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|Full name||William Eric Bowes|
25 July 1908|
Elland, Yorkshire, England
|Died||4 September 1987
Otley, West Yorkshire, England
|Height||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Bowling style||Right arm fast-medium / medium|
|Test debut (cap 264)||25 June 1932 v India|
|Last Test||25 June 1946 v India|
|Domestic team information|
|Source: Cricinfo, 12 April 2009|
Bill Bowes (25 July 1908 – 4 September 1987) was one of the best bowlers of the interwar period and, for a time, the most important force behind Yorkshire's dominance of the County Championship. For England, his extreme weakness as a batsman, and, more important, injuries, restricted the number of Tests he played, yet his Test record in an era of flat pitches and prolific run-scoring remains exceptional. Indeed, his Test average during the 1930s was the lowest of any major England or Australia bowler.
Bowes never looked like a cricketer - his fielding was clumsy at best and his batting so poor that he scored fewer runs than he took wickets - yet as a bowler he had few equals, and almost no superior during his best years in the 1930s. Very tall and willowy, Bowes was, after his early years, only medium-pace through the air but could make the ball come very fast from Yorkshire pitches of his time. He was able to sustain his attack for lengthy periods and, with the new ball, could generate an extremely deceptive swerve. At times, he was criticised for pitching too short, but in later years, with loss of pace, Bowes found greater reward in attacking the stumps.
Life and career
William Eric Bowes was born in Elland, West Yorkshire, England in 1908. He began his cricket career for MCC in 1928, and gained most of his early experience with the Lord's ground staff. He played a number of times for Yorkshire in 1929, but really established himself in 1930 when, despite not being a regular choice early on, he took 100 wickets for the first time. In the following two years, combined with Hedley Verity's unplayability on sticky wickets and the batting of Herbert Sutcliffe, Bowes' fast bowling allowed Yorkshire, after slow starts, to win match after match; in 1932 they won 15 of their last 16 games.
Bowes was selected for the infamous Bodyline tour of 1932/33, just three days before the ship sailed. He played in only one Test, in which he bowled Bradman first ball at the MCG but took no other wicket.
The following two years Bowes' frequent use of the bouncer was widely criticised, but he continued to be the most potent bowler in the country on good pitches. In the 1934 Ashes series, Bowes was easily England's best bowler - except after rain - taking 6 for 142 at Old Trafford and 9 for 219 at The Oval on the best batting wicket in the country. The following year, Bowes was disappointing in the Tests but his bowling was the most decisive factor in another runaway Championship win.
1936 was plagued by a series of minor injuries - doubts over his fitness prevented him touring Australia though he had the lowest average in the County Championship of any bowler - and in 1937 a major ankle injury in the first match restricted his cricket to half the season. However, fully fit in 1938 Bowes headed the first-class averages and his bowling gave England a mammoth win at The Oval after Len Hutton made 364. In 1939, appalling weather restricted his opportunities in the Tests against the West Indies, but Bowes proved unplayable on a pitch wet on top at Old Trafford and was second to Verity in the averages.
During World War II, Bowes spent three years in an Italian prisoner-of-war camp, where he lost four stone in weight. After the war, Bowes could only bowl medium pace for short spells, due to his age and the effects of his incarceration. His final Test appearance came in the first Test match played after the conflict, against India. Nonetheless, he was still near the top of the averages, and had a record benefit against Middlesex in his last season (1947).
Cricket correspondent, Colin Bateman, recorded, "Bowes' Test bowling average of 22 runs per wicket is outstanding for his era, his career average of 16 is quite astonishing".
After he retired, Bowes wrote numerous articles for Wisden in which he showed how he experienced the game as a bowler, and his response to the problems (negative bowling) that cricket faced during the 1950s and 1960s. His responses focused on the everyday cricketer, and show a belief that club cricket, not county or Test cricket, should be seen as the core and building block of the game.