St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Origins of Cricket
St George's Park - The Origin of the “Googly”
The Origin of the “Googly”
A descendant of a famous Huguenot family, Bernard James Tindal Bosanquet, first made his mark in cricket as a batsman, scoring 120 runs in the 1896 Eton-Harrow match at Lord’s.
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The Googly started as a joke
At Oxford, he was selected as a fast-medium bowler. He developed into the university’s best all-rounder.
Yet it is for none of these roles that Bosanquet the cricketer is remembered today. Above all, he is famed as the wizard of spin who developed the greatest conjuring trick in the history of the game - the off-break spun with a leg-break action, generally known as the googly and in Australia as the “Bosie.”
As the man who put “the twist” into cricket, tall, powerfully-built Bosanquet bewitched and bewildered great batsmen of his day in some of the most sensational matches ever played.
But the delivery that shook the world of cricket at the beginning of the century was originally intended as no more than a joke, a “party piece,” to amuse his fellow players.
Bosanquet first revealed it during breaks in matches when he joined in games of “twistygrab” in the pavilion. This game involved bouncing a tennis ball on a table so that it eluded the player grabbing at it from the opposite end.
Playing in the pavilion, he devised his own special spinner - the “wrong ‘un”. Later he developed it in the nets to try on unsuspecting batsmen. After delivering a few ordinary leg breaks he would slip in his googly and baffle the batsmen completely to set his friends roaring with laughter.
Bosanquet left Oxford in 1900 and played as an amateur for Middlesex, scoring two centuries in one match. But his special spinner remained a big joke when he took his first wicket with it at Lord’s. The ball bounced four times on the way to the stumps.
All the time, however, Bosanquet was practising his spinners and gaining more and more accuracy. He was still experimenting with his “secret weapon” in 1902 when he was selected to join Lord Hawke’s team on a tour of Australia and New Zealand.
At the last moment Lord Hawke was prevented from making the trip by his mother’s illness and the leadership was taken over by PF “Plum” Warner. Under his leadership, the tourists were destined to play 18 matches in New Zealand and win them all.
Here the word “googly” was first used in print to describe Bosanquet’s weird off-break. People laughed at first - but Charles Bannerman, Australia’s great batsman, took it very seriously. After umpiring some matches in New Zealand, he declared that the googly would one day be a major weapon in Test cricket.
His prophetic words soon won support. But first came an ugly incident in the match against Canterbury at Lancaster Park.
Bosanquet had only one success in the first innings when Arthur Sims fell to the third ball he received. Sims (later Sir Arthur) gently played the first two balls, leg breaks; the third, seemingly delivered with the same action, whipped back the other way and took his leg stump.
Canterbury made 224 in reply to the tourists’ 352. and Warner declared his side’s second innings closed at 159 for seven. Then came trouble in the New Zealanders’ second innings when W Pearce took a tremendous swing at a Bosanquet spinner.
The square-leg umpire ducked automatically and the mighty sweep missed its target. The bails were off and Pearce began to walk to the pavilion. But Sims told him to come back and wait for the umpire’s decision.
Bosanquet and wicket-keeper AD Whatman made a loud appeal. Alas, Bannerman, umpiring from the bowler’s end, refused to make a decision because the batsman’s body had obstructed his view of the ball. And the square-leg umpire, so busy ducking, didn’t see what happened either.
Players argued, but Pearce stayed in. Bosanquet called Sims a “cheat.” Then, as Sims squared up for the next over, VVhatman called him a “bloody cheat” and made derisive remarks while the New Zealander was playing his shots.
Bosanquet had the Iast word. He bowled the unfortunate Sims for the second time in the match and Canterbury were finally all out for 154 - beaten by 133 runs. For days argument raged over this incident, and Sims was so disgusted with the tourists’ behaviour that he refused to play in the two Tests against them.
It was the beginning of the “googly era.” After apologising for the incident, Bosanquet moved on to Australia and took a wicket with his very first delivery in that country. It was a googly and it clean bowled the great Victor Trumper.
Bosanquet ended that drawn match against New South Wales with figures of eight for 96. He also scored 54 and 114.
Back home, the Old Etonian batsman became a recognised slow bowler. He helped Middlesex win the county championship and earned selection for the tour of Australia (1903-4). Still, he was regarded by many as a freak bowler and his selection was strongly criticised.
The gamble came off in the fourth Test at Sydney when England were leading the series 2-1. During the second innings the Aussies had to get 329 runs to win on an excellent batting wicket. They only mustered 171.
This was “Bosie’s” match, as he cunningly deceived one experienced batsman after another. The Aussies were thrown into confusion by his sleight-of-hand. If they played back they were bowled or went out lbw; if they stepped forward they were stumped.
Three men chose to jump out at him and apologising profusely, stumper ‘“Dick” Lilley whipped off the bails. Two Aussies hit out hopefully and were caught. One stayed his ground and was leg-before.
At one stage Bosanquet had five wickets for 12, and he finished with six for 51 in 15 overs.
England conquered by 157 runs and the Ashes were won.
No one laughed at Bosanquet now. In 1904 he was recognised as the best all-rounder in England, with 130 wickets and 1,400 runs. He scored 145 and took eight for 157 for the Gentlemen vs Players.
Some people asked if his googly might not be illegal. “No,” he replied. “Only immoral.”
Bosanquet’s last sensatlonal performance came in the first Test against Australia at Trent Bridge in 1905. In the second innings he took five wickets in just over half an hour and finally claimed eight for 107. England won by 213 runs.
Yet he didn’t bowl in second Test and took only one wicket in the third. It was end of his Test career. In all he had played in only seven Tests and yet he had a greater impact on the game than the vast majority of Test players.
BJT Bosanquet did not invent the googly. There had been such experiments before. But he first mastered its theory and practice and within a few years it became fashionable for every Test team to include a bowler of this type.
Others learned to produce it more accurately. Others used it with greater success. But to Bosanquet, who died in 1936 on the eve of his 59th birthday, goes the honour of having established it in the face of ridicule to leave a permanent memorial to his name.Evening Post Magazine.
October 5, 1963.