the time England went to South Africa in 1905-06, there were four googly bowlers ready for them. Schwarz had taught the art to Aubrey Faulkner, BertieVogler and Gordon White. Against their combined skill on the South African matting wickets, England were beaten in four of the five Tests. Schwarz took 18 wickets in the series, Faulkner 14, Vogler nine. White the batsman bowled only twice and captured two.

The art of the googly had been passed on and the flame would remain burning brightly.

The googly quartset

The South African teamcame over to England again in 1907, with all the four operators ready to conquer the country. This was one of the rare occasions, India of the 1970s being another, when a quartet of spinners was used as the primary bowling weapon of a side. And for a while these South African bowlers swept away everything in sight.

Percy Sherwell, the captain and wicketkeeper, marshalled the bowlers from behind the stumps. Only four centuries were scored off the bowlers the entire summer in First-Class cricket – Len Braund, Joe Hardstaff, CB Fry and Tom Hayward managing what seemed almost impossible. Schwarz captured 137 wickets at 11.79 and topped the season’s averages across England.Vogler’s 119 came at 15.62.Falulkner and White, key batsmen both, bowled less and captured 64 at 15.82 and 56 at 14.73 respectively.

In the three Tests Schwarz captured nine at 21.33,Vogler 15 at 19.66, Faulkner 12 at 18.16.Although they lost the Test series 1-0, the South Africans won 21 of their 31 matches on the tour. Schwarz was named a Wisden cricketer of 1908.

Schwarz was different from the others. He was the only one among the four who totally dispensed with his orthodox leg-breaks. Relying totally on his googlies and top-spinners, he had a wide-turning off-break to add to the mix. He was thus not a leg-break googly bowler in the true sense, and for this reason many considered him inferior to Vogler and Faulker. However, he proved his class often enough, especially on the hard wickets of Australia when the rest of the bowlers struggled.

And,undeniably, it was his friendship with Bosanquet that led to the passing of the secrets of the art of the googly and also went a long way in putting South Africa firmly on the cricketing map

From England to South Africa to Australia…

Schwarz was born in Lee, Kent, on May 4, 1875. He was the son of a merchant from Bagshot in Surrey. He attended the St Paul’s School in London, and later moved to Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1893. He won his sporting Blue as a part of the University rugby team, playing against Oxford in the Varsity match. Strangely, he failed to win a Blue for cricket.

His initial days were focused on rugby, and he played for Richmond and was invited to represent the Barbarians in the 1896-97season. As mentioned, he went on to win three England caps. He first came across Bosanquet when the latter was at Oxford. In 1901, Schwarz played a couple of matches for Middlesex as a lower middle order batsman, scoring a couple of half centuries. Interestingly, he did not bowl in either of the matches. That same year he went to United States with a team led by Bosanquet, and played against the Gentlemen of Philadelphia – once again batting low in the order and not doing any bowling at all.

Schwarz played 13 matches for Middlesex in 1902. He perhaps watched Bosanquet closely that season, but did not really do much else – scoring at 223 runs at 10.61, his only major bowl taking place against Surrey when he sent down 14 overs of slow medium pace for a single wicket.

He was a member of the London Stock Exchange for three years and was 27 by the time he took up the appointment in South Africa. At that time, one could perhaps be forgiven for concluding that his few forays into cricket were over.

However, in 1904, it was his employer Sir Abe Bailey who sponsored the South African tour of England. And that was when Schwarz blossomed into a cricketer of promise. The success in the tour was followed by the triumphs of 1905-06 and 1907. His performance faltered during the 1909-10 series against England. Used sporadically, he picked up just four wickets in four Tests. But, his mettle was displayed in full splendour during the first South African tour to Australia in 1910-11.

The most glittering South African success in that difficult series was Faulkner, with his 732 runs in the Tests. However, with the ball, Schwarz towered above the rest of the bowlers. At Sydney, in the opening Test, he picked up five for 102 against a brutal assault by Warren Bardsley and Clem Hill. He followed it up with a score of 61. In the only victory of the series at Adelaide he captured four for 48 against Victor Trumper’s splendid 214. And in the final Test, again at Sydney, he claimed six for 47 – the haul including Trumper, Hill, Charlie Macartney, Vernon Ransford and Warwick Armstrong. He captured the wicket of Tibby Cotter too, thereby scalping five of the Big Six who rebelled against the Board and missed the Triangular Test Tournament of 1912.

On the hard wickets that had most of the South African bowlers struggling, Schwarz ended the series with 25 scalps at 26.04. In the tour his returns were 61 wickets at 25.90. Following this he did little in his final series, the ill-fated Triangular Test Tournament in the dreadfully wet summer of 1912. Schwarz retired from regular cricket after the 1912 season. He did appearthree times for L Robinson’s XI after that, but did not take part in any other serious cricket.

Schwarz ended his career with 398 wickets at 17.58. His batting was solid for a lower order batsman and the highlight was a 102 against an England XI at Lord’s in 1904. In 20 Tests he bagged 55 wickets at 22.60. The 61at Sydney was his only Test half-century.

… And then to France

In 1908, RE Foster wrote that Schwarz was slow through the air and fast off the pitch, coming in from the off anything from six to 18 inches – even a yard on a sticky wicket! It makes it quite clear why he never used a leg-break.

According to the obituary in The Times a person he was quiet, almost retiring, with a great gift of modesty and self-effacement. His voice and manner of speaking were considered most attractive. In the Great War, Schwarz was a major in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps regiment of the British Army who fought on the Western Front. He was given the role of Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General and was Assistant Controller of salvage. Before that he won distinction in German South-West Africa. For his actions during the war he was Mentioned in Despatches and was awarded the Military Cross. He was wounded twice.

Schwarz survived the war, but died in the Spanish flu epidemic in Etaples, France just seven days after the Armistice had been signed. He was just 43.

(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)

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