How an Annesley pit boy became the world’s most fearsome bowler...

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NUNCARGATE cricket legend Harold Larwood may have stood at just five feet eight inches tall, but as a fast bowler he was head and shoulders above his peers in the game.

The lethal paceman had humble beginnings in the old mining village and was given his first cricket bat made from old fence paling by his father at just two years old.

But it was with the ball that Larwood earned his reputation as a fearsome international cricketer who will be forever remembered as a bowler of incredible pace and accuracy.

His career took off when he was recognised by Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club in 1922 when playing for his village team, Kirkby Portland, and was rescued from a career at Annesley Colliery.

Quickly establishing himself as a top class cricketer, Larwood became a regular for Nottinghamshire by 1925, aged 19, before his country came calling a year later .

He starred on the international scene where many players claimed he was the fastest bowler of all time, with estimated speeds of more than 100mph.

Larwood also notched up three test centuries and it was when playing for England against Australia on the 1932-33 Ashes tour that he cemented his place as a cricket icon with his aggressive ‘bodyline’ style bowling, which struck fear into the heart of Australian batsmen - including Don Bradman who was the primary target.

The unique bowling style - where the ball is pitched short to rise towards the body of the batsman in line with leg stump in the hope of creating legside deflections - was considered an intimidatory and physically threatening tactic.

But Larwood, encouraged by captain Douglas Jardine, persisted with the aggressive tactics and spearheaded England to a 4-1 win as Bradman’s batting average was halved during the series.

The fallout which followed the series rumbled on for years and brought Anglo-Australian relations to the brink of collapse, with the MCC using Larwood as a scapegoat and demanding he apologised for bowling in such a manner.

Larwood refused, insisting he had only been following team instructions, but he never played for England again - although he continued to play for Nottinghamshire, notching up 1,427 wickets in his career before retiring in 1938.

But the controversial Ashes series tarnished Larwood’s reputation for many years and it was not until his cricketing achievements were recognised with an MBE in 1993 that his place in sporting folklore was assured.

His nephew, also named Harold Larwood, still lives in Kirkby and speaks fondly of his famous uncle.

“I was only a kid when he lived near us and I played on his estate with his children, he was just an uncle to me who was down to earth and had no airs or graces,” he said.

“But Larwood is quite an unusual surname and I’ve always been asked if I’m a relation - even today, even though my uncle played cricket in the 1920s.”

He ran a sweet shop in Blackpool after he retired but then emigrated to Australia in 1950 and worked for Pepsi-Cola for many years as he lived a quiet life with his wife and children in the Sydney suburbs.

He died in 1995, aged 91, but today, a fitting statue of Harold Larwood stands in Kirkby Market place as an everlasting reminder of a true working class hero whose achievements should never be forgotten.

For a YouTube video of Harold’s fearsome bowling style, visit the link to the right.