The greatest Test cricketer you’ve never heard of

It’s easy to guess what Charles ”The Terror” Turner would have made of a bowling rotation system or broken-down all-rounders. Turner, who once bowled more than 10,000 balls on a tour of England, playing six days a week and often opening the batting for Australia as well, remains, 118 years after his retirement, the most potent Test bowler in our history.

A ceremony will be held at Bathurst Showground on Friday to commemorate the sesquicentenary of Turner’s birth. His ashes are buried there, where he practised bowling between dispatching Cobb & Co coaches.

There is also an emotional point to celebrating Turner, says his biographer Ric Sissons. ”He is not in the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame, which is a remarkable omission. He was one of the great Test cricketers, and he should be in it.”

Turner’s habits of practice were years ahead of his time. He would bowl his fast off-break until he could hit a stump six times in a row. Then he would do the same with his straight ball, and then water the Bathurst wicket until it behaved like the sticky dogs he played on in Test matches in Australia and England.

His nickname owed itself less to his speed than his prodigious break-back. On one of his three tours to England, he was timed at Woolwich Arsenal at 55mph (80km/h) – similar to a fast leg-break bowler today such as Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi. Sissons says the measurement must be taken sceptically, ”as the contraption was primitive and constructed to measure the speed of a rifle bullet”.

Turner’s Test career ended controversially when, in 1894-95, he was dropped by his fellow selectors George Giffen and Jack Blackham. Sissons believes the omission was payback for incidents on the previous tour of England, when Turner stood up to Giffen’s South Australian faction ”who were considered the culprits” for a number of episodes of poor off-field behaviour, including once when the Australians reportedly left a train carriage spattered with blood.

If Sissons could describe Turner in a nutshell to today’s cricketers, the task is simple. ”Just compare him to Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. He has the best overall Test average for an Australian bowler, the best strike rate, and the most wickets per Test. He’s also the only bowler to take 100 wickets in an Australian season.”

From such a statistical mountain, as a broadcaster in retirement Turner freely criticised current players. You suspect that every time a modern bowler breaks down with injury, the stone memorial at Bathurst Showground rumbles a little.

The Terror: Charlie Turner, Australia’s greatest bowler, will be published next month by CricketBooks杭州夜网

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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