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Malcolm Merlyn

Thommo - how quick was he?'

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The Chappell brothers, Viv Richards, Dennis Lillee and others tell you, in this extract from a new book

Ian Brayshaw |

We know that Jeff Thomson would describe his bowling action in seven words. 'I just shuffle in … and go WHANG.' But when pushed on the subject, he had more to say. 'Seriously, why was I able to bowl fast? I reckon it was all in the load-up… and bowling over my braced front leg… getting very tall through the crease. The only way I can bowl is flat out. I'm not one of those guys who could slow down and use all manner of cut and swing to suit the conditions. I come in and let you know, "Hey, this is my turf… get out."'

As Greg Chappell puts it, it was far better to have him on your side than have the prospect of him whistling the cherry around your ears as an opponent. And in 1973-74, as captain of Queensland, Chappell found Thomson a prime target for recruitment.

Greg Chappell: My first memory of facing Thommo was at the Sydney Cricket Ground, playing for Queensland in the last game in 1973-74. We were leading the Sheffield Shield table going into that game and first-innings points would have got us the Shield for the first time.

New South Wales had not picked Thommo at all during the season, but did choose him for this game. Before going to the ground for the first day's play I read an article in the paper where he said this was going to be his last game for the state.

I won the toss and elected to bat first, only to be confronted by this whirlwind from the Randwick end, steaming in up the hill and bowling quicker than anyone I'd ever seen. Probably as inaccurately as anyone I'd ever seen, but he frightened the bejayzus out of everyone. He finished with seven wickets and just blew us away.

My attention had been captured and I couldn't wait to get down to the New South Wales dressing room after play that day… where I knocked people out of the way to find this Thommo bloke.

I said, 'Mate, well bowled… are you serious about leaving?'

'Yes I am… I'm not going to let these so-and-sos f*** up my life.'

'Would you go to Queensland?'

'I'll go anywhere.'

quote_top_bdr.png"His idea of a fitness program was a bit of pig shooting, a bit of fishing. Running around the oval wasn't one of his high priorities. But he was happy to bowl all day" Greg Chappell quote_btm_bdr.png

'Wait there,' I said and dashed out to the bar area, where I talked to some Queensland officials about getting Thommo to make the move up our way. I told them to shift heaven and earth to get him because I don't want to bat against him again. I thought at the time, 'I don't care if Thommo hasn't a clue where they're going. He'll frighten these blokes out. They'll be so desperate to get to the other end they'll run themselves out!'

The Queensland hierarchy went to work and during the winter months Thomson packed up and moved north to continue his career. Meantime, Greg's brother Ian was forming his own opinion.

Ian Chappell: I first came up against Thommo in a Sheffield Shield game in Adelaide. I missed him the first innings, but in the second, one of our openers was injured so I went out to open the batting with Ashley Woodcock.

Ashley took the first ball. In those days Thommo used to bowl about three leg-cutters an over and he sent down a short one to Ashley, which bounced four times going through to the keeper. Seeing this, I thought to myself, 'If this bloke drops short he's got to go.'

I got down the other end not long after that and then he did drop one short. Well, I got about halfway through the hook shot and, whack, it hit me on the gloves. Of course, it wasn't the leg-cutter - it was the proper short one. It was a good height for playing the pull shot, but, crikey, it wasn't the right length. I thought I might have to reassess the situation a little bit.

In fact he was the only bowler that I ever considered was unhookable. The one from Thommo that you thought was short enough to hook you couldn't reach. It'd go sailing over your head - the wicketkeeper's, too.

But the one that was at the right height to hook simply wasn't short enough.

One WA and Australia batsman remembers the harrowing experience of facing Thommo for the first time. It was a Sheffield Shield game in Brisbane in late 1974, just before the first Ashes Test at that ground.

Whang, bang, watch out, batsman

Whang, bang, watch out, batsman © Getty Images

Ross Edwards: We had an idea about how fast he was, and this was spelt out when we played New South Wales in Sydney the week before. They had just played Queensland and at the end of our game, while we were sitting around having a drink somebody asked Alan Turner, one of their openers, 'Thommo - how quick was he?' Turner, who is rather swarthy, went absolutely white and said, 'He's f****** quick!'

There we were, a week later in Brisbane, making our own judgement. WA batted first and as we watched Thommo our eyes were just about popping out of our heads. I went in at No. 4 and was at the non-striker's end, with John Inverarity waiting for Thommo.

