‘Pud’ Thurlow: Left Don Bradman stranded 299 in his only Test
Pud Thurlow was genuinely quick, and broke into the Australian Test side on sheer pace.
Hugh Motley Pud Thurlow, born January 10, 1903, is usually remembered as the man who was run out, leaving Don Bradman stranded on 299 in his only Test. Though his First-Class career was less than ordinary, Thurlow was genuinely quick, and broke into the Australian Test side on sheer pace. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at yet another one-Test wonder.
There are cricketers whose deeds are immortalised by prose. There are some whose numbers speak for themselves. There are others who finish with unassuming, forgettable careers. And then, there are some whose failures have immortalised them, making them the subject of quizzes across the world.
Pud Thurlow was one of them. He played a solitary Test, batted once (at No. 11), and was run out for a duck. In the process left Don Bradman stranded on 299. He did not take a wicket or a catch. That was it.
At First-Class level, too, Thurlow managed a mere 80 wickets from 31 matches (mostly for Queensland) at a sub-standard 42.88. It was not that he could bat, for his 202 runs came at 5.31, and his highest score was 23. He did not get off the mark in 25 out of 58 innings he batted in.
Indeed, it was surprising that he even got a Test cap.
But then, there was more to Thurlow than the ridicule dished out to him over years. He could be quick, genuinely quick, on his day. According to Leo O Connor, his Queensland captain, Thurlow was a yard faster than Tim Wall, the premier Australian fast bowler of his era.
Indeed, Thurlow was quick enough to break Bill Woodfull s finger and hit Alan Kippax on the temple, but more of that later. For some time he formed a fearsome combination with Eddie Gilbert.
The chemist who bowled fast
Born in Townsville, Thurlow went to Brisbane Grammar School (where he acquired the nickname Pud ). He was a prankster from the very beginning, and was bold enough to plant a chocolate to Headmaster Norman Scott Jell Connal.
He secured a diploma from the Australian Chemical Institute, and later worked for Oscar Mendelsohn as analytical chemist. Mendelsohn himself was a renowned polymath of the era, specialising in public analysis, analytical chemistry, and food science.
Thurlow s profession was indeed unusual for a cricketer, let alone a fast bowler. He worked at RM Gow & Co., and was so popular that when he quit to join Mendelsohn, his colleagues raised money for him.
He was selected for Queensland after his 4 for 53 for Queensland Colts against New South Wales (NSW) Colts. He found support from the press. Fairgo wrote in Daily Standard (Brisbane): He has a great chance now to prove that he is what I always thought he was the best bowler of pace in Brisbane.
The debut was spectacular, for his 6 for 59 on First-Class debut (against NSW) included Bradman, Kippax, and Hammy Love. They drafted him in against the touring MCC, but he ended up getting hammered.
Back to Shield cricket, he formed an impressive combination with the experienced Percy Hornibrook, the inexhaustible Ron Oxenham, and the exciting Alec Hurwood. It was at MCG that he smashed Woodfull s finger, ruling him out the match. Queensland managed only 15 wickets in the match, of which Thurlow claimed 8 for 137.
Gilbert arrived in 1930-31, and Thurlow celebrated Gilbert s debut with one of the best spells of his career taking 5 for 25 to blow away South Australia for 72. Thurlow s bowling was of such quality that he must have a great chance of displacing Wall as Australia s fast bowler for the Test series against West Indies. He was unlucky to miss the England tour.
Thurlow was expensive (1 for 54 and 2 for 88) against the West Indians in their tour match against Queensland, but he clean bowled George Headley in the first innings.
Controversy, and more pace
On January 24, 1931, Queensland Cricket Association suspended Thurlow, Gordon Amos, Eric Benstead, Vic Goodwin, and captain Francis Gough for the rest of the season, causing sensation in Brisbane. The quintet had apparently defied the selectors and picked their own team on tour.
Truth (Perth) wrote in jest: Queensland looks like turning out a team composed of boy scouts, girl guides, ambulance bearers and rugby league footballers. Fortunately, the match at The Gabba Queensland s only remaining Shield fixture of the season was washed out without a ball being bowled.
Thurlow spent his time trying to revive baseball in Queensland along with Goodwin and Mick Brew. All three were proficient at it; contrary to intuition, Thurlow was a hitter.
In 1931-32, Gilbert bowled his famous over to Bradman the next season after Thurlow sent down the first over to Jack Fingleton. Wendell Bill fell first ball. Bradman somehow kept out the first ball, let the second go, was beaten off the third, was hit on the underbelly by the fourth, and was caught-behind off the next.
