Amongst Sussex’s Greatest Professional Batsmen
Ted Bowley ranks amongst the greatest of Sussex’s professional batsmen, alongside the likes of Joe Vine and John Langridge. He was the mainstay of Sussex batting in the 1920s when the team’s batting was generally quite unreliable. He was by technique and inclination an ideal number four batsman, but the demands of the team meant that he is better known as an opener. He played his first full season for Sussex in 1914 and when he resumed his career after World War One, aged 30, he became one of the heaviest scorers in the country, scoring at least 1,000 runs in a season from 1920 until his retirement in 1933. Ted was also a useful right-arm leg-spin bowler who deceived many a batsman with his deceptive flight. At 39 he was called up for two Test matches against South Africa in 1929, and the following winter he was a member of the MCC side that toured New Zealand and Australia, which was captained by his club captain, Harold Gilligan. He played in three of the four Test matches against New Zealand.
Born on the Sussex-Hampshire border
Ted was born in Leatherhead, Surrey on 6 June 1890 but it was in Liss, on the Hampshire-Sussex border, that Ted learnt his early cricket. It was said that the family house straddled the county border, and so Ted qualified by residence for Sussex. Ted was coached by Joe Vine and Albert Relf and first played for Sussex in 1912 but only established himself as a regular member of the side in 1914. In that year, with a highest innings of 84, Ted scored 1,170 runs and averaged over 27 for the first time. He joined the army for the duration of the war and did not return to Sussex until 1920.
From 1920 until 1933 Ted was a forceful opening batsman, who was capable of playing some quite brilliant innings. He was a very useful slow leg-break bowler, bowling a full yard behind the crease and was consequently never no-balled in his career. To complement his all-round skills, Ted was a superb slip-fielder. In his first season after the war, in 1920, Ted scored a total of 1,470 runs at an average of 29. He regularly made over 1,000 runs, his best season being 1929 when he took 90 wickets (including nine for 114 against Derbyshire at Hove) and scored 2,359 runs, including his highest innings score of 280 not out against Gloucestershire at Hove. In taking nine wickets in an innings and scoring a double century, Ted was just one of sixteen county cricketers who have achieved this. The only other Sussex player to achieve this was Maurice Tate.
One of the best back-foot players ever seen
He was described by R.C.Robertson-Glasgow as one of the best back-foot players he had seen: I never saw a batsman who played this stroke with his bat and elbow so high, meeting a rising ball, which others would leave, with tremendous force, and hammering it straight or to the off-side boundary. Again, he would lean back and cut square from the off stump balls which others were content to stop.’ Ted was very quick off his feet so that he could drive powerfully off the front foot and he played slow bowlers just as well as the fast men.
Ted took part in 14 partnerships of over 200 for Sussex. In 1921 he put on 385 for the second wicket with Maurice Tate against Northamptonshire, a record for Sussex that still stands. In 1929 against Gloucestershire at Hove, Ted hit an undefeated 280 in a day and set a Sussex record first-wicket partnership of 368 with Jim Parks senior. Four years later, in 1933, he joined John Langridge (195) in a partnership of 490 for the first wicket against Middlesex, also at Hove, when he scored 283, the highest score for a professional cricketer in England up until then and Ted’s career best score. The two partnerships still stand. At the time the 490 was the third-highest first-wicket partnership in England and the eighth-highest for any wicket in first-class cricket.
His international career
Despite his undoubted ability and success with the bat, Ted found it difficult to get selected for representative teams. He was playing in an era when Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe were at the top of England’s batting order, and even when they were not playing there were Andrew Sandham and Percy Holmes. In another time he might well have played 50 Tests, but he played just five. In the winter of 1924/25 Ted was a member of the Hon. L.H.Tennyson’s team that toured South Africa, but the tour was unofficial, and the games did not count as Test matches. He did though play well throughout the tour topping the averages with 36 and a highest score of 118, and taking 14 wickets to head the bowling averages. In 1929, at the age of 39, Ted was selected for two Test matches against South Africa. In his debut, the third Test at Leeds, Ted opened with Herbert Sutcliffe and scored 31 and 46 to help England win the match by five wickets. His 46 was the second highest in an innings where Frank Wooley (95 not out) and Maurice Tate (24 not out) were the only others to reach double figures, and Sutcliffe, Hendren and Leyland made just nine between them.
The Australian Tour, 1928/29
Ted kept his place, scoring 13, for the innings defeat of South Africa in the Manchester Test. With Hobbs returning from injury and illness for the last Test at the Oval, Ted was dropped but was selected for the winter tour of Australia and New Zealand, under the captaincy of his club captain, Harold Gilligan. No Tests were played in Australia, but Ted played in three out of the four Tests against New Zealand, scoring 109 at Auckland in the Third Test alongside three other Sussex players, Harold Gilligan, Tich Cornford, and Duleepsinhji. He knew New Zealand well for he had spent three seasons there as a coach in the 1920s.
Ted was a quiet and diffident man who liked to help the younger players to realise their potential, just as Albert Relf and Joe Vine had helped him. On one of his trips to New Zealand as a coach he took with him the young James Langridge, who was recovering from tuberculosis. Jim Parks, senior, another player to benefit from Ted’s advice, related that ‘Ted set us a marvellous example and it was an education to bat with him. In my view he was the finest professional batsman to play for Sussex.’
Following retirement Ted took up a position as coach at Winchester College as an all-year coach and in charge of the sports shop. He continued to develop young cricketers for the next twenty three years, including two future Test-playing Sussex captains, Hubert Doggart and the Nawab of Pataudi, junior. Ted Bowley died in Winchester Hospital on 9 July aged 84.
Matches Innings No Runs HS Ave
458 733 40 25,439 283 34.7
Wickets Runs Ave
667 17,137 25.69