Usually you can hear the bowler running in, but with Thommo you couldn't because he ran in on his toes. Well, I saw Inver start to move - just as the ball hit the wicketkeeper's gloves - above his head.

I thought, 'Oh jayzus, that can't be right!' Next ball Inver starts his movement earlier, this time he's three-quarters of the way up his backlift when the ball's with the keeper. I'm thinking, 'This is something outside my experience!'

Next thing I'm on strike at the beginning of a Thommo over - he bowls two no-balls and it turns out to be a 10-ball over, which is one thing you definitely don't want when you're facing him. One ball was a yorker, which flew off the inside edge of my bat and went for four before fine leg had even moved. With one ball remaining I'm thinking, 'If it's anywhere outside the stumps I'm going to let it go.' Well, it came down outside off stump, I thrust my front leg forward, it hit me on the thigh pad - and went through to hit the stumps.

Bruce Laird: I'd first seen Thommo, as a young spectator at the WACA Ground in November 1972. It was his first season playing for New South Wales, and I watched him from side-on. I couldn't believe how far back their wicketkeeper, Brian Taber, was standing. I know everything looks quicker side-on, but from that day I knew he'd be quick. I remember thinking at the time, 'How do you bat against that sort of pace?'

quote_top_bdr.png"Some say he was faster than the 160 kilometres an hour that he was measured at. I don't know, but what I do know is that he was faster than anyone I ever kept to" Rod Marsh quote_btm_bdr.png

Greg Chappell: He was so quick - and so frightening - that blokes just didn't want to bat against him. There were guys literally running away. And there were guys who were normally pretty composed and solid cricketers but who were totally discombobulated when Thommo ran up and stuck the thing behind his back and let it fly.

The thing was, Thommo wasn't the best trainer in the world. His idea of a fitness program was a bit of pig shooting, a bit of fishing. Running around the oval wasn't one of his high priorities. But he was happy to bowl all day. The nets at the Gabba were so poor that he didn't bowl a single ball there in the pre-season, his only work off the long run being a few disinterested overs in club cricket.

In a trial game before his first Sheffield Shield outing he was so all over the place that Jeff Langley, who had come up from South Australia to play, was hit twice by Thommo deliveries while crouching at bat-pad. One on the leg and one on the backside.

What I found with Thommo was that his first spell of the season was generally pretty ordinary. Always frighteningly quick, but leaving a little bit to be desired, direction-wise. If I made him bowl five or six in his first spell, then his second spell would be much better and by his third spell he was fine. However, there was one time when he got to his third spell - it was with the second new ball - and he was all over the place, hardly landing the ball on the rolled-out part. We badly needed a wicket at this stage, so I ran up and asked him what was going wrong.

'Oh,' he said, 'I just can't control the swing'.

I said, 'Never mind the swing, just hold it across the seam and bowl quick, because we need a wicket.'

I was just taking off to return to the slips, confident that at least there'd be some improvement in direction, when he called me back.

Facing Thommo was bad for your femurs, as Tony Greig finds out here in Brisbane in 1974

Facing Thommo was bad for your femurs, as Tony Greig finds out here in Brisbane in 1974 © Getty Images

'Hey, which side do you have the shiny side for the outswinger?'

I scratched my head. 'Hold the shiny side to the leg and the rough side to us in the slips - and away you go.'

'No wonder it's not going away. I've had the shiny side the wrong way.'

Another time, again the first game of a season, he was having trouble with no-balls and was all over the place. Again, I ran up from the slips and asked him what was going on.

'Mate, I've got no rhythm, I don't know what's going on… just can't get it right.'

Feeling frustrated at this, I said, 'I don't care what you do … short run'll do… so long as you can make 'em play we'll get some wickets.'

I've turned to go back to my position and again he called me back. 'Hey, how many steps do I have in my run-up?'

'How the bloody hell would I know!'

'I can't remember last season, whether it was fourteen or sixteen.'

'What are you using now?'

'Sixteen.'