Gilbert finished with 4 for 74; Thurlow, with 0 for 69. But Thurlow sent Kippax to the hospital, hitting him on the temple a fact not as well-documented.
Leaving The Don hanging
It started in South Africa s tour match at The Gabba. After Queensland scored 202, Thurlow unleashed one that found Bruce Mitchell s edge. He followed by clean bowling Eric Dalton. Figures of 3 for 26 were not outstanding, but it was evident that Thurlow had the extra pace to cause trouble.
The NSW match (2 for 49 and 5 for 74) tilted things in Thurlow s favour. Australia were 3-0 up in the five-Test series, and the selectors decided to leave out Wall, Bert Ironmonger, and Ted a Beckett, bringing in three debutants Thurlow, Bill Hunt, and a young leg-spinner called Bill O Reilly.
By then, Thurlow was a Director at OA Mendelsohn and Associates.
Woodfull gave Thurlow first over (McCabe was the only other pace option). He bowled 27 eight-ball overs for 53, but without a wicket. It did not matter, for Clarrie Grimmett ran through the tourists with 7 for 116; South Africa were bowled out for 308.
Bradman took command, and found support at the other end. Woodfull helped him put on 176; Keith Rigg, 114; Bert Oldfield, 49; Grimmett, 71; and O Reilly, 78. When Thurlow the bona-fide No. 11 walked out, the score read 499 for 9.
Bradman, in complete control, soon reached 298. Thurlow was yet to score. The stadium waited with bated breath. Earlier in the innings Kippax had been run out for a duck (worse, Kippax had not faced a ball). Surely there could not be two such occasions?
It was the last ball of the over. Would he keep strike, or would he risk a two?
Bradman played a leg-side stroke off Cyril Vincent and scampered for the first run as Syd Curnow gave the chase. As he made his ground, he turned around for the second and realised that Thurlow was already on his way.
The great man realised that he would never make it. He sent Thurlow back in a last-moment desperation, but Curnow s throw was straight and accurate; when Jock Cameron whipped the bails off, Thurlow was found short of his ground.
Bradman was left high and dry, but to his consolation, he had gone past Tip Foster s 287 to register the then highest score on Australian soil. His run in the series read 226, 112, 2, 167, 299* in other words, 806 runs at a whopping 201.50. He did not bat again in the series.
Australia led by 205, and Grimmett (7 for 83) rolled over South Africa for 274. Thurlow s 12 overs went for 33 wicketless runs. Australia won by 10 wickets. Thurlow was dropped for the next Test. It did not matter, for Australia completed their 5-0 whitewash.
Despite his raw pace, Thurlow was not included for the Australian XI during the Bodyline series, which was perhaps somewhat surprising. His most notable achievement in this period was a catch.
South Australia s Roy Longeran was batting on 95 at The Gabba. He hooked Gilbert, and Thurlow, at square-leg, leapt up as high in the air as he could, timed it perfectly, and pulled off a one-handed stunner.
Gilbert was stunned. Daily Mercury (Mackay) wrote: So pleased was Gilbert that he ran and shook Pud Thurlow vigorously by the hand. A spectator remarked that the last time he saw Eddie Gilbert shaking hands at the Brisbane Cricket Ground was when [Learie] Constantine hit him out of the oval for six.
Never one to hold his opinions back, he criticised the Australians for refusing to face the music in the Bodyline series. They should grin and bear it, was his opinion. In an article for The Truth, he wrote: Their attitude is branding us as a nation of bad sportsmen... We don t want to be called dingoes.
He retired after that season, though he made a solitary appearance two seasons later. He continued to play grade cricket. He also became a columnist, writing mostly for Truth, earning reputation for his outspokenness.
Thurlow loved his odd joke, and was popular among his teammates. He earned a name for his on-field antics. On one occasion, when a wicketkeeper appealed at the top of his voice throughout an innings, Thurlow walked out to bat with a lozenge, and immediately offered the gloveman after his first appeal.
Roy Levy, ace baseball player and cricketer, was bemused to find Thurlow walk out to bat with a schoolboy s bat. The following conversation ensued:
Levy: What s the joke?
Thurlow: The bat.
Yes, he had carried the bat just for that one line.
On another occasion, in a club match, Thurlow walked out at No. 11 when his side needed 8, and immediately asked: Where was it Trumper made that record hit?
The fielders told him. He had a go, and was dismissed first ball. He kept on blaming the laws afterwards for they did not allow him a trial ball.
Thurlow later became Manager at Bulimba Brewery (now Queensland Brewery Ltd). He passed away at Rosalie on December 3, 1975, just over a month before his 73rd birthday.
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