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Trent Bridge

Bill Voce

At the close of the second day's play in the Second Test at Sydney on December 19th, 1936, England were 426 for 6 with Hammond 231*. The England captain declared overnight and at noon Australia began batting.

Voce opened the England bowling and with the seventh ball of his initial over, he had O'Brien caught at slip. Bradman arrived and a stunned crowd saw their hero caught at short leg off the first ball he received.

Thus, after one over, Australia were two wickets down for one run. Allen bowled a maiden and Voce then had McCabe caught off the second delivery of the third over The Nottinghamshire left arm fast bowler had taken the wickets of Australia's three major batsmen in four balls.

Fingleton managed to survive 55 minutes, before Voce's outswinger deceived him and Verity accepted a catch. After 75 minutes bowling Voce were rested: his figures read 8-1-10-4. In addition Fagg had dropped Chipperfield off Voce's bowling. When the strength of Australia at the time is taken into consideration, Voce's performance is certainly the equal of any in cricket of this class. Australia were all out for a miserable 80 and England went on to win the game by an innings.

His feat of three wickets in four balls in this innings can be regarded as the pinnacle of Voce's career. His name is always linked in the mind of the public with that of Larwood and in particular with the performances of the 1932/33 tour, in which Voce was very much Larwood's junior partner. During the later 1936/37 tour, however, Voce was England's principal bowler and his bowling was at its best.

William Voce was born at Annesley Woodhouse on August 8th, 1909 and whilst playing for Annesley Colliery 2nd XI, he was recommend to Nottinghamshire by Fred Barratt. Following a trial at the nets, Voce was engaged on the ground staff for the 1926 season, when his medium-pace left-arm deliveries immediately proved successful in the County 2nd XI. Playing in 8 matches he took 35 wickets - more than double the number achieved by any other bowler.

With Larwood selected for the 1927 Test Trial, Voce made his debut for Nottinghamshire v Gloucestershire at Trent Bridge on June 25th, 27th and 28th, 1927. His opening game was something of a triumph. The headlines read: 'Nottinghamshire's Long Search Rewarded. Good Left Arm Bowler Found. Voce's Notable Debut.'.

His figures were 24-12-36-5.

Although both The Cricketer and Wisden had some critical comments to make on Voce's bowling in their reviews of 1927, there is no doubt that he made a great impact. The fact that he was picked for every Nottinghamshire match in 1927 after his debut is significant in itself, considering the bowling strength of the county at the time.

Despite his success and the forecast that he would become one of the greatest left-arm spinners, Voce more or less abandoned his slower style of bowling in 1928 and concentrated on swinging the ball. His pace was now nearer fast-medium and by the end of 1928 he had ironed out the problems connected with his change of style and in the final game took 11 wickets for 132.

His attacking batsmanship was also beginning to develop - there was a little innings of 32* versus Somerset in May that was a foretaste of some future belligerence.

1929 was Nottingham's Championship year. Voce played no small part in the success. He not only took 100 wickets for the first time, but also finished at the head of Nottinghamshire bowling tables. Indeed R.Tyldesly, J.C. White and T.W. Goddard in the whole country could point to better records. Voce took three wickets in four balls twice for Nottinghamshire in 1929 versus Warwickshire at Coventry and versus Somerset at Trent Bridge.


His success had been noticed by the Test selectors and in mid-June he appeared in the England v Rest Test Trial Though he was not with MCC to the West Indies in the winter of 1929/30.

It was on this tour - at Bridgetown on January 11th, 1930 - that he made his Test debut. His best performance of the tour came in the Second Test at Port of Spain when he took 7 for 70 in the second innings and 11 for 149 in the match. He was England's best bowler in terms of most wickets taken, both on the tour as a whole and in the Tests.

Back in England in 1930, he did not quite find his touch He failed to get a place in any of the Tests against Australia and for Nottinghamshire, with Barratt falling off, he was rather overbowled. The selectors had not forgotten him and he was chosen to tour South Africa with the MCC in the 190/31 winter. As in the West Indies twelve months  previously, he proved a great success. A. P. F. Chapman, the England captain commented: 'Voce bowled magnificently and I think he was the best bowler on either side. He has definitely arrived as an England bowler. Not only did he bowl well, but his fielding was brilliant and his innings at Johannesburg was one that will never be forgotten by those who saw it.'

