After a disappointing Ashes debut in Brisbane, Frank Tyson wreaked havoc on Australia with a hostile spell in the Sydney Test of 1954 – it left a mighty impression on the great Don Bradman and Richie Benaud.
The fastest bowler the world has ever seen? Frank Tyson arrived in Australia as the spearhead of one of the most potent England squads ever assembled. Such was England’s strength that the likes of Fred Trueman and Jim Laker had been left behind whilst Alec Bedser was relegated to first reserve.
Tyson, a Durham University graduate with an affinity for Shakespeare, was already well known to the opposition, having rattled them in a warm-up match during their 1953 tour, and the Australian public were anxious to see what he could do. But Tyson’s action was raw, wild even, and despite his immense pace he could be strangely ineffective. As The Times correspondent John Woodcock put it: “It was a long time before Tyson was lassoed, let alone broken in.”
England were mauled in the first Test at Brisbane as Australia racked up 601-8 declared in the first innings. Tyson returned figures of 1-160 and England lost by a street. The Australian press reckoned him a dud.
But all that changed during the second Test at Sydney. Tyson was knocked unconscious by a Ray Lindwall bouncer and was carried from the field. He returned to it a different bowler. Having decided to reduce his immense run-up at the behest of his coach Alf Gover, Tyson harnessed his powers like never before and claimed match-figures of 10-130, producing searing yorker after searing yorker. According to Australia’s captain, the legendary Arthur Morris, Tyson was “through you almost before you had picked up your bat.”
England won at Sydney and in the next game at Melbourne, where Tyson produced second innings figures of 7-27. The Australian press, watching in awe, dubbed him “The Typhoon”.
With the final Test ending in stalemate, despite six further wickets for Tyson, England claimed the series 2-1. Sadly Tyson’s body struggled to cope with the demands his action placed on it and he played only 17 times for his country, retiring from the game by the time he was 30. But for one Ashes series he was unplayable, the fastest ever according to Sir Don Bradman and Richie Benaud. That’s good enough for us.
First published in 2009