Together, We Are All Derbyshire: Rhodes throwing controversy

Thursday 23rd April 2020

During these challenging times for all, we want to help keep everyone associated with the club and wider community positive and engaged. We’re in this together and Together, We Are All Derbyshire. 

Bernard contacted us about the infamous 1965 tour game between Derbyshire and South Africa at Chesterfield when Harold Rhodes was called for throwing.

Bernard wrote; “I would like to evoke memories of the 1965 game against the touring South Africans at Queen’s Park. The match remembered for the Syd Buller throwing controversy overshadowed the fact that Derbyshire comfortably beat a South African side that was considered one of the strongest in world cricket at that time. (It was a first sight of Eddie Barlow, as well as Graeme Pollock, Colin Bland, Ali Bacher, Peter Van der Merle). The tourists were bowled out for 149 on the first day, with Harold Rhodes the country’s leading wicket-taker at the time taking four wickets. Derbyshire finished the day in a strong position on 75-0. However, without addition, next morning John Eyre was run out, the victim of a typical piece of Colin Bland fielding. This heralded a typical Derbyshire collapse to 143 all out. The South Africans were then bowled out for 119 thanks to some disciplined bowling by A. B. Jackson, Buxton, Morgan and Edwin Smith, an attack robbed of Harold Rhodes of course. The innings lasted an incredible 70 overs. After a few early wobbles the 126 runs for victory were achieved for the loss of three wickets, thanks to a disciplined 44 not out from Laurie Johnson. The crowd on the second day, Monday was estimated at between ten and twelve thousand. My memories of this are as a then 16-year-old in his first year at work, I had to take one of my two weeks’ annual leave to be at the game!”

Our Heritage Officer, David Griffin, writes;

The best account of this game is that of the main protagonist, Harold Rhodes, who published ‘The Harold Rhodes Affair’ in 1987, and many thousands of words have been written by others about this famous game, and the issue of throwing in general. However, it’s illuminating to read an account from someone who was at the game as a spectator.

Throwing in cricket had been a problem since overarm bowling was introduced more than a century earlier. William Mycroft, one of Derbyshire’s greatest bowlers, was considered by some to have an imperfect action, and throughout the 20th century there were always questions asked about certain bowlers’ actions.

By the late 1950s, there was a determination in world cricket to remove the ‘chuckers’ and there had been genuine concern over the bowling actions of several Australian bowlers during the MCC tour down under in 1958/59.

South African Geoff Griffin, touring England in 1960 was no-balled out of international cricket because of his suspect action, but when the tourists played Derbyshire at Derby that summer, it was Rhodes and not Griffin who was no-balled three times by umpire Paul Gibb on the first evening and three times on the second day.

Those six deliveries ruled Rhodes out of Test cricket that summer – he’d played two Test matches in 1959 – and in 1961, when a throwing truce was declared in games against the touring Australians, he was reported once more. The truce meant that umpires were instructed not to call no-balls, but to report any bowler they considered to have a suspect action.

However, the controversy over throwing seemed to diminish for several seasons until 1965 when the Middlesex captain, Fred Titmus, reported Rhodes’ action despite the umpires having been satisfied with it.

Things got worse when Doug Insole, Chairman of the Test selectors took the remarkable step of writing to Derbyshire to advise that on the evidence of film footage of Rhodes bowling, he wouldn’t be considered for selection by England that summer.

The climax to this affair took place at Chesterfield, as witnessed by Bernard and some 10,000 other spectators.

In South Africa’s second innings, umpire Syd Buller was standing at square leg when Rhodes bowled his first over from the pavilion end.

Having watched the first delivery, Buller then walked across the pitch to take up a position at point. Contemporary accounts state that it was quite clear what Buller was doing and why he pointedly moved from one side of the pitch to the other. Two deliveries followed before he returned to square leg, at which point he no balled the next two deliveries.

Derbyshire’s captain Derek Morgan asked Buller if he thought Rhodes was throwing every ball and Buller replied: ‘Yes’.

Rhodes finished the over with three leg-breaks and did not bowl again in the match – which Derbyshire won by three wickets.

From that moment until the tea interval, Buller was booed and subjected to abuse from the crowd, and at tea, angry spectators gathered around the pavilion. Buller was greeted with a slow, rhythmic hand-clap and some spectators gathered around him as two police officers fell in step alongside the beleaguered umpire.

Police officers again escorted Buller onto the ground after tea, although one spectator managed to reach Buller and punched him in the back, an incident for which the Derbyshire committee later apologised to the umpire.

Two weeks later, Rhodes’ father. AEG ‘Dusty’ Rhodes stood as an umpire alongside Buller in the Lord’s Test match between England and South Africa.

Although Rhodes was subsequently cleared – he had a hyper-extension of his bowling arm – and the fact that he was not asked or required to alter his bowling action was a clear indication that he had been right to keep on trying to clear his name.

It’s likely that in the modern game, with a wide assortment of hi-tech equipment available, Rhodes’ action would have been cleared within weeks of being reported.

Rhodes took 993 first-class wickets for the county of his birth, at an average of 18.91 with 42 five-wicket innings and four ten-wicket matches. His best innings analysis was 7-38 against Warwickshire at Edgbaston in 1965, while his best match analysis was 10-50 v Leicestershire in the same season.

Get involved!

Join in on social media, tag friends and contact the club via the form below and we’ll aim to feature as many of the discussion points as possible.

If you would like to remain anonymous, please let us know in the body of the message.

Together, We Are All Derbyshire. Share memories, favourite moments and engage with fellow supporters. Get in touch on social media, at [email protected], or call 01332 388 101.

Principal Partner & Ground Sponsor
Official Partners