Jack Cowie

COWIE, JOHN, OBE, died in Lower Hutt on June 3, 1994, aged 82. Jack Cowie played in only nine Tests, owing to the Second World War and New Zealand's limited international programme. But a couple of generations later his career might have been very different. He is widely regarded as New Zealand's best-ever bowler apart from Sir Richard Hadlee, with similar command of line and length for long spells, and the same ability to move the ball sharply at high speed. He also had something of Hadlee's aggression. Cowie was a very strong man known to his team-mates as "Bull" and his trademark was a hand-raised appeal-cum-roar of "Aaaaaat?", though his next remark to the umpire could be: "You know, I reckon it's getting a bit chilly. D'you think I could have my sweater?"

Cowie began as a batsman who could bowl a bit and when he played as a 14-year-old for the Auckland Under-21 side he began with a 14-ball over - he was no-balled six times for his drag. He was said to have bowled only two more no-balls in his career. Cowie concentrated on bowling because the Auckland team was then packed with batting, and rapidly established himself. In 1937 he toured England and was praised lavishly by both Wisden - "Had he been an Australian he might have been termed a wonder of the age" - and Len Hutton, who recalled later: "Terrific pace off the pitch, a forked-lightning off-break, and lift and swing away from the right-hand batsman." He spoke with feeling: when they both made their Test debut at Lord's that year, Cowie dismissed Hutton for nought and one.

At Old Trafford, he took ten wickets in the match and had England 75 for seven in the second innings, but was plagued by dropped catches. Cowie took 19 of the 41 England wickets (at 20.78) that fell in the three Tests in 1937, but it was almost nine years before he could play another Test: the one-off match at Wellington in March 1946, where he took six of the eight Australian wickets to fall. He played in the only four other matches against Australian opposition: against South Australia, on the way home from England, he had Bradman caught behind for 11 off the first ball he faced in the morning, while the crowds were still queuing outside. Cowie struggled against injury on the 1949 tour of England, but still took 14 wickets in the four Tests and Wisden said his figures did him "far less than justice".

After the tour, he announced his retirement and became an umpire, standing in three Tests. His highest score was 54 against Otago, part of a last-wicket partnership of 119, an Auckland record that still stands; his overall batting average was 10.16. His bowling figures in his 86 first-class matches were 359 wickets at 22.28 and in Tests 45 wickets at 21.53. Cowie was also Auckland's goalkeeper and had 14 years on the New Zealand FA council, seven of them as chairman. He was a stickler for the national soccer team retaining their black-with-silver-fern colours; after he retired, they became the All Whites. He was appointed OBE in 1972.

© John Wisden & Co