Thursday, 19 November 2009
Born in Nuncargate, Nottinghamshire on 14th November 1904, to a working class family, Harold left school at the ripe old age of 14, to commence work in the mines.
His father like every miner I have ever known, didn't want his son to go down the pit.
Fortunately, from a young age he showed an aptitude for cricket, playing initially for his village side and showing an ability with both bat and ball.
At the age of eighteen he trialed for Nottinghanshire County Cricket Club and was offered a professional contract.
In those days cricket was very much a two tier game in England, with control and captaincy of clubs invariably run by the upper classes.
Harold would have found it perfectly normal to have to call his captain,sir!
He rapidly built a reputation as not only a very fast bowler, but also a very accurate one.
His compatriot at Nottingham was Frank Tyson an equally fearsome bowler, who later said that attempts to measure the speed of Harold's bowling varied between 90 and 130 mph, which if tested today would make him the fastest bowler, the World has ever known!
He is best known for bowling in Australia during the notorious Bodyline Tour of 1932, under the captaincy of Douglas Jardine.
He was ordered by his captain to bowl a thing called 'leg theory' ,which was not only very dangerous for batsmen, but devastated the Australian batting order.
Leg Theory works on the basis of aiming for the batsman and not the wicket, considered at the time not to be sporting.
Harold is reported as saying,'When you have 50,000 Aussies shouting at you, you know you've got 'em worried!'.
On returning to England, the political fallout of the tour had the governing body of the game insisting he write a letter of apology.
This he refused to do, on the basis that strategy was the captain's decision.
Jardine, a toff, was never asked to apologise.
As a result Harold was never selected to play for his country again and finished his county career at the outbreak of war in 1939.
Ironically he and his wife emigrated to Australia, a country that didn't look down on him for being a working class lad, where he lived quietly in New South Wales.