Former Northants and England bowler Frank Tyson dies

Frank Tyson
Frank Tyson

England and Northamptonshire fast-bowling great Frank Tyson passed away on Sunday morning at the age of 85 in Australia.

The deeds of Tyson in 1954-55, when he stormed through Australia to take 28 wickets at an outstanding average of 20 each and spearhead a 3-1 win, earned him the nickname ‘Typhoon’.

In the Sydney Test he was knocked senseless by a Ray Lindwall bouncer, became extremely angry, then tore into the Australians for match figures of 10 for 130.

The Australians had expected a bumper barrage when Tyson returned from treatment, but he outfoxed them, bowling full and straight. Four of his six second-innings victims were bowled.

“It was a series of events that fired me up,” said Tyson.

“Ray Lindwall got runs in the first Test and I let him have a bouncer, which in those days was unheard of against fellow fast bowlers.

“In Sydney the following game, Ray was bowling and I came in on a dark afternoon.

“I turned my back on one and it hit me on the back of the skull. I lost consciousness. Bill Edrich thought I was dead.

“Then Ray was looking for a bouncer and he never got one. He was bowled with a half-volley. You have to out-think the opposition.”

In the Melbourne Test, Tyson recorded his best Test figures of seven for 27 in Australia’s second innings when he took six for 16 off 51 balls, in what has always been regarded as one of the fastest spells of bowling in Test history.

The greater writer and commentator EW Swanton wrote that Tyson bowled at “devilish speed” whilst Richie Benaud-one of Tyson’s victims in Melbourne-always maintained he was the quickest bowler he ever saw or faced.

“I actually bowled quicker for Durham University that I did for England in 54-55,” Tyson told the Chronicle & Echo before his passing.

“Alec Bedser was right in saying that a good club bowler could have matched my bowling figures because the pitch was in a terrible state but it was still a red letter day for me.”

Tyson played 244 first-class matches for Northants from 1952-60 after being rejected by Lancashire. He finished with 4103 runs at 17.09 and took 767 wickets at 20.89. His 76 Test wickets cost just 18.56, giving him the seventh best bowling average in Test history.

England’s first professional captain Sir Len Hutton predicted that bowling on the Wantage Road pitch-branded a “cabbage patch” by critics- would curtail Tyson’s career, but the express bowler persisted, before hanging up his boots and migrating to Australia where he married his wife Ursula and fathered three children.

“The Northants pitch was very slow and completely unsuitable for fast bowling because there was no pace or bounce,” Tyson explained.

“I suffered from injuries throughout my career but the real reason I retired in 1960 was because I had to earn a living. I never wanted to be a career cricketer and could have played on if I had wanted to.”

Wisden’s Leading Cricketer of the world in 1955 later became a headmaster for a time in Melbourne, before coaching Victoria in Australian state cricket. He also coached the Sri Lankan national team, commentated on television, and became a prolific author, journalist and painter at his home on the Gold Coast.

“I worry about the modern game because the basic skills of batting and bowling are too often ignored by contemporary players,” he said.