A vintage illustration from The Graphic magazine featuring a “group of crack Gentlemen cricketers”. From left: CI Thornton, Charlie Green, WG Grace, Vyell Walker, Frank Cobden, Walter Money, Fred Frye. Walker was one of the greatest lob bowlers ever. Money, featured in this article, had a brief career but a very successful one as a lobster © Getty Images
A vintage illustration from The Graphic magazine featuring a “group of crack Gentlemen cricketers”. From left: CI Thornton, Charlie Green, WG Grace, Vyell Walker, Frank Cobden, Walter Money, Fred Frye. Walker was one of the greatest lob bowlers ever. Money, featured in this article, had a brief career but a very successful one as a lobster © Getty Images

After the exploits of Vyell Walker and Cris Tinley, there followed a lull in the history of lob bowling. However, there were a few notable, albeit minor, lobsters. Arunabha Sengupta looks at some of these worthy men and a few wicketkeepers who indulged in the art.

Thumbing through the history of lob bowling, one finds the discovery of the methods in the late 18th century, followed by a surfeit of lobsters through early 19th century before the round-arm revolution created a new spark of excitement and possibilities. It was mainly due to William Clarke, the visionary with one foot firmly planted in the ancient techniques, that the art was revived in the 1830s and was carried forward through the next few decades by men like Vyell Walker and Cris Tinley.

After these magnificent men, however, one perceives a second lull in the graph of this exotic art. With Edgar Willsher and others championing the cause of overarm bowling, and the Laws being changed in 1864 to legalise the same, it is little wonder that lob-bowling did not really capture the imagination in those exciting times.

Not much happened in that area during the 1860s, apart from the exploits of Tinley, and there is a definite gap in serious deeds with apparently innocuous underarm lobs till the advent of Arthur Ridley in the early 1870s.

However, there was the occasional lob bowler in the fields around England and some of them did achieve a fair bit of success. And when we look at the names down the years, it does seem that often lob bowling was an option that seemed viable for already famed cricketers seeking new avenues to explore in the game, occasionally when time’s arrow halted marches in their chosen disciplines, or sometimes when the situation was hopeless enough to try eccentricities.

ET Drake lost to the church

One of the first names that we find often listed among the important successors of Clarke is Edward Tyrwhitt Drake.

Born in 1832, Drake enjoyed a very brief career before entering the Church in 1860. He played very little cricket after that, and absolutely no county cricket in his career. Nevertheless, he did manage to capture 197 wickets at 13.03 with his lobs. It included 20 five-wicket hauls and 8 ten-fors.

Educated at Westminster School, Drake went on to Cambridge and earned his Blue for three seasons. Following this, he represented MCC. He also turned out for the Gentlemen, playing against the Players for five consecutive years, a commendable feat for a non-regular cricketer.

And it was while playing for MCC against the Gentlemen of England that he enjoyed his best figures, 8 for 61, coupled with 5 for 45 in the second innings.

In 1854, he was one of the most successful bowlers of the season, with 65 scalps at 11.38.

According to Richard Daft, Drake’s delivery was lower than Walker’s and he produced a slow ball ‘twisting from the leg’. Arthur Haygarth wrote that his lobs were ‘at times very telling, but they receive [sic] a good deal of punishment.’

He was also an exciting tail-ender, who managed 8 half-centuries and averaged a very commendable (for those days) 15 with a bat of great weight. His batting consisted of slashing virtually at everything.

Perhaps, had he not been lost to his vocation, Drake could have gone down as a great bowler of his times.

WB Money, yet another lobster lost in the cause of religion

The next cricketer in this category is another lobster with a brief career, once again cricketing promise lost to the Church. And strangely for one opting for priesthood, his name was dreadful amalgam of religion and commerce.

Walter Baptist Money was born in 1848 and educated at Harrow. He made it to the school team more as a lob bowler than as a middle order batsman.

He batted right handed, and was one of the rare left-arm lob bowlers. And in the Eton-Harrow match in 1866 he performed the hat-trick.

Money went to Trinity College in Cambridge and carried on his Eton-Harrow successes to other traditional scholastic cricketing ties. Yes, he was immensely successful in the Varsity matches. He captured 5 for 28 against Oxford in 1868, and the following year opened the bowling to finish with figures of 6 for 24 and 5 for 35. He was also a leading batsman for Cambridge, hitting 134 against a strong Surrey side in 1870.