'Well, try fourteen and see how you go.' Sure enough it was fourteen.

quote_top_bdr.png"The one from Thommo that you thought was short enough to hook you couldn't reach. It'd go sailing over your head. But the one that was at the right height to hook simply wasn't short enough" Ian Chappell quote_btm_bdr.png

Here's an example of just how quick Thommo could be. We were playing against Victoria in the poor light of a late afternoon and Mick Taylor, a handy little bat, was out there facing him. The first ball hit Mick's bat when it was still on the backswing. It gave him a helluva shock. After that he was too scared to take the bat back … and finished up with a forward lift.

In fact, no names, but there was one player facing Thommo in a Sheffield Shield game who got one that hit the shoulder of the bat - and when it flew into the air I'm sure that from my position in the slips I heard him say 'Catch it!'

Dennis Lillee: Thommo and I hardly knew each other before Brisbane, but we got on straightaway once we were in the same team. He was a man to put the fear of God into batsmen in any era, through pure and simple pace. It was nothing to do with guile or where the ball was going.

For outright natural ability, and a bloke who didn't seem to train a lot, lived life to the full and played cricket for fun, he was amazing. He was a wonderful natural athlete, a terrifying prospect for any batsman. Off that jaunting bit of a run-up he wound up so much pace. Because he was so quick he could afford to pitch a bit fuller, but still the ball would rear up.

268520.jpg

© Hardie Grant Books

He has always been a man of few words, almost an introvert. We often roomed together, yet we'd never talk about cricket. I used to think about these things a lot, but with Thommo it was all gut instinct. An uncomplicated guy, but, having said that, streetwise and smart. And he could turn his hand to most sports.

Rod Marsh: There were times when I thought, 'It's impossible for anyone to bowl faster.' Some say he was faster than the 160 kilometres an hour that he was measured at. I don't know, but what I do know is that he was faster than anyone I ever kept to.

Add to that the fact that he was able to make the ball climb from a length better than anyone I ever saw. That's what the West Indies found in 1975-6 - that a length ball could pass by their chins. That's frightening. From my point of view the worst thing about that particular series is, if you have a look at the byes: astronomical! They were going past the batsman's chin, so not a wide, then one bounce into the sightscreen. There was no hope of the keeper reaching a heap of them.

Viv Richards: When he found that length - basically just short of a good length - he was as good as it gets. The amount of wickets he took with balls lifting sharply off a good length was amazing. For that special delivery, no one could match Jeff Thomson for raw, lethal pace. He was very special, you know.

This is an edited extract from Lillee & Thommo by Ian Brayshaw, published by Hardie Grant Books

http://www.thecricketmonthly.com/story/1122003/-thommo---how-quick-was-he

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Ball by ball video of Jeff Thomson bowling in a test match in 1975

 

1975 was said to be a quick year for Thomson ... when he terrorized the West Indies and defeated them.

 

Wicket-keeper standing at standard distance

 

Camera behind the bowler .... what we are used to watching on TV.

 

 

 

 

Edited by express bowling

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21 minutes ago, Malcolm Merlyn said:

I would add atleast 5ks to the speeds here. Because the speed was measured over the flight of the ball and not from hand release.

 

I have heard that point-of-view too

 

But the person conducting this test, Dr. Frank Pyke,  seems to mention release speeds being measured in one of the 2 videos.

 

Further, even if we add 8 k , even then none of these guys would touch 150 k apart from Thomson, while targeting raw speed in a non-match situation..... while some of them, like Roberts, claimed that he bowled at 160 k + ..... while Thomson claimed that he bowled 180 k   :phehe:

Edited by express bowling

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21 minutes ago, express bowling said:

 

I have heard that point-of-view too

 

But the person conducting this test, Dr. Frank Pyke,  seems to mention release speeds being measured in one of the 2 videos.

 

Further, even if we add 8 k , even then none of these guys would touch 150 k apart from Thomson, while targeting raw speed in a non-match situation..... while some of them, like Roberts, claimed that he bowled at 160 k + ..... while Thomson claimed that he bowled 180 k   :phehe:

 

No one bowled 180k.

 

But i will be not surprised if Thomson bowled in 150s and Holding and Roberts in 140s consistently.

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8 hours ago, express bowling said:

Ball by ball video of Jeff Thomson bowling in a test match in 1975

 

1975 was said to be a quick year for Thomson ... when he terrorized the West Indies and defeated them.

 

Wicket-keeper standing at standard distance

 

Camera behind the bowler .... what we are used to watching on TV.

 

 

 

 

Does not look too quick in this video.

 

looks quick in this.