Voce took 23 Test wickets - the most on either side - and his best match was at Durban when he had figures of 5 for 58. The innings referred to by Chapman was one of 41* made in 27 minutes including 4 sixes. Voce was batting at No. 11 and added 57 for the final wicket

His batting caused a sensation in the second Nottinghamshire match of 1931 versus Glamorgan at Trent Bridge. In the first innings he batted as usual at number 11, but in the second innings he was put in at No. 4 and hit 50 out of 64 balls in 20 minutes going on to 129 out of 188 in 75 minutes with 3 sixes and 19 fours. He reached 100 in 45 minutes - at that time the fourth fastest hundred-ever recorded in first-class cricket. During the whole of 1936 Voce hit no less than 26 sixes.

Having already represented England in nine Tests overseas, Voce at last made his debut in England in 1931. He appeared in the First Test at Lord's, but with no single wicket and having 100 runs hit off his bowling, he was decidedly unsuccessful and was not chosen for the other Tests that year.

According to the critics his bowling still suffered from an attempt to bowl in two styles. Most of his wickets came when he bowled round the wicket, making the ball go with his arm. This mode of attack was often accompanied by four short-legs and was akin to the leg theory which was soon to cause so much heated argument.

In 1932, Voce again played in the Lord's Test match and took 5 for 51 - a vast improvement on his figures of the year before. The tourists - the Indians - regarded Voce as the best bowler they met during their stay in England.

In terms of wickets and average, 1932 was the best summer he ever had with Nottinghamshire and he was an automatic choice to go with Larwood to Australia in the winter of 1932/33.

This famous tour has had so much written about it and the main events are so well known that it would be repetitious to go into the full details here. In the early games Voce's best figure were 5 for 85 against New South Wales, just prior to the First Test. The important feature of the match from his viewpoint was that he captured the wickets of Bradman, Kippax and McCabe.

In the First Test at Sydney, Voce was much criticized for his 'half pitched slingers on the body-line and not half a dozen balls on the wicket in 24 overs.'

It was at Adelaide in the third Test that the Body-line issue really flared up, but Voce, who was off the field with a damaged ankle for some of Australia's first innings and bowled only four overs in the second, was not a major participant in the game. Owing to injury, Voce missed the Fourth Test, but resumed his place in the Final test.

In the series he took 15 wickets - average 27.13.

After the toil of the winter, the English summer was one of recuperation, his wickets for Nottinghamshire cost 12 runs apiece more than in 1932, but his batting blossomed, he hit no less than nine fifties and he was so consistent that he actually achieved the goal of 1,000 runs in a season - not bad for a player, who had  been a regular number 11 a few summers back.

The leg-theory continued to dominate Nottinghamshire cricket through 1933 and 1934. In so far as Voce was concerned matters culminated when the Australians played Nottinghamshire in August. The Sunday Times reported: 'Voce bowled the Australians out at Trent Bridge for a score which they themselves would describe as beggardly and his figures, 23-6-66-8 render any adjective of mine superfluous. He got no help from the turn and had to fling the ball down very short to make it get up, yet it is not too much to say that he rattled the Australian XI.'

On the second day - Monday, Nottinghamshire made 183 and when rain stopped play early, the Australians were 3 for 0, less than three hours play had been possible.

On the third day, Nottinghamshire went out to field without Voce and this led to much speculation and rumour in the crowd and press box, to the effect that 'someone' had told the Nottinghamshire Committee not to allow Voce to field. After play had been in progress sometime H. A. Brown, the Nottinghamshire secretary, issued a statement: 'Voce is suffering from a recurrence of his shin trouble and on medical advice will not play today.'

Dr. G. O. Gauld, the Hon. Secretary to the Club stated that he examined Voce and strongly advised him no tot play. On the other hand A W. Carr, the Nottinghamshire captain, who was a spectator during the match, owing to illness said, 'If I were captain Voce would have played and bowled. There is nothing wrong with him.'

The inference was that the Australian team had objected to the way in which Voce bowled in the first innings Whether they did in fact object seems a point of debate. The general assumption of the press was that Dr. Gauld was worried in case, in the second innings, one of the Australian was accidently injured by voce and Gauld used the sore shins (which were a genuine injury) as the official excuse.

