Tuesday 22 March 2016

What was it like to see overarm bowling for the first time?

What was it like to be there for the big one, the shift in the axis of the game that was the change from round arm to overarm bowling? How would that have looked and felt the first time it happened?

Jonathon Green, estimable maestro of slang and the man who uncovered the gruesome details of the match between the men with one arm and the men with one leg, has sent a report from the Satirist & Sporting Chronicle of Sydney, 11 March 1843, a single paragraph headed simply 'Cricket'.

It tells the story of 'monday last' when a match between the Australia and Victoria clubs was settled in favour of the 'natives' - Australia - 'by a majority of 142 runs.'

'This is attributed entirely to the bowling of Still, on the Australian side, which was considered by many old Cricketers to be decidedly unfair; most of his Balls being thrown over his shoulder. This is NEVER ALLOWED in the Clubs at Home, nor is it right it should be, as the severe contusions most of the Victoria Club received while batting to it, shows that it is not only unfair but dangerous'. 

'The Australians must not boast of their achievement,' the Satirist's man goes on, as 'without Still they were basely beaten'.

There is a rather sad coda, in which four Victorian batsmen go in against Still in 'a second match' to 'make up the deficiency', which 'showed much spirit but great want of judgment'. They lost again.

Roundarm bowling had been legal for eight years when Still left Victoria beaten and bruised, and the famous confrontation between Edgar Willsher of All England and umpire John Lillywhite at the Oval was still nineteen years away. Those who watched Still bowl overarm in 1843 saw the future rushing towards them, shocking but maybe alluring too.