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LEGENDS - Bill O Reilly
MA Karim

From the Wisden Almanac: "Bill "Tiger" O'Reilly's cricket was proof that spin bowling was not necessarily a gentle art. He was 6ft 2in tall, gripped the ball in his enormous right hand and released it at a pace that could be almost fast-medium. It would then bounce ferociously on the hard pitches of his time and, on occasion, knock wicket-keepers off their feet. He bowled leg-breaks and, especially, top-spinners and googlies, backed up by an intimidating manner. Jack Fingleton said he was a flurry of limbs, fire and steel-edged temper. It has been suggested that his action and the general commotion before delivery were born of a deep sense of frustration at not being able to bowl fast enough to knock the batsman down."
He charged in slightly hunched, 'like a man going uphill in the face of a strong wind.' In the last lumbering stride he suddenly turned square-on and stopped, bending his right knee. This permitted flight, giving it just the right 'air'.
Wisden continues: "His figures have to be judged by the fact that all but one of his Tests came in the 1930s, when other bowlers were dominated by batsmen to an unprecedented extent. No one ever dominated O'Reilly. Even when England made 903 at The Oval in 1938, he bowled 85 overs and finished with figures of three for 178. And before that, he had secured the Ashes by taking five for 66 and five for 56 at Headingley.
O'Reilly was born in White Cliffs in the New South Wales bush into a large Irish family on December 20, 1905. His father was a small-town schoolmaster and young Bill was above average at several sports, including tennis, athletics and rugby. Cricket was harder to arrange.
(To be continued).