|Fred Spofforth, 'The Demon Bowler'|
I hesitate to mention the cricket, things being in a very bad way at the moment. However the subject has been thrust upon me by the answer to the question ‘who was Spofforth?’ It seems (thanks, Wikipedia) that Fred Spofforth, ‘The Demon Bowler’ to his friends and fans, was an Australian cricketer, arguably the best pace bowler of the 19th century, and the first bowler for Australia to take 50 Test wickets. Perhaps we could resuscitate him. For the Sydney Test, which begins today at the SCG.
Fred played cricket in Australia between 1877 and 1887, and then played for Derbyshire in England. Reading of his exploits, we are taken back to some glorious moments. Let’s relive them for a minute, as heaven knows we could do with some inspiration as the Test kicks off today:
“Spofforth truly announced himself to the cricketing world on 27 May 1878, when the touring Australians met the MCC at Lord’s. In this, the second match of the tour, the might of the MCC was dismissed twice in one day at the fortress of English cricket for paltry scores of just 33 and nineteen. The colonists won by nine wickets, with Spofforth picking up ten for twenty after first clean-bowling Grace for a duck. Tom “Felix” Horan records that, when he did so, "he jumped about two feet in the air, and sang out: 'Bowled! Bowled! Bowled!' And at the finish in the dressing-room, he said: 'Ain't I a demon? Ain't I a demon?' gesticulating the while in his well-known demonaic style.” (Wikipedia)
What glory days! C’mon Aussies under Captain Michael Clarke. If we have to lose The Ashes, let’s at least give them a run for the money in the final Test. Though I am not sure that exchanging the Baggy Greens for Baggy Pinks sends quite the right killer message. Play begins at 10.30 am. Australia has won eight of the last ten Tests played at the SCG - the only loss being in 2002/2003. Good luck today, boys.
But why are we even discussing Spofforth? I hear you ask. As well you might. Because the street outside my holiday apartment bears his name. Early this morning, after a rainy night and high humidity, I craved some fresh air and set off for a walk. My objective: to reach the water. My method: walk straight down Spofforth Street. The unexpected result? Wondering who Spofforth was.
The walk, I might add, was refreshing and pretty. I found a path down through lush exotic plantings to a quiet bay with a small marina, home to the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club and The Mosman Rowers. I managed to get over my house-envy at the superb harbour side homes, and to enjoy the sea air in the early morning, before returning for coffee and the daily press. Ah, Sydney in summer.
UPDATE: Sydney awash with rain, the Test was delayed, but what has been played is pretty dismal: Australia 4 for 134 when rain closed play for the day.
Some pics from: