Bernard Bosanquet & The Invention of the Googly

Bernard was an English cricketer of middling success, but he is credited with inventing the Googly, a delivery that's still baffling batsmen over 100 years later.

What is a Googly?

Sometimes when we talk, we use phrases that are very common in cricketing circles but may not be as familiar to the new or infrequent watcher. So we didn't think there was much point starting an article about the Googly without first explaining what it is.

A googly is a delivery by a right-arm leg spinner, developed to deceive the batsmen. Whereas a standard delivery from a leg spinner will pitch towards leg-stump and then move across a right-handed batsman to the off-stump (see below), a Googly will do the opposite. It will pitch towards off-stump and then move into the legs.

As you can see from the delivery to the left, this is a standard leg spin delivery. Batsmen will play the spin, so they'll often move to play this at the pitch of the ball and nudge it to the leg-side, or wait and play the spin into the off-side.

However, if you're expecting it to spin away from you and it spins back towards you, it's an extremely difficult shot to adapt to and it often results in wickets falling.

Below you can see a delivery from Adil Rashid during the Big Bash. This is a classic googly, out of the hand it looks like a standard leg-spin. The batsmen goes to play it into the off-side, but instead of moving away it moves back in to clean bowl the batsmen, making him look a touch silly in the process.

Masters of Their Trade

The whole point of a Googly is to completely baffle the batsmen. There have been so many incredible leg-spinners over the last century, but there are a few notable names that should instantly come to mind. Shane Warne and his 708 test wickets, Anil Kumble with his 619 test wickets and one of my personal favourites, the great Pakistani bowler Abdul Qadir who always said he had two googlies instead of one.

However, it all started in England at the turn of the 20th century, when middling fast-medium bowler Bernard Bosanquet decided to try his hand at another style.

Who is Bernard Bosanquet?

As we've already mentioned, Bernard is credited with inventing the Googly. He was a first-class cricketer for Middlesex between 1898 and 1919.

There is a lot of debate about the true origins of the Googly. Some have suggested it was developed by another Oxford student as early as 1880, but never appeared in a first-class game. Some suggest that Bernard was the inventor, but he developed it in 1890, rather than 1899/1900 as is widely accepted.

The most common theory is that Bernard knew that he wasn't going to hit the heady heights of international cricket as a fast bowler, so changed his style after playing a table-top game where the goal was to bounce a tennis ball on a table so your opponent at the other end couldn't catch it cleanly. To do this, he would use variations of spin to confuse his opponent. He then took this to the cricket nets and developed what would be known as the googly.

Although he would introduce it to first-class cricket in 1900, it wasn't the danger delivery it's known as today. Bernard would later comment in his book:

"Though I could claim some five or six wickets before the close of the season, my efforts produced far more laughter than dismay in the hearts of opposing batsmen"

Bosanquet would go on to play 7 tests for England, taking 25 wickets at an average of 24.16 including two 5-wicket hauls. Bernard always struggled to spot his lengths, and as such never reached the international heights that some presumed he would get to. He did, however, finish his career with 629 first-class wickets, not bad for a late bloomer to the art of spin.

Why is it called a 'googly'?

The first recorded reference to this delivery being named a googly is believed to have come from the Lyttleton Times, a newspaper based in Canterbury, New Zealand. However, this is highly questioned now as the primary source material can't be found.

Other suggestions have cropped up over the years. including it coming from a Maori word. Or from the word guile, which is cunning, highly appropriate for a delivery designed to deceive. Others have theorised that it's based on "googly-eyes" of batsmen who were surprised to see the ball move the other way.

If you've heard of another origin story of the word googly, we've love to hear it in the comments.

What's the difference between a googly and a doosra?

The concept of the doosra is exactly the same as the googly. It's intended to baffle batsmen by spinning the ball the opposite way to what's expected.

So an off-spinner will bowl a delivery which will spin from left to right for a right-handed batsman. Whereas the doosra will spin from right to left, moving away from the bat, often causing a batsman to nick the ball to the close fielders.

The doosra is a much more modern invention, being developed by Pakistani Saqlain Mushtaq, and used extensively by Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan and Indian Harbhajan Singh.

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