Tony Lock Biography
He was called for throwing in his very first Test and had to remodel his action twice, but Tony Lock overcame the challenges to become one of the best left-arm spinners in history.
Lock was as durable as they come. His intensity, passion and wild theatrics made many brand him as the first modern showman of the game. But he was much more than that. Every palpating act on the field rose from solid foundations of skill and brilliance, mixed with heavy dollops of zeal and determination. It made him put his body and mind through many agonies during his long career. Fiery and indomitable, he took all the setbacks in his sterling stride.
As David Frith wrote in The Slow Men, “There never has been a more aggressive spin bowler.” All through the fifties, he bowled faster and faster when irritated by lack of success, often putting the wicketkeepers at physical peril. And his full throated appeal was legendary. There was an old joke which circulated in the cricketing circles of 1950s and 1960s. “When Lock appeals at The Oval, someone’s out at Lord’s.”
And even as a rookie Test player, he blended into the atmosphere with remarkable ease, lending his own brand of acerbic wit into the fray. One of the best close-in fielders ever, Lock took a magnificent catch to dismiss Vinoo Mankad off Fred Trueman on debut. He was at backward short-leg when Polly Umrigar faced the Yorkshire fast bowler and started backing away towards square-leg. And Lock chirped, “I say, Polly, do you mind going back. I can’t see the bowler when you stand there.”
He had been in the county circuit ever since the game had limped back into normalcy after the Second World War. He played till the beginning of the 1970s, stamping his mark on the Test scene and becoming a legend at Surrey, with the fantastic partnership with Jim Laker, and later served Western Australia and Leicestershire with distinction.
An astute captain at the First-Class level, Lock may have overdone his bit of embracing and kissing his players, but he did get an ordinary Leicestershire to number two on the county table.
Although Lock was not among the wickets in Tests after 1962, his ability with the bat often contributed heavily, especially when the attack was tough. All three Test half centuries came against the pace attack of West Indies, including the delightful end to his career with 89 at Georgetown. Trevor Bailey later wrote of Lock as “the ideal person to walk out to the crease when the match seemed lost.”
Lock ended his Test career with 174 wickets from 49 Tests at 25.58, 2844 scalps at 19.23 in First-Class cricket. Always a plucky lower-order batsman, he continues to hold the record for the highest aggregate in First-Class without ever hitting a century.
Throughout his career he pocketed genuine strokes off the middle of the bat, travelling balls that would not go down as a chance for most fielders. Mickey Stewart remarked that the spectacular full-length dives were the easy ones. Only WG Grace and Frank Woolley have caught more than him in First-Class cricket. He could also move quickly and throw brilliantly when placed in the outfield.
Lock continues to be remembered as one of the greatest spinners of England, and one of the most colourful cricketing character of his era.