 

 

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7 hours ago, express bowling said:

Fiery spell by Jeff Thomson in 1981 ,  bowling in an ODI .... looking quicker than his video above

 

Wicket-keeper standing at standard distance

 

Camera behind the bowler .... what we are used to watching on TV.

 

 

 

 

 

this is easily close to 150.

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Video of Michael Holding bowling in a test match in 1980 

 

He was aged 26 then and at his peak

 

Wicket-keeper standing at standard distance ....  closer than Shoaib  or Lee

 

Camera behind the bowler while Holding is bowling  .... what we are used to watching on TV.

 

 

Edited by express bowling

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^^

Are you really trying to guage distance of wicketkeeper from a 2d projection of a 3d image from single camera angle ? Sorry, but thats utter nonsense. You have no idea how close/far the wicketkeeper is standing relative to the length of the pitch, to the batsman.

 

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Nice videos and some really interesting and valuable debate is going on here, i think its difficult to judge the pace of the ball from videos with no speed gun as any batsmen with zero technique will make even binny look like Brett Lee , we can only guess it, holding, garner,Thompson are looking quick around 140kph to 145+kph but certainly not 150+kph or 160kph which was hyped.

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46 minutes ago, Muloghonto said:

^^

Are you really trying to guage distance of wicketkeeper from a 2d projection of a 3d image from single camera angle ? Sorry, but thats utter nonsense. You have no idea how close/far the wicketkeeper is standing relative to the length of the pitch, to the batsman.

 

I bet in the 60' and 70's, Glenn Mcgrath would be called super duper express. Even Walsh. Its all hype.

 

Some amazing videos and great debate/content here! Good stuff man! We need to have more of such posts on this forum :)

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1 hour ago, Muloghonto said:

^^

Are you really trying to guage distance of wicketkeeper from a 2d projection of a 3d image from single camera angle ? Sorry, but thats utter nonsense. You have no idea how close/far the wicketkeeper is standing relative to the length of the pitch, to the batsman.

 

like we struggle to judge whether 3rd man is closer to the batsman or the slips .

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1 hour ago, Rightarmfast said:

I bet in the 60' and 70's, Glenn Mcgrath would be called super duper express. Even Walsh. Its all hype.

 

Some amazing videos and great debate/content here! Good stuff man! We need to have more of such posts on this forum :)

Your bet is as good as anyone else's. 

I'd take expert opinion over your extrapolation of speed from trying to analyze a 2d image projection of a 3d object to gauge distance.


There are fewer ridiculous ideas in cricket than that, but not many.

 

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7 minutes ago, MultiB48 said:

yes ,one can judge that but you cant judge wk's position from these videos

@Malcolm Merlyn 

Ofcourse one can- just ask all who faced him. Holding was a remarkable athlete- he came very close to making the cut for Jamaican 400m relay team. That automatically makes him one of the best runners in the world and easily, the Usain Bolt of cricket bowlers. Given how easy and pure his action was, its quite easy to see why Holding could maintain his effortless pace for so long. Not to mention, practically every batsman who's faced him, rate him as the consistently fastest guy, every spell of the way.Sure, Lillee, Thommo and maybe even Marshall at his peak were faster, in terms of their fastest balls/spells. Not by much, i may say. Holding was genuine fast. But if it was near tea on 2nd straight day of bowling and all bowlers are at 25+ overs bowled, your best bet, for the fastest spell out there, would be Holding. 

 

 Its precisely because holding was almost as much better than Lillee or Kapil or Imran at the running part, than Imran or Kapil are to us, in terms of running.

 

 

Edited by Muloghonto

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22 minutes ago, Muloghonto said:

Your bet is as good as anyone else's. 

I'd take expert opinion over your extrapolation of speed from trying to analyze a 2d image projection of a 3d object to gauge distance.


There are fewer ridiculous ideas in cricket than that, but not many.

 

they are not better expert than us.

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21 minutes ago, Muloghonto said:

@Malcolm Merlyn 

Ofcourse one can- just ask all who faced him. Holding was a remarkable athlete- he came very close to making the cut for Jamaican 400m relay team. That automatically makes him one of the best runners in the world and easily, the Usain Bolt of cricket bowlers. Given how easy and pure his action was, its quite easy to see why Holding could maintain his effortless pace for so long. Not to mention, practically every batsman who's faced him, rate him as the consistently fastest guy, every spell of the way.Sure, Lillee, Thommo and maybe even Marshall at his peak were faster, in terms of their fastest balls/spells. Not by much, i may say. Holding was genuine fast. But if it was near tea on 2nd straight day of bowling and all bowlers are at 25+ overs bowled, your best bet, for the fastest spell out there, would be Holding. 

