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Bill Lockwood: One of cricket’s first great fast bowlers – Almanack

by Almanack Archive 3 minute read

Bill Lockwood, one of the game’s first great fast bowlers, had to come south from his Nottingham home, to forge his cricket career.

On his day Bill Lockwood was one of the finest fast bowlers the game of cricket has ever known, but he had a somewhat chequered career. Born at Old Radford, Nottinghamshire, on March 25, 1868, he was given a trial for Notts in 1886, but accomplished nothing of note and in the following year he accepted an engagement on the ground staff at Kennington Oval. He duly qualified for Surrey and although Notts were anxious to secure his services in 1889, he preferred to stay with his adopted county, and that season signalised his association with Surrey by an innings of 83 against Notts in the August Bank Holiday match at The Oval.

Not until two years later did he make his mark as a bowler, his great performance that summer being eleven wickets for 40 runs against Kent at The Oval, but in 1892 when Surrey had George Lohmann and Tom Richardson as well as Lockwood, the last-named headed the averages for all matches, taking 168 wickets for less than 12.5 runs apiece. Lockwood continued to be a great bowler during the next two seasons but, going out to Australia in 1894/95, he failed deplorably and, on his return home, went down the hill so steadily that in 1897 he lost his place in the Surrey team.

Happily in the ensuing winter he was at great pains to get himself fit, and in 1898 obtained 134 wickets and scored nearly a thousand runs in first-class matches. He remained a splendid bowler for several years after this, but finally dropped out of the Surrey team in 1904.

In 1902 he appeared for England against Australia in four of the five Test matches, and in the contest in Manchester, securing eleven wickets for 76 runs, accomplished one of the greatest bowling performances ever witnessed. To begin with, the pitch proved so soft that not until the score reached 129 was Lockwood given a trial but still, in an innings of 299, he disposed of six batsmen for 48, the last five wickets falling for 43 runs.

In Australia’s second innings Lockwood got rid of Trumper, Hill and Duff while the score was reaching 10. Fred Tate, at deep square leg, missed Darling off Braund and the fourth wicket, which should have gone down at 16, did not fall until 64. For all that, Lockwood dominated the game, taking five wickets for 28 and the tourists were all out for 86. England had only 124 to make but a night’s heavy rain placed batsmen at a big disadvantage and Australia, despite Lockwood’s magnificent work, won by three runs.

Bill Lockwood (left) and Wilfred Rhodes prior to the first Test against Australia at Edgbaston in 1902

Lockwood took no such long run as his famous colleague, Tom Richardson, and did not appear quite so fast through the air, but when he was at the top of his form, no one ever came off the pitch much faster than he or – with his off-break also a distinguishing quality of his bowling – was more difficult to play under conditions favourable to batting.

He had, too, at his command a slow ball which in his early days he sent down without any perceptible change of delivery. After he came back in 1898, he did not bowl this ball quite as well as before but it was still a very useful part of his equipment.

In addition to being one of the most famous bowlers of his generation, Lockwood was also a first-rate batsman and, had he not been compelled to concentrate his energies upon the taking of wickets would, no doubt, have gained high rank as a run-getter. Among his many triumphs was one for the Players against the Gentlemen at Lord’s in 1902, when in addition to taking nine wickets for less than 12 runs apiece, he put together an innings of 100.

Lockwood, William Henry, died on April 26, 1932, aged 64

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