His First-Class debut took place before his deeds for Cambridge, and was no less remarkable. He played for the Gentlemen of Kent and captured 5 for 35 in his first outing against MCC. He got two more wickets in the second innings and scores of 30 and 20 not out in a 7-wicket win completed a most satisfactory introduction to the highest form of the game.

Money turned out for the Gentlemen against the Players at Lord’s in 1869, playing alongside WG Grace and picking up 4 second-innings wickets. He played again the following year, batting at No. 4 and scoring 70 and 109 not out.

The subsequent year saw Money entering the Church, and his career ended at the age of 23.

Money had all the makings of a fantastic all-rounder when he became yet another cricketer to be lost to his vocation. He played just 29 matches, but managed to score 1,154 runs at 24 and captured 82 wickets at 17.70.

 

According to Canon McCormick, who saw all the lob bowlers from Clarke to Walter Humphreys, Money and Walker were very close to each other in style: “Neither of them tossed the ball as much in the air as ET Drake or AW Ridley … and I never think Money had full justice done to him.”

But while Drake turned up to play cricket occasionally after donning his collar, it was not so for Money. He never returned to the pitch.

He served as a curate at Bakewell, Derbyshire and then at Drigg with Irton in Cumberland. At Weybridge, Surrey, he was the curate from 1875 to 1882, and then turned rector. He retired in 1902, moving to Birmingham. In 1920, he published Humours of a Parish, and other Quaintnesses, based on his experiences as a clergyman.

WM Rose flashes like a comet

In comparison to Drake and Money, the career of William Molyneux Rose was even briefer.

After turning out with limited success in a few First-Class matches between 1867 and 1870, Rose flashed like a comet in the Canterbury week of 1871.

Playing for North against South, he was introduced late into the attack in the first innings and quickly ended the innings with 4 for 9 from 6.2 four-ball overs. In the second innings he bowled first change, and only WG Grace could play him with anything approaching confidence. The lobs amounted to figures of 41-9-71-8 in the second essay.

In the following week, Rose played alongside WG for the Gentlemen of MCC against Kent in a 12-a-side match. He opened bowling with the great man and skittled Kent for 120. WG accounted for 7 men for 67, Rose 3 for 47. After that it was a period of rest for Rose as WG opened batting and he waited for his turn at No. 12. Grace scored 117, and Rose finally emerged to remain unbeaten without scoring. Having procured a 197-run lead, Grace and Rose opened the bowling again. The Kent second innings amounted to 152, Grace 5 for 77, Rose 6 for 52.

And with this match, his brief career was over. In 7 matches he picked up 23 wickets at 9.52 apiece.

However, in 1872 he did travel to North America with Robert Fitzgerald and WG. Against the XXII of Montreal he captured 15 wickets in the first innings and all 19 wickets to fall in the second, making it 34 for the match.

Robert Fitzgerald’s all-amateur side for North America, 1872. Photo Courtesy: Reminiscences by WG Grace
Robert Fitzgerald’s all-amateur side for North America, 1872. Photo Courtesy: Reminiscences by WG Grace

Back, from left: Alfred Lubbock, WG Grace, TC Patterson (promoter), Cuthbert Ottaway

Centre, from left: Edgar Lubbock, Robert Fitzgerald, Arthur Appleby

Front, from left: Francis Pickering, Hon. George Harris, Monkey Hornby, William Rose, Charles Francis.

According to CI Thornton, Rose was one of the three greatest lob bowlers he had ever seen.

A few notables from other disciplines

Apart from these stalwarts, there were a handful of seasoned cricketers who took to lob bowling as new experimental diversions. Some were really great names.

George Parr, the captain of the All-England XI and one of the greatest batsmen of his time, adopted underarm bowling and took 29 wickets late in his career.

John Wisden, the pint sized fast bowler, decided to slow down his pace in 1857 and from time to time indulged in slow lobs.

George Griffith, a redoubtable left-arm fast bowler with a round-arm action, was also one of the great hitters of the day. After the heydays of his career, he turned to occasional slow lobs.

The supreme cricketer and thinker Nicholas Felix also bowled lobs occasionally, like Money a rarity in being a left-arm lobster. However, he bowled just 124 balls in his 22-year First-Class career. Most of his bowling was reserved for the single-wicket matches in which he excelled.

