Unheralded pair's stroke of luck saved Sobers feat for the world (25 Aug 1998)

25 August 1998

Unheralded pair's stroke of luck saved Sobers feat for the world

Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis meets the two men who filmed for posterity the West Indian all-rounder making history 30 years ago

THE names of John Norman and John Lewis will not be found in Wisden, but three decades on from one of cricket's most famous feats, these two men are owed a considerable debt by flanneled fools everywhere.

Norman and Lewis were the BBC Wales camera crew who, by a sheer fluke, shot the famous footage of Sir Garfield Sobers smashing six sixes off Malcolm Nash at Swansea on Aug 31, 1968.

While Sobers' effort was matched by Ravi Shastri 15 years later, that flickering black-and-white film is a vivid testimony to one fo the game's most celebrated moments.

"It was all really a chapter of accidents," said Norman, now 70 and living in retirement near Cardiff. "Every time I see that film I remember our little two-camera unit situated behind and slightly to the left of the batsman, as BBC Wales couldn't afford additional scaffolding to move us."

Placed on stand-by by BBC's Grandstand during the afternoon, producer Norman and cameraman Lewis had transmitted live pictures of the Glamorgan v Nottinghamshire game to BBC Wales viewers.

Then at 4.45pm Grandstand rang to say they would not be needed.

"We were told to go home," remembered Norman, "but John, a keen cricketer himself, asked if we could keep the camera running because he wanted to take a look at Sobers through a fixed lens. I rang Derek Griffin, the recording engineer in Cardiff, and told him to switch the tape on, just in case."

The BBC men watched as the West Indian made his way briskly to 40 before the over that was to go into the record books began. Chasing a swift declaration, Sobers despatched the first four balls of Nash's over into the St Helens crowd.

The fifth ball flew out towards fielder Roger Davis, who held the catch before toppling backwards over the boundary rope. As Sobers waited pensively, and the crowd chanted "Six, Six, Six", the umpires conferred briefly before raising their arms.

Up in the BBC Wales commentary box, commentator Wilf Wooller was becoming increasingly flustered. Perched on his scaffolding, John Lewis was equally tense.

"These days you'd have 10 or 11 cameras at the ground," said Lewis, now 65 and living in Cardiff. "Back then all we had was two and one of those was for close-ups. I was concentrating like hell because I knew if I missed anything there was absolutely no back-up."

Nash came in for a final time and Sobers sent the ball spiralling out of the ground. "My goodness," cried Wooller, "that one's gone all the way down to Swansea."

"Fifteen minutes after it was all over the Grandstand producer who had told us to stand down rang back and begged me not to spill the beans," said Norman. The next day the film was sold to 15 countries and Sobers' shots resounded around the world.

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)