Tales from the Boundary
The Best Bowler?
Here's a question: excluding current players, which Essex bowler has the best ratio of wickets taken in relation to the number of appearances? Several candidates come to mind: Bailey, Douglas, Farnes, Nichols, Lever, Foster. The answer is in fact George Louden, who in 82 games for Essex took 415 wickets, an average of more than 5 per game.
George Louden (1885- 1972) played from 1912 to 1927. His job as a stockbroker meant that he could only appear in a few games each season. He was in a similar category to other amateurs like Leonard Crawley, Claude and Hubert Ashton, J.W.A. Stephenson and Denys Wilcox. For much of his career Louden was playing in weak Essex sides, which were cursed by poor fielding; because of this it can scarcely be said that Louden's figures flattered him.
A tall man who bowled fast- medium, Louden, like Farnes, generated pace off the pitch. He excelled against the stronger Counties, and played frequently for the Gentlemen against the Players. In a career total of just over 90 games, he took 5 wickets in an innings no fewer than 36 times. How good was he? The 1921 season gives some clues. That year, the Australians under Warwick Armstrong (“The Big Ship”) cut a swathe through English cricket; the first three Tests were won easily, and Johnny Douglas was relieved of the England captaincy. The selectors panicked, and 30 players appeared for England in the series (sound familiar?)
This was one of the finest Australian sides to come here, and they ran up scores of 621 against Northants, 708 v Hampshire, 675 v Notts (Macartney 345 in one day) and 676 v Kent. Against Essex they managed a mere 435. No less a figure than Sir Pelham Warner thought that Louden should have been picked, but he was ignored. The Australians considered that Louden was the best bowler they faced on the tour, as Warren Bardsley confirmed later to Jack Fingleton.
In two matches against the tourists Louden returned figures of 7 for 144 for Essex and 6 for 129 for South of England against a batting line up including Collins, Bardsley, Macartney, Ryder, Andrews and Armstrong himself. It is of course futile to compare players of different eras, but the facts would suggest that George Louden should at the least be counted among Essex's finest bowlers.