Daft was another famed batsman who turned to bowling lobs. Most of his 51 wickets came off slow underarm bowling. In 1869, Surrey was coasting to a draw against Nottinghamshire when Daft came on with his seemingly harmless fare and took 4 for 0 in 10 balls. His final analysis was 5 for 23 in 14.2 four-ball overs. Three years later, he captured 6 for 59 against Yorkshire.

Another cricketer who took up lob bowling towards the second half of his career was the Surrey middle-order batsman William Mortlock. He used to bowl a lively medium pace before trying lobs against Hampshire in 1865. He bowled unchanged and returned figures of 5 for 66 and 3 for 35. Scores and Biographies commented, “Mortlock’s slow underhand rubbish again got wickets.”

And then there were the wicketkeepers

The stumpers with their thankless jobs.

Sometimes these men tired of standing behind the stumps and coaxed the skipper to give them a stint at bowling lobs. The story of Hon Alfred Lyttelton is well known, but it took place in a Test match some years down the line and will be dealt with separately. Here we will briefly touch upon the predecessors of Lyttelton in this domain.

The most curious was Charles Howard Ellis of Sussex. In his 80-match career, he kept with plenty of finesse and often batted with gutsy determination. However, he also captured exactly 100 wickets, moving to the other end and trying his hand at lobs in 45 of the innings that he kept wickets. This included five 5-wicket hauls. In all these matches with fivers, Ellis is listed as wicketkeeper.

In 1863, he enjoyed his most successful season with the ball, capturing 33 wickets. Against Kent at Hove, he captured 7 for 73 including 3 in an over, and captured 2 more in the second innings while affecting 2 stumpings when others bowled.

It was against Surrey in the following month that Ellis enjoyed his dream match. He opened the bowling and picked up 8 for 96, batted at No. 5 and scored 83, and then took 7 for 201 in the second innings. Six of his 15 victims were caught and bowled, and two stumped. The stumping was carried out by George Wells, who apparently had put the pads on while Ellis bowled. Wells himself bowled 4 overs.

Curiously, Ellis was dismissed in his innings by William Lockyer, the famous Surrey wicketkeeper.

This famous stumper for the All England XI was a first-rate batsman and also bowled quite frequently. Lockeyer mostly opted for fastish round-armers. However, he also tried lobs from time to time. One does not know what proportion of his 119 wickets came off lobs, but there are documented accounts of his deeds with that variety of bowling.

The biggest success of Lockyer’s lobs came against Kent at The Oval in 1862, when he was the seventh Surrey bowler used and captured 3 for 10 in 21 balls. In the second innings, he was more devastating. Trailing by 62 in the first innings, Lockyer caught two frontline Kent batsmen behind the wicket and came on as the second change. He bowled 51 balls and picked up 6 for 33. The Kent innings folded for 70 and Surrey triumphed by 5 wickets. HH Stephenson kept wickets while he bowled.

In that very same match, the left-arm fast bowler of Kent, Willsher was bowled by Lockyer for 49 in the first innings and 11 in the second. The Lion of Kent bowled his heart out trying to win it for his side in the fourth innings, and got three wickets for his efforts. However, later, he resorted to bowling lobs, thus joining the rare group of left-arm lobsters. A few weeks down the line Willsher would be called for raising his arm over the shoulder by umpire John Lillywhite.

Lockyer’s predecessor as the finest wicketkeeper of the land was Tom Box of Sussex. In 1849, when Sussex played All-England Eleven at Hove, Box was given a go in desperation after ‘all the best bowlers had been beaten off’. The wicketkeeper came on to bowl ‘slow under hand lobs of the most ridiculous description, pitched anywhere and high in the air’. However, as the spectators roared with laughter, he sent down 14 four-ball overs and two balls, and captured 5 for 45. These included Parr, Felix and Alfred Mynn, all clean bowled.

Box, however, captured only 3 more wickets in his career spanning 248 First-Class matches.

Several other distinguished wicketkeepers left their post behind the stumps to try lobs. Ted Pooley, who missed the first ever Test match because of being in prison due to betting brawls, managed 6 wickets in that manner. The great George Pinder took 23 wickets at 20.91 each, often bowling with his pads on. Harry Phillips, yet another left-handed lobster, managed 14 wickets with a best of 4 for 33.

And then of course, we have Lyttelton whom, as noted earlier, we will deal with separately.

So, lob bowling flickered occasionally across the land as the great lobsters Clarke, Walker and Tinley left the scene. The art was uncommon in those days, but neither unusual nor extinct.

But, yet another revival was around the corner.