To compound the problem, the newspapers carried numerous articles demanding that Voce, who had not been picked for England since the 1932/33 tour, was in the team for the First Test. The side was on the point of being chosen when the Nottinghamshire v Australia game took place

Voce's absence on the third day of the Australian game was perhaps the spark which set alight the civil war in the Nottinghamshire team during the winter of 1934/35. Led by A. W. Carr and others, the Nottinghamshire club were forced to hold a special general meeting of the club at which the members forced the entire committee to resign. How the affair was resolved is another story which belongs to the history of the club, rather than an essay on Voce, so it is not continued here.

Voce bowled well for Nottinghamshire in 1935. He topped the county's bowling averages and took 19 wickets. Poor slip fielding let him down. It was the most unfortunate that he was the only decent slip fielder in the Nottinghamshire side.

Midway through the 1936 season the MCC announced that Voce had 'placed himself unreservedly at the disposal of the Board of Control and MCC Selection Committees whenever his services may be required.'

He was duly chosen for the Third Test versus India. For Nottinghamshire in 1936 he did yeoman service, bowling no less than 1,100.1 overs - 400 more than anyone else and in the whole country only four others bowled more, three of whom where slow bowlers. As in the previous season he suffered from the poor slip catching of his colleagues.

His success on the 1936/37 tour to Australia has already been noted, he took the most wickets at the best average discounting the occasional bowlers  26 wickets at 21.53 each.

Returning to England for the 1937 season, Voce performed well with both bat and ball. As a bowler he now reverted to spin on a number of occasions. He played in the First Test versus New Zealand but then damaged a knee during the Nottinghamshire v Northamptonshire game on July 21st and the injury ended his cricket for the season. In the autumn he had a cartilage removed.

For both Nottinghamshire and Voce, 1938 proved a moderate summer. He took most wickets for the county, but both Butler and Woodhead claimed better averages. he could point to just one outstanding match with the ball - versus Kent, when his medium-pacers took 13 for 92 and one outstanding match with the bat against Derbyshire at Ilkeston, when he hit 111.

The final pre-war summer followed a similar pattern for Nottinghamshire and Voce, though his bowling improved as the year progressed. Poor slip fielding again let him down badly but he continued to be the county's stock bowler and was very overbowled. The Nottinghamshire v Yorkshire match on June 17th - 20th at Trent Bridge was set aside for Voce's benefit and in all he received £980. Back in 1933 he had been presented with a silver salver and £385 in recognition of his bowling on the 1932/33 tour.

Being in the armed services during the war, his cricket was very limited, though he appeared for Saltaire in 1943. In 1945 he played in several important matches and bowled brilliantly for Nottinghamshire v Australian Services at the end of August. He took 11 for 113 in the match and scored 45 and 35 - easily the most runs for Nottinghamshire.

He was still in the services in 1946 when championship cricket resumed, but representing the Combined Services v Northamptonshire at the end of June he took 8 for 123 and gained a place in the Second Test Trial at Canterbury where he took 4 wickets in 26 deliveries for 7 runs. This obtained him a place in the Second Test versus India and also selection for the MCC team to visit Australia in the winter. His appearances for Nottinghamshire in the first post-war summer were very restricted and amounted to just 9 matches, his most noteworthy game being at Ilkeston where he hit a century.

His third visit to Australia was not as success. Bradman and his colleagues slaughtered all the England bowlers and Voce was no exception. He played in two Tests, but these proved to be the last of his international career - his final appearance for England being on January 1st 1947 at Melbourne.

Owing to continued problems with his knee, which never really was sound after his cartilage operation, Voce asked the Nottinghamshire Committee to omit him from further county matches on June 4th, 1947 - he had appeared in five county games that summer.

Nottinghamshire appointed Voce assistant to T. B. Reddick the county coach and when Reddick resigned, Voce assumed the post of chief coach. He did however continue to play occasional first-class cricket for Nottinghamshire, when injury caused gaps in the county attack and his final first-class match was not until July 23rd - 25th, 1952 versus Middlesex at Trent Bridge.

At the close of the 1952 season, Voce finished his contract as coach to the County Club and took a post with the National Coal Board. After he retired he lived in Hucknall and was a regular visitor to Trent Bridge.

He died on 6 June 1984.

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