Sunday, 13 July 2008

Derbyshire Legends 7 - Arnold Warren (1875-1951)

For devotees of Derbyshire cricket, the late 1940's through to the later 1950's was the era of Gladwin and Jackson. For fans pre-World War One, the county's fortunes were pretty much dependent on Warren and Bestwick.

Bill Bestwick has been dealt wih earlier in this blog, but Arnold Warren was arguably the more highly rated of the pair, even going so far as to be recognised by England selectors. Like many others over the years, it was fleeting recognition.

Fast bowlers then were less molly-coddled than their modern day equivalents. It was like winding up a watch, for those who remember such things. The star bowlers were effectively wound up at the start of the game and then continued for much of the innings. Some bowlers have recalled in their memoirs that they would often bowl until lunch, then start again afterwards. One well-known bowler was pleased when his captain took him off after a handful of post-lunch overs to add to the morning stint, only to realise he was merely changing ends! Most were uncomplaining as the alternative was down the pit and however much hard work was involved, a life in cricket was far more appealing. The bonus of an occasional collection for a good performance augmented their appearance money (and if they didn't play, they didn't get paid).

Arnold Warren took 939 wickets in his career at an average of 24 and the long-time Derbyshire secretary Will Taylor reckoned him to be the fastest bowler he has seen play for the county over a fifty-year period. In his opinion, Bill Copson for a few overs was quick, and Harold Rhodes was faster than most, but Warren, until the advent of Alan Ward, was the quickest of them all. Remember, most Derbyshire bowlers - the Popes, Gladwin, Jackson, Hendrick - have been too fast to be trundlers and cannon-fodder but not quick enough to be erratic. With a batting side that has historically been unreliable, our sides have never been able to afford to "buy" wickets.

Warren had a long, bounding run and was a right arm fast bowler. A tall man, he managed to find bounce that wasn't sometimes there for others. His annus mirabilis was 1904, when he became the first Derbyshire bowler to take 100 wickets in a season, taking 124 in 22 matches. Had there been Test matches that year he may well have earned recognition.

That was to come in 1905, when the Australians were the visitors. He had earlier impressed the England captain, Yorkshire's Hon F.S. Jackson, with match figures of 12-126 against his county and he was brought in for the third Test at Headingley.

In 19.2 overs he took 5-57, including the prize wicket of Victor Trumper, as well as Monty Noble, Joe Darling (the Australian captain) and Warwick Armstrong. Good wickets all and when he followed this with the wicket of Trumper again in the second innings he would have been excused for thinking he had done well.

Not so, as he was never selected for his country again.

His second innings bowling was noticeably less menacing and the story ran that Warren, like Bill Bestwick partial to a beer, had "over-celebrated" with friends after his first innings heroics. Together with the presence of many fastish bowlers around the country, this counted against him. It was essentially the story of his career and like the little girl in the rhyme, when he was good, he was very, very good but when he was bad...

He played on for Derbyshire until 1913 (aside from a fleeting appearance in 1920) and his later life was beset by problems. A brawl got him into trouble with the police, there was a period of destitution and personal tragedy after the premature death of his wife.

He will be remembered, however, as one of the earliest members of the fine Derbyshire fast-medium bowling lineage. Ironically, his most memorable performance was to come with a bat in his hand - but that's a story for next week...

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