## 1800's first-class cricket in England: bowlers across eras

This is Part 6 in my series on first-class cricket in the 1800's in England.

1 - data
2 - classification of matches
3 - filling in the gaps
4 - bowlers
5 - batsmen
6 - bowlers across eras
7 - batsmen across eras
8 - all-rounders (across eras)
9 - wicket-keepers

In this post, I do a comparison of bowlers across eras, by weighting each wicket that a bowler takes by the batting average of the batsman dismissed. (You can see the results for Test matches here.) This has two effects. The first is that bowlers who dismiss the best batsmen are rewarded for doing so (and bowlers who just pick up tailenders are punished). The second is that, since in an era of low scoring, most batsmen will have proportionally lower averages (and vice versa), the resulting weighted averages will be comparable across eras.

For scorecards where the caught etc. wickets are estimated rather than known, each "fractional wicket" is weighted by the batting average times the fraction. For these scorecards, the bowler will still be rewarded for bowling the best batsmen, but after that, he is simply rewarded for doing well against teams with good batsmen who he might have dismissed.

In each of the tables below, I give the wickets, weighted wickets, runs conceded, the usual average, and then two resulting weighted averages (one being just a scaling of the other). One is with respect to 16,6 (the overall average for the 1800's), and one is with respect to 24,1 (the overall average from 1801 to 2007).

First up, the top bowlers from the 1800's, as ordered by the weighted average. Qualification: 200 wickets.

wtd wtd avg
name start end wkts wkts runs avg wrt 16,6 wrt 24,1
CTB Turner 1888 1893 610 805,2 7869 12,90 9,77 14,19
E Jones 1896 1899 256 490,0 4789 18,71 9,77 14,19
T Richardson 1892 1899 1455 2183,6 22980 15,79 10,52 15,28
W Rhodes 1898 1899 333 495,0 5311 15,95 10,73 15,58
JT Hearne 1888 1899 1635 2406,6 25986 15,89 10,80 15,68
W Mead 1892 1899 746 1229,8 13500 18,10 10,98 15,94
GA Lohmann 1884 1896 1590 1963,4 21968 13,82 11,19 16,24
AE Trott 1896 1899 453 715,7 8102 17,89 11,32 16,43
G Freeman 1865 1880 288 250,2 2849,2 9,9 11,4 16,5 +/- 0,2%
FR Spofforth 1878 1897 675 807,9 9204 13,64 11,39 16,54
W Attewell 1881 1899 1809 2453,7 27955 15,45 11,39 16,54
AW Mold 1889 1899 1486 1980,2 23044 15,51 11,64 16,89
H Trumble 1890 1899 450 676,9 7883 17,52 11,65 16,91
HF Boyle 1878 1890 259 299,8 3600 13,90 12,01 17,44
A Shaw 1864 1897 1881 1912,0 23108,4 12,29 12,09 17,55 +/- 0,01%
WH Lockwood 1886 1899 902 1277,2 15484 17,17 12,12 17,60
S Haigh 1895 1899 364 552,2 6722 18,47 12,17 17,67
WR Cuttell 1896 1899 324 523,6 6419 19,81 12,26 17,80
J Briggs 1879 1899 1907 2386,0 29384 15,41 12,32 17,88
AW Hallam 1895 1899 207 322,8 3995 19,30 12,37 17,96

Australians take places one and two! It's always good to pass such sanity checks. Charlie Turner and Ernie Jones have remarkably similar weighted averages — they only diverge at the fourth decimal place. (On a slightly more serious note: we would expect that international bowlers come near the top of these tables, since they are Test-class bowlers, and should generally be as good as the best English bowlers.)

It's also good to see that this analysis puts Tom Richardson as the top Englishmen of the 1800's. He was considered the best fast bowler of all time at his peak, which lasted from 1893 to 1897. A young Wilfred Rhodes gets into fourth spot, based on his spectacular first two seasons of county cricket.

The absence of bowlers from the first part of the century is explained by there not being many matches played. Only a handful of players played a decent number of matches (that is, enough to reach 200 wickets), and most of these were batsmen or all-rounders.

That James Broadbridge, James Cobbett et al. are missing from the top of the table is more of a surprise. It seems that, while the round-arm era saw the lowest scoring in first-class history, none of the bowlers really stood out. They had spectacular averages, but so did everyone else at the time. (It is also possible that some of the bowlers would be higher if the wickets were known — perhaps some dismissed more top-order batsmen than the estimations give them). Broadbridge is 49th, with a weighted average of 14,2 with respect to 16,6. Alfred Mynn is a long way down the table (94th; weighted average 15,9 wrt 16,6).