 

 Its precisely because holding was almost as much better than Lillee or Kapil or Imran at the running part, than Imran or Kapil are to us, in terms of running.

 

 

Running has nothing to do with bowling speeds. NO runner can run whole day at the same.  Same way no one can same pace whole day. 

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30 minutes ago, Muloghonto said:

@Malcolm Merlyn 

Ofcourse one can- just ask all who faced him. Holding was a remarkable athlete- he came very close to making the cut for Jamaican 400m relay team. That automatically makes him one of the best runners in the world and easily, the Usain Bolt of cricket bowlers. Given how easy and pure his action was, its quite easy to see why Holding could maintain his effortless pace for so long. Not to mention, practically every batsman who's faced him, rate him as the consistently fastest guy, every spell of the way.Sure, Lillee, Thommo and maybe even Marshall at his peak were faster, in terms of their fastest balls/spells. Not by much, i may say. Holding was genuine fast. But if it was near tea on 2nd straight day of bowling and all bowlers are at 25+ overs bowled, your best bet, for the fastest spell out there, would be Holding. 

 

 Its precisely because holding was almost as much better than Lillee or Kapil or Imran at the running part, than Imran or Kapil are to us, in terms of running.

 

 

there is no evidence of holding nearly qualifying for olympics nor of holding bowling exceptionally fast and how are you judging all this if we cant even judge the distance of the wk how can we judge the speed/bounce of a bowler .

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1 hour ago, rkt.india said:

as quick as Shami or Umesh Yadav or Steyn.

 

Viv Richards said the same during our WI tour 2016.

 

Said that Shami was very similar to Marshall in terms of pace and height.

 

Also, said that Garner was not an out-and-out fast bowler but depended on steep bounce.

 

One of the few past cricketers who does not try to glorify his era too much.

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1 hour ago, Muloghonto said:

Your bet is as good as anyone else's. 

I'd take expert opinion over your extrapolation of speed from trying to analyze a 2d image projection of a 3d object to gauge distance.


There are fewer ridiculous ideas in cricket than that, but not many.

 

Dude, what does that even mean???

" a 2d image projection of a 3d object to gauge distance." You seem to be obsessed with this point. Did you just learn it?

I can accept that its tough to gauge the speed of ball merely by looking at a video, but your logic about us judging the distance of the keeper is hilarious. That can be gauged very easily. You can also just try to judge the boundary behind the wicketkeeper, as a matter of fact. Which gives indication of the distance and speed.

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46 minutes ago, Rightarmfast said:

Dude, what does that even mean???

" a 2d image projection of a 3d object to gauge distance." You seem to be obsessed with this point. Did you just learn it?

I can accept that its tough to gauge the speed of ball merely by looking at a video, but your logic about us judging the distance of the keeper is hilarious. That can be gauged very easily. You can also just try to judge the boundary behind the wicketkeeper, as a matter of fact. Which gives indication of the distance and speed.

he avoided that, @Muloghonto please come and explain sir

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A good time elapse video should give an answer. Hard to gauge. But do remember both Brett Lee and Sohaib had questionable actions which enabled them to reach 100 mph. Not allowing arm to bend makes it difficult to reach those high speeds.

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12 minutes ago, Khota said:

A good time elapse video should give an answer. Hard to gauge. But do remember both Brett Lee and Sohaib had questionable actions which enabled them to reach 100 mph. Not allowing arm to bend makes it difficult to reach those high speeds.

You think guys in the past were not doing that?

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7 hours ago, rkt.india said:

they are not better expert than us.

lol. a little full of yourself, arnt you ?? Sorry, if you are not a professional cricketer with first hand experience of these guys, you are not an expert.

 

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7 hours ago, rkt.india said:

Running has nothing to do with bowling speeds. NO runner can run whole day at the same.  Same way no one can same pace whole day. 

two words: momentum transfer. If Running had nothing to do with bowling speeds, fast bowlers wouldn't be running in to bowl. they'd just stand and bowl fast.

 

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