William Eric Bowes
William Eric Bowes
July 25, 1908, Elland, Yorkshire. Died: September 4, 1987 (Aged 79)
Right-hand bat, Right-arm fast-medium, Right-arm medium
1930. YCCC Cap No. 67.
BATTING AND FIELDING AVERAGES
William 'Bill' Bowes was one of the greatest Yorkshire bowlers of all time. A great practicer he honed a wonderful control of length and direction and on moving the ball. He had the natural ability to bowl a late in-swinger, but learned the art of running the ball away from a right-hander. Nicknamed Lofty because of his 6 foot 5 inch frame he also had the ability to make the ball rise steeply, but tended not to overuse the bouncer.
Bowes's mother wanted him to become a teacher, but instead he became an estate agent. When invited to play in an impromptu match in a Leeds park he impressed and was asked to play for Kirkstall Educational 2nd XI against Leeds City Gas Works. He once took 6-5 including a hat-trick and was offered £5 a week to turn professional in Yorkshire League cricket. Instead, Bowes applied and was taken on to the Lord's groundstaff in 1928 and in his first first-class match for MCC took 5-69 against Wales. In his second match against Cambridge he took a hat-trick.
Lord Hawke agreed with the MCC that he be released to play for Yorkshire unless MCC required him for a first-class match. As a result he played a few times for the county in 1929 and did enough to show his potential - 65 wickets at 19 each.
In 1930, after several successful matches for Yorkshire, with a best of 8-69 against Middlesex at Sheffield, he received his county cap and became a regular member of the county side. Yorkshire were strong in all departments, but it was the bowling of Bowes and Verity that stood them apart from any other county side when they won Championships in the 1930s.
He took 100 wickets or more in eight of the next nine seasons in an era of batsman's pitches. Under a hot Scarborough sun he bowled 40 overs in three and a half hours and took 9-120 against Essex.
Wearing strong spectacles, Bowes looked far more like a university professor, and indeed batted and fielded like one. When Bowes suggested that it might be a good thing if he were taught the rudiments of batting, he was told firmly that his job was to take wickets; he was not to waste his valuable strength on making runs. If he ever showed signs of forgetting this, his partners were expected to run him out.
England had Larwood (and later Farnes), Voce and Allen at their disposal. They were all faster than Bowes and three quick bowlers were usually regarded as sufficient, with two spinners the norm. Bowes was often ignored by the England selectors - between 1932 and 1939 England played 20 Test Matches against Australia and Bowes was picked for just 6. In these games he took 30 wickets at 24.70.
Getting a commission in the war, Bowes was captured at Tobruk in 1942 and spent three years as a prisoner. By the time he returned home, he had lost four and a half stone and was not really fit to stand the rigours of first-class cricket. Moreover, at 38 he had reached an age which a bowler of his type is sure to have lost some of his fire. His troubles were compounded by a severe strain to the muscles of his side and back. None the less, bowling at a reduced pace, he struggled bravely through two seasons, still taking wickets cheaply for the county and even playing against India at Lord's. In 1947 his benefit brought him £8,000, at that time a record, and he decided to retire.
After retirement he wrote regularly on cricket for the Yorkshire Evening News and the evening Post newspapers, and with his profound knowledge of the game every word he wrote was worth reading. His autobiography, Express Deliveries, published in 1949, is widely thought to be the best book on cricket ever written by a professional.
In his first-class career of 372 games, Bowes took 1,639 wickets at 16.76: as he made only 1,530 runs, his wickets outnumber his runs. In fifteen Tests, his figures were 68 wickets at 22.33.
Bill Bowes died in hospital on September 5, 1987, aged 79.
J M Kilburn wrote: "The out swinger had a magnetic quality and Bowes must have bruised more edges than any bowler of his time - in both his careers Billy Bowes was a proud professional and the best of companions."
When Len Hutton was asked to compare Bowes with bowlers of the more modern era he said: "he had a little of Willis and a lot of Hadlee."
Day 2, 2nd Investec Test close
England v New Zealand
England 1st Innings
337 for 7 (94 overs)
Root 104 (Maiden Test century) Bairstow 64