Brian Statham

John Brian "George" Statham, CBE (17 June 1930 – 10 June 2000) was one of the leading English fast bowlers in 20th century English cricket. Initially a bowler of a brisk fast-medium pace, Statham was able to remodel his action to generate enough speed to become genuinely fast. This, together with unflagging accuracy and the ability to make the ball – new or old – break back, made Statham a consistent force both for Lancashire in the County Championship and in Test cricket, where his strikepower helped give England perhaps its strongest attack of the 20th century during the 1950s and early 1960s. He overtook Alec Bedser's record of 236 Test wickets in the Fourth Test at the Adelaide Oval in 1962–63. This new record of 242 Test wickets (24.27) was rapidly overtaken by his famous new-ball partner Fred Trueman two months later in New Zealand. Statham finished with 252 Test wickets (24.84).

Statham was remarkably gentlemanly for a fast bowler and would rarely bowl a bouncer (and would warn the batsmen beforehand if he did), but his straight, full-length bowling could easily hit a batsman on the foot. Statham was also a brilliantly athletic out-fielder who was well suited to the one-day game when it emerged in the latter part of his career.

On 30 August 2009, Brian Statham was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.

Statham was born in Gorton, Manchester on 17 June 1930. He played cricket for Whitworth Street in Manchester schools cricket matches. Statham played his earliest cricket as a junior for Reddish & Gorton Cricket Club (renamed Denton West Cricket Club in 1947) in the Saddleworth & District League and then the North Western League from 1948, along with his three brothers. Statham joined the Royal Air Force for his national service. He was based at Stafford and would return home at weekends to play cricket. He joined Stockport Cricket Club and played for them in the Central Lancashire Cricket League. Statham also played football for Denton West as left wing, and was offered trials with Liverpool and Manchester City. However, it went no further as his father did not want him to pursue football as a career. At the age of eighteen, he came to the notice of the Lancashire officials who needed considerable reinforcement for their bowling attack, and was offered an engagement a year later, which he accepted.

Prior to making his Lancashire debut on 17 June 1950, his 20th birthday, Statham had received no formal coaching. Early on in his career with the club, he became known as George because when he arrived it was the first time in years that there was no one player called George. In his first year, 1950, Statham had relatively little bowling to do because the under-prepared pitches at Old Trafford were so favourable to spinners Roy Tattersall and Malcolm Hilton. Nonetheless, two fine performances against Somerset and Yorkshire and several valuable early wickets in other innings gave him an excellent average even though he only took 36 wickets in the County Championship, which Lancashire shared with Surrey that season. This placed him top of the average amongst bowlers of pace, but at the time he was seen as only a promising newcomer who might strengthen a department in which England had been deplorably weak ever since the resumption of first-class cricket after the Second World War. However, when England were depleted by injuries in Australia, Statham and off-spinner Tattersall were surprisingly called into the team despite no previous representative experience. Though Statham did not achieve anything of note in his initial Test, by the time the 1951 season began he had made a meteoric rise.

With Alec Bedser and the spinners doing most of the work against South Africa in 1951, Statham had to do very little in the Tests, but he only missed 100 first-class wickets due to injury and showed himself a formidable bowler on a pitch offering help. In India, his average was good, but the heat and humidity certainly seemed to take their toll upon his body and he did little in the Tests, with the result that he was not chosen for a Test match in 1952 even though he was gaining speed and straightness and was often extremely formidable despite conditions rarely favouring bowlers. In 1953, Statham was within a whisker of heading the first-class averages and bowled wonderfully on the most placid of pitches against Hampshire, but Bedser ensured he was not needed in the Ashes Tests. Statham and fellow fast-bowler Fred Trueman were on occasion, in 1953, called up to the Test squad, but with the England team maturing, the captain, Len Hutton did not feel comfortable playing two fast-bowlers, often preferring the more economical, slower bowling of Alec Bedser and Trevor Bailey. This meant that Statham and Trueman rarely bowled in tandem in this period.

This page was last edited on 2 April 2018, at 04:22.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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