And bowling from the Lover’s Loan end ... Harold Larwood

England’s finest ever fast bowler at Grange Loan? It so very nearly happened ...

In 1933, Harold Larwood was the most famous sportsman in the UK. His bowling heroics in the infamous Bodyline Ashes series of 1932/33, under the captaincy of Douglas Jardine, meant that he was a household name from London to Aberdeen.

During what turned out to be the most famous Ashes series in history, Larwood (left) found himself headlining on the back and front pages of newspapers on both sides of the world.  While England won the series 4-1, thanks in large part to Larwood’s 33 wickets at less than 20, Jardine’s tactics of getting his bowlers to fire short pitched deliveries onto the bodies of the Australian batsmen, supported by a packed legside field, had won the skipper – and his premier bowler – few friends Down Under. Indeed Larwood had been responsible for hitting  both the Australian skipper Bill Woodfull and his colleague Bert Oldfield with fearful blows, although he maintained that he hadn’t been bowling ‘Bodyline’ at the time.

While the battle for the Ashes was being fought out in Australia, Carlton skipper Dr N L Stevenson had been working on a new idea – organising a group of Scottish cricketers to come together regularly to play matches to raise money for player benefits and for charity. The team was named The Crustaceans – in homage to their President, Major H J Stevenson, who had once been a leading ‘lobster’ (i.e. under-arm) bowler. The first match was arranged for Grange Loan in the summer of 1933 and Stevenson knew that there was one player above all others that the Edinburgh cricketing public would pay good money to see – Harold Larwood.

Stevenson takes up the story in his book ‘Play!’:

"Up to this point everything had gone without a hitch, and to inaugurate the new Club’s playing career a special opening game was arranged, between the strongest XI that could be selected in Scotland (not a single player who was asked refused) aided by Larwood, fresh from his Test-match triumphs in Australia, and a very strong representative team of Scottish professionals, selected by R. A. Haywood, the Fettes College “coach”.

Larwood’s foot, it will be recalled, gave him a lot of trouble on the “cast-iron” wickets of Australia; but when I was in correspondence with him, he had no reason to suppose that he would be unable to play. In point of fact, after fixing a convenient day for the match, Larwood wrote and told me he would  travel to Edinburgh by the “Scotch Express” from St Pancras on the Tuesday night, bringing Mrs Larwood with him. A day or two later, having seen somewhere that Larwood was having fresh trouble with his foot, I wired him and received the answer –

“Am coming definitely – Larwood”.

Meanwhile, Grange Loan had been prepared for the big occasion, with a grand-stand and seating accommodation for 2000 spectators. The printing and advertising had been carried out, too, when the blow fell. Larwood had to write and tell me that two small bones in his left foot were now believed to be broken, and so, while still willing to come to Edinburgh as arranged, he could be counted upon only as a batsman.

Larwood is a fine batsman. He has made 98 in a Test match against Australia. But I knew the Edinburgh cricket-loving public wanted to see him bowl – indeed, expected to see him bowl - and, consequently, I considered it would not be polite to bring him North under more or less false pretences.

With great reluctance, and at a considerable financial loss, we had to cancel the match."

While Larwood did play cricket again, he was never the same bowler thanks to a combination of his injured feet and his shabby treatment by the English cricket establishment as they sought to distance themselves from the Bodyline fall-out. And, sadly, Harold never did make it to Grange Loan.

 

Stevenson in his Crustacean blazer

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