Fred Spofforth

Fred Spofforth

Infobox Historic Cricketer

nationality = Australian
country = Australia
country abbrev = Aus
name = Fred Spofforth
picture = Fred Spofforth.jpg
batting style = Right hand bat
bowling style = Right arm fast
tests = 18
test runs = 217
test bat avg = 9.43
test 100s/50s = 0/1
test top score = 50
test balls = 4185
test wickets = 94
test bowl avg = 18.41
test 5s = 7
test 10s = 4
test best bowling = 7/44
test catches/stumpings = 11/0
FCs = 155
FC runs = 1928
FC bat avg = 9.88
FC 100s/50s = 0/3
FC top score = 56
FC balls = 30593
FC wickets = 853
FC bowl avg = 14.95
FC 5s = 84
FC 10s = 32
FC best bowling = 9/18
FC catches/stumpings = 83/0
debut date = 31 March
debut year = 1877
last date = 31 January
last year = 1887
source =

Frederick Robert "Fred" Spofforth (born in Balmain in the outskirts of Sydney on 9 September 1853, died in Surrey, England on 4 June 1926), also known as "The Demon Bowler", was arguably the Australian cricket team's first and finest pace bowler of the nineteenth century.


Spofforth was born the son of a banker and was educated at Sydney Grammar School. He was thereafter employed by the Bank of New South Wales. He began his life as a bowler with underarm "lobs" but changed his style when he saw the great England quick bowlers on their tour of the colonies in 1863/64. He decided that he would pursue the overarm action and spent many years mastering it. Spofforth came to notice as a member of the New South Wales eighteen in January 1874 when he took two wickets for sixteen in a match against W.G. Grace's English eleven. He was a regular representative of the New South Wales team in intercolonial fixtures and, in the December 1877 game, went in second wicket down to make 25, the highest score in either innings in a low-scoring match. However, although he batted reasonably well during the 1878 and 1880 Australian tours in England, he concentrated henceforth almost solely on his bowling and established a tremendous reputation.

Spofforth played his first Test match in 1877 in Melbourne. It was the second match of the first-ever Test series, against an English team led by James Lillywhite, Jr. He took three wickets in the first innings and another in the second, but England went on to win the match by four wickets. He had boycotted the First Test because of Jack Blackham's selection as wicket-keeper ahead of Spofforth's close friend and fellow New South Welshman Billy Murdoch.

Spofforth truly announced himself to the cricketing world on 27 May 1878, when the touring Australians met the MCC at Lord's. In this, the second match of the tour, the might of the MCC was dismissed twice in one day at the fortress of English cricket for pithy scores of just 33 and nineteen. The colonists won by nine wickets, with Spofforth picking up ten for twenty after first clean-bowling Grace for a duck. Tom "Felix" Horan records that, when he did so, "he jumped about two feet in the air, and sang out: 'Bowled! Bowled! Bowled!' And at the finish in the dressing-room, he said: 'Ain't I a demon? Ain't I a demon?' gesticulating the while in his well-known demonaic style. Whether or not he christened himself the demon, he certainly was a demon bowler." [Horan, Tom: "Felix on Bowling" ("The Australasian", 2 October 1897).] Spofforth confirms this: "To myself, it will always be a noteworthy occasion, since it was then that I first earned my popular sobriquet -- 'the Demon'." [Spofforth, Frederick Robert: "Australian Cricket and Cricketers: A Retrospect" in Grove, Archibald; Henley, William Ernest (eds): "New Review" (Longmans, Green, 1897), p. 628.]

As a consequence of this victory, writes Plum Warner, the "fame of Australian cricket was established for all time." Spofforth became known forever as "The Demon Bowler" (a title which first adorned John "Foghorn" Jackson in the 1850s). He was the bowler whom English batsmen most feared and is also regarded as the one who first brought into the game, as a scaring technique, eye-to-eye contact with the batsman. Spofforth would often stare straight into the batsman's eyes to scare and shake him.

This worked to particularly devastating effect in the match that gave birth to the legendary Ashes series, at The Oval on 28 August 1882. In their second innings, England required a mere 85 runs to clinch the match, but Spofforth refused to give up -- "Boys," he said famously, "this thing can be done" -- and led his team to a remarkable victory, one of the closest ever in the history of Test cricket. The Australians won by seven runs, Spofforth taking match figures of fourteen for ninety.

