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Alan ‘Froggy’ Thomson: 1945 – 2022

Alan ‘Froggy’ Thomson
by Almanack Archive 7 minute read

Alan “Froggy” Thomson died on October 31, 2022, aged 76. He had played four Test matches and an ODI, and was remembered in the 2023 Wisden Almanack.

THOMSON, ALAN LLOYD, who died on October 31, aged 76, was generally known as “Froggy” – not, as many assumed, because of his peculiar bowling action, but because his croaky adolescent voice had attracted the nickname from his schoolmates. On the field, though, his distinctive approach and delivery did make an immediate impact on batsmen and spectators. “His run-up makes me think of a clockwork soldier,” wrote Ray Robinson. “As he comes to the crease, a leg-crossing manoeuvre from the sailor’s hornpipe makes it look as though he is bowling off the wrong foot. This is an illusion, but there is nothing illusory about the way his open-chested delivery makes the ball rise from the pitch.”

Thomson told cricket writer Ken Piesse how it all happened: “I’ve only seen a small amount of footage of myself bowling. But when I do, I still get a giggle out of it. I was no gymnast as a kid, but I could run – and my action just evolved from when I was about nine.” Ian Chappell, who batted against Thomson several times, wrote: “People who were mesmerised by his action instead of watching the ball had real problems. I made sure I watched the ball. He was lively but not really quick, and because he was so front-on he brought the ball back in, which I didn’t find all that difficult to play, although he could take the odd leg-cutter away from you.”

Thomson made an immediate impact when he first appeared for Victoria late in the 1968/69 season, and took 11 wickets against the touring West Indians. The following summer, he topped the first-class averages with 55 wickets at 18, and led the wicket-takers again in 1970/71, although his 51 cost 30 each; he steamed past 100 in 16 first-class matches. He was trumpeted as a secret weapon against Ray Illingworth’s 1970/71 England team, but found the going harder on the anaesthetised pitches served up for the Tests. Twelve wickets in four matches cost 54 each, his best return 3-79 in his last appearance, at Adelaide, where he was partnered by a raw young Perth paceman, Dennis Lillee. Thomson was proud he played in the first official one-day international – it replaced the washed-out Test at the MCG in January 1971 – and took the first wicket in the format, Geoff Boycott smartly caught off a bouncer by Bill Lawry at square leg.

Keith Stackpole, a state team-mate, said Thomson was bothered that summer by a shoulder injury, and lost a yard of pace: “For Victoria against the MCC, Froggy picked up nine wickets, and was nicknamed ‘Tommy Gun’. After the fifth Test, his title was changed to ‘Water Pistol’, which naturally he didn’t like much.”

Stackpole felt Thomson’s Test selection “had come a year too late. Bowlers with peculiar actions have a limited time at the top – the element of surprise soon vanishes.” Indeed, he was gone from first-class cricket by the end of the 1974/75 season, when a different Thomson emerged as England’s bogeyman. The original had a long teaching career, and briefly refereed Australian Rules football matches, but had health struggles later on. He suffered a prolonged series of lung infections which restricted his mobility and, ultimately, accelerated his death: he broke his hip in a fall, and did not survive the operation.

Alan “Froggy” Thomson stood in four Test matches and took the first wicket in ODI history.

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