1Cricket BoxThe Bowler’s Holding… innuendo still going strong

Almost every crick­et fan will have heard the fam­ous quote, attrib­uted to Bri­an John­ston, “The Bowl­er­’s Hold­ing, the Bats­man’s Wil­ley”.  Wheth­er or not this really was said live on air no longer mat­ters a great deal, it is bril­liantly rep­res­ent­at­ive of the many double entendres that have fea­tured in crick­et com­ment­ary before and since.  That latest in this fine tra­di­tion was offered up yes­ter­day by Charles Dag­nall in his com­ment­ary on the Cham­pi­ons Trophy match between Pakistan and South Africa, when, in describ­ing the 7ft1 Mohammed Irfan of Pakistan, he announced “He’s just got a monu­ment­ally big handle… so to speak”.  After a good chuckle I set about com­pil­ing a list of some of my favour­ites, which I present below.

I updated this list in August 2017 as a res­ult of enjoy­ing some more clas­sics (won­der­fully described in the show as ‘urbane school­boy humour’) thanks to the won­der­ful “Test Match Spe­cial: Our TMS” radio pro­gramme broad­cast on BBC Radio 5 Live, to cel­eb­rate 60 years of TMS.

“I grew a beard on my hon­ey­moon.  I did.  I came back with a great big beaver.”
— Unknown, via “Our TMS”

“This comes from… (gig­gling)… It’s not the prime min­is­ter Wil­li­am Pitt, but this is from Wil­li­am H. Tit”
— Jonath­an Agnew & Bri­an John­son, via “Our TMS”

“The heav­ier the balls the less they swing”
— Graeme Swann, via “Our TMS”

“He’s just got a monu­ment­ally big handle… so to speak”
Charles Dag­nall, Pakistan v South Africa, ICC Cham­pi­ons Trophy, 10-June-2013

“Broad’s in, he bowls, this time Vet­tori lets it go out­side the off stump, good length, invit­ing him to fish… but Vet­tori stays on the bank… and keeps his rod down, so to speak”
Chris­toph­er Mar­tin-Jen­kins, Eng­land v New Zea­l­and, 1st Test, 15-May-2008

“Just did­n’t quite get his leg over”
Jonath­an Agnew, Eng­land v West Indies, 5th Test, 9‑Aug-1991

“Michael Vaughan’s beside me, it’s not easy put­ting a rub­ber on is it?”
Jonath­an Agnew, Eng­land v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, 7‑June-2011

“Well I can tell you the bowl­er­’s Hold­ing, the bats­man’s Willey”
— Bri­an John­ston, Eng­land v West Indies, 5th Test, The Oval, Aug-1976*

“There’s Neil Har­vey stand­ing at leg slip with his legs wide apart, wait­ing for a tickle.”
— Bri­an John­ston, Eng­land v Aus­tralia, 3rd Test, Headingley, July-1961

“He’s usu­ally a good puller — but he could­n’t get it up that time.”
— Rich­ie Benaud

“Wel­come to Leicester where the cap­tain Ray Illing­worth has just relieved him­self at the Pavil­ion End”
— Bri­an Johnston

“Greig walks back to his mark, but just to ring the changes, this time he pol­ishes his left ball.”
— Bri­an John­ston, Eng­land v India, 1st Test, Old Traf­ford, 1974

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a cloud crap like this one”
— Henry Blofeld, Eng­land v India, 1st Test, Lords, 1990

“…and it catches him high up on the, er, thigh … he’s bravely going to carry on … but he does­n’t look too good. One ball left.”
— Bri­an Johnston

“Gee it must be hard to bowl with a stiffy like that.”
Mark Richardson

In response to a rev­el­a­tion by Sir Viv Richards that he had cut short his hon­ey­moon to play a match: “Did you get any?”
— Jonath­an Agnew, Eng­land v West Indies, Trent Bridge, May-2012

“There are a lot of hook­ers around the world…”
— Rich­ie Benaud

“Those throb­bing balls are below 115”
— Rameez Raja

“Hafeez is push­ing smoothly. His part­ner Jam­shed is sat­is­fied today”
— Rameez Raja

“Bowden is nev­er Erect, I have always wondered what is the reas­on behind that bend”
— Mark Nicholas

“A very good pack­age, Vir­at Kohli”
— Rameez Raja

“These two showed how to do it safely, this part­ner­ship is an example of how to do it safely”
— Rameez Raja

“Hafeez is push­ing smoothly. His part­ner Jam­shed is sat­is­fied today”
— Rameez Raja

“and now, to ring the changes as he walks back, Greig pol­ishes his left ball”
— Bri­an Johnston

“It’s amaz­ing how he can whip it out just before tea”
— Tre­vor Bailey

There are audio clips of more clas­sic gaffes by Bri­an John­ston at Johnners.com and there are also many oth­er amus­ing quotes at WanderersCricketClub.com and BleacherReport.com

If you know of any oth­er audio clips please let us know in the com­ments below.

* The story of the “bowl­er­’s Hold­ing” clip is a com­plic­ated one.  There are vari­ous accounts that sug­gest it really happened, or really did­n’t.  The main ref­er­ence claim­ing Johnners did use the line is a BBC art­icle which quotes Henry Blofeld as say­ing he was present at the time.  How­ever, I have heard Henry Blofeld first hand explain the story, dur­ing which he said that the Johnners did­n’t use the line.  Appar­ently Johnners received a let­ter which claimed he had used this innu­endo, and he told the story of the let­ter but nev­er con­firmed that he had actu­ally used the line in ques­tion.  There is good reas­on to believe the let­ter was a joke as it was sent by a Miss Tess Tickle (also repor­ted else­where as Miss Mainpiece)

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KKKeith Kelly

The let­ter refer­ring to the “bats and hold­ing” was actu­ally signed by a Miss Tess Tickle.