When George Lohmann showered ‘no love’ on Valentine’s Day and demolished South African batting single-handedly.
112 wickets from 18 test matches with an average of 10.75 and a strike rate of 34 balls per wicket. These astonishing statistics belong to the English bowler George Lohmann, statistically the most successful bowler in the history of the game with at least 15 wicket cutoff. He could only play 18 test matches between 1886 and 1896 and it was very unfortunate that he suffered from tuberculosis, a relatively simpler disease now but was a serious disease in those days.
On 14th February 1896, Lohmann produced his best spell for England and ensured that the South African opposition suffered one of their worst batting failures. But let’s start with some background.
The Story of George Lohmann
Lohmann was considered to be a very difficult bowler to face by batsmen all over the English county circuit. He bowled slightly above the medium pace but could seam the ball both ways with constant variations with respect to angle, flight, and pace. In 293 first-class matches, primarily for Surrey and Western Province in South Africa, he has taken 1,841 wickets with an average below 14.
Lohmann took only 1 wicket in his first two tests, but in his 3rd test in Oval, he took 7 for 36 and 5 for 68 against Australia and never looked back. He played all of his first 14 test matches against Australia taking 74 wickets. Once he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1892 he relocated to South Africa for better health. Although he was not a completely fit man, he still started playing in South African domestic cricket for Western Province and was even more dangerous in those matting wickets, which was the norm in South Africa in those days.
When Sir Tim O’Brien led a relatively weak England side to South Africa in 1896, Lohmann joined his countrymen and played three test matches against South Africa. In those early days of test cricket, seven players debuted for South Africa and eight for England including CB Fry. Putting into bat, Fry played well and was the top scorer for England with 43 in a team total of 185 scored in 70 5-ball overs.
But thanks to Lohmann magic England got chance to bat once again on the same day and already lost a wicket by the end of the day’s play. Earlier South Africa were bowled out in just 30.4 overs for a mere 93 runs. Lohmann, opening the bowling, finished 7 for 38 in 15.4 overs. It was a magical performance.
No ‘Love’ From England
More magic was in store for Valentine’s Day, the second day of the test match. England played well in the second innings. They scored 226 in 80 overs with Lord Hawke and Audley Miller adding 42 runs in the 10th wicket. The target of 319 was seemingly impossible for the South Africans but everyone expected them to fight and take the match till the third day.
George Lohmann once again opening the bowling, bowled 9.4 overs unchanged and finished with unbelievable figures of 8 for 7 against a hapless South African batting lineup. Only Robert Poore could double-figure from the side. Most fittingly Lohmann finished with a hat-trick and the South Africans were all out within 19 overs on the second day itself. Clearly not that much love from the English side on the day of love.
Lohmann finished the test with 15 wickets for 45 runs. He would take 20 more wickets in the next two tests to finish the series with 35 wickets with an average of 5.80.
George Lohmann could play only one more test match for England after this. His health was getting worse day by day and he migrated to South Africa permanently in 1896. In 1901 he was back to his homeland as a manager of a touring South African team but he succumbed to tuberculosis on 1st December 1901, aged just 36.