During the January Test match of the 1879 Lord Harris' England tour of Australia, played on the Sydney Cricket Ground, Spofforth became the first man to get a hat-trick in Test cricket, dismissing Vernon Royle, Francis MacKinnon and Tom Emmett in three successive deliveries. This was the highlight of a brilliant bowling performance which brought him 13 wickets for 110 runs. In February, Spofforth also played for New South Wales against Lord Harris' tourists in a game that, on the Saturday, descended into the Sydney Riot of 1879.

Although not noted as a batsman, he once top-scored in a Test from the unlikely starting position of number eleven. He hit 50 against England at Melbourne in 1884-85; the next-highest score by an Australian in the match was 35.

Fred Spofforth played his last Test match in Sydney in January 1887 in which he bowled twelve overs, conceded seventeen runs and took one wicket. England won the match by 13 runs. He represented New South Wales from 1874 to 1885 and Victoria from 1885 to 1887. In 1888 he settled in England and got married. He played for Derbyshire in 1889 and 1890, and in 1896, playing for MCC, although in his forty-third year, took eight wickets for 74 against Yorkshire. He played club cricket for Hampstead for some years after 1890 and secured a large number of wickets at a low cost. In England he went into business as a tea-merchant and became the managing director of the Star Tea Company which belonged to his wife's father and was very successful. He revisited Australia on more than one occasion and retained his interest in the game to the end. When he died, aged 73, on the eve of the 1926 Ashes series (some of which he had wanted to see), Spofforth left behind a fortune of ₤164,000.6' 3" tall (190.5 cm) and weighing in at 12½ stone (80 kg), Spofforth was lean but very strong. He began as a fast bowler, although he did not have a very long run. After the 1878 tour, as he begun to study medium-paced and slow bowling, his speed quietened down to fast medium-pace with an occasional extra-fast or -slow ball thrown in; "his objective", according to John Trumble, "being a completely disguised combination of the three paces; and those who saw him bowling at his best will remember to what perfection he attained in this direction. His action on delivery was exactly the same for all of the three paces, and it was in his magnificent concealment of change in the pace of his bowling that he stood out from all other bowlers of all time."

Also influencing the general slackening of pace was his discovery that, on the softer English wickets, his break from the off (known then, appropriately, as the "break back") was sharpened when he bowled slower, and only once on the 1882 tour did he resort to his full speed (in unsuccessful retaliation to Grace's unsporting run-out of Sammy Jones in the Test match). Using the break back, he was able to have a large proportion of his victims bowled; indeed, seven of his ten wickets in the 1878 match against the MCC were taken in that fashion.

Spofforth might also have been the original inventor of swing bowling (or "swerve", as it was then known). According to Grace, Spofforth first started implementing it during or after the 1878 tour. It is unknown whether or not he had an outswinger, but he could definitely shape the ball back in to the right-handers.

His bowling average was not very low for his era, but he always attacked, and he dismissed a great many batsmen. Lord Hawke, who played first-class cricket for a great many years, considered him to be the most difficult bowler he had ever played against. He was often called the best bowler in the game, and he was particularly effective bowling to W.G. Grace, the best batsman of the era.

Fred Spofforth died at the age of 72 in 1926 at Long Ditton in Surrey, England.

In 1996 he was posthumously included in the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame as one of the ten inaugural inductees along with Jack Blackham, Victor Trumper, Clarrie Grimmett, Bill Ponsford, Don Bradman, Bill O'Reilly, Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall and Dennis Lillee.


* Cashman, Richard: "The "Demon" Spofforth" (New South Wales University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-86840-004-1).
* Barker, Ralph: "Ten Great Bowlers" (Chatto & Windus, 1967).

ee also

*The Ashes Series
*History of Test cricket (to 1883)
*History of Test cricket (1884 to 1889)
*Sydney Riot of 1879


*Dictionary of Australian Biography|First=Frederick Robert|Last=Spofforth|Link=

External links

* [ Frederick Robert Spofforth] at
* [ MCG article on Spofforth]

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