Now let us move on to the comparison for all time. Players whose first-class careers started in the 1800's are in bold.

wtd wtd avg
name start end wkts wkts runs avg wrt 16,6 wrt 24,1
M Muralidaran 1991 2007 306 556,4 5163 16,87 9,28 13,47
RR Lindwall 1948 1956 218 385,0 3667 16,82 9,53 13,83
RJ Hadlee 1973 1990 780 1327,1 12707 16,29 9,57 13,90
WJ O'Reilly 1934 1938 213 367,9 3584 16,83 9,74 14,14
H Verity 1930 1939 1732 2534,0 24816 14,33 9,79 14,22
J Garner 1977 1986 426 728,4 7428 17,44 10,20 14,81
CTB Turner 1888 1893 610 764,4 7869 12,90 10,29 14,95
WE Bowes 1928 1947 1591 2533,9 26201 16,47 10,34 15,01
MD Marshall 1979 1994 994 1773,1 18369 18,48 10,36 15,04
JB Statham 1950 1968 1999 3007,7 31533 15,77 10,48 15,22
R Appleyard 1950 1958 664 979,1 10309 15,53 10,53 15,29
CEL Ambrose 1988 2000 447 852,8 9301 20,81 10,91 15,83
CV Grimmett 1926 1934 358 587,0 6441 17,99 10,97 15,93
TM Alderman 1981 1989 370 679,7 7477 20,21 11,00 15,97
IR Bishop 1988 1995 225 417,7 4609 20,48 11,03 16,02
WW Armstrong 1902 1921 407 620,5 6880 16,90 11,09 16,10
ST Clarke 1979 1988 591 1009,3 11226 18,99 11,12 16,15
DW Carr 1909 1914 334 499,8 5585 16,72 11,17 16,22
H Larwood 1924 1938 1336 2023,9 22766 17,04 11,25 16,33
G Freeman 1865 1880 288 249,9 2849,2 9,9 11,4 16,6 +/- 0,2%
SF Barnes 1894 1930 461 708,2 8080 17,53 11,41 16,56
S Ramadhin 1950 1965 399 581,2 6662 16,70 11,46 16,64
Waqar Younis 1990 2003 436 801,7 9251 21,22 11,54 16,75
CA Walsh 1984 2000 1013 1839,4 21241 20,97 11,55 16,76
FR Spofforth 1878 1897 675 792,1 9204 13,64 11,62 16,87
H Trumble 1890 1902 587 837,8 9804 16,70 11,70 16,99
HL Jackson 1947 1963 1730 2557,9 30066 17,38 11,75 17,06
CIJ Smith 1930 1939 824 1322,9 15565 18,89 11,77 17,08
GA Faulkner 1907 1924 267 374,7 4423 16,57 11,80 17,14
W Rhodes 1898 1930 3960 5489,5 64836 16,37 11,81 17,15

A good cross-section of eras and countries is represented, with Murali leading the pack. Hedley Verity is, suprisingly enough, the top English bowler, and George Freeman sneaks into the top 20. It is curious that SF Barnes is so far down the list (number 21). When I did this exercise for Test bowlers, he was the best for anyone with 100 wickets.

In amongst international stars, there are a couple of surprising names. Bob Appleyard, who bowled both off-breaks and fast-medium, is the first of these. He may well have become a great of the game had it not been for a terrible run of illness (including being diagnosed with TB) and injury. His rise for Yorkshire was spectacular, as he took 200 wickets in his first full season. But after just nine Tests (in which he took 31 wickets at under 18), his fall was just as spectacular.

Douglas Carr played just one Test for England in 1909. His career ended with the outbreak of war, but it surprises me that he didn't get any more Tests.

Les Jackson was also unlucky, being selected only twice for England. In an era when England had less pacemen, he probably would have played more international cricket.

Big Jim Smith is best remembered for his slogging (he once hit a half-century in eleven minutes), but his numbers suggest that he could have done well as a Test bowler. As it is, he got just five Tests, taking 15 wickets at 26,2. I suppose that if he had played some Tests against Bradman, his figures might not look so good.

Next up: cross-era comparisons of batsmen.

Those two lists are very interesting.

It is notable that Tom Richardson and J.T. Hearne, who in the middle 1890s formed the nucleus of perhaps the strongest English bowling lineup of all time, lose a great deal from their less effective later years. Their combined 2,149 wickets from 1893 to 1897 (which had Hearne not unaccountably lost form in 1895 could have been a hundred higher) is exceptional when one considers that the price of wickets was rising at a very rapid rate during the 1890s. At its peak the increase reached 1.5 runs per wicket per year (before stabilising abruptly at 25 runs a wicket from 1897 to 1968), yet England’s bowling in the Tests of the very dry summers of 1893 and 1896 was exceptional, twice dismissing Australia on good pitches for less than 100 runs and always proving adeqaute in good weather to beat Australia in three days.

Richardson’s status in those years can be further solidified by his amazing strike rates: an incredible 23 balls per wicket in 1894, 28 per wicket in 1893, and 29 in 1895 and 1897. Though he did not bowl on pitches as good as commonly supposed - in 1893 the Oval pitches were very fiery and in 1894 for the last time fast bowlers could gain a foothold to bowl on “stickies” - the way Richardson bowled in the dry early parts of the following three seasons was incredible, and his workrate when pushed extraordinary for a fast bowler.