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'The best batsman I have ever seen'
Part one: Ian Chappell picks the best centuries he has watched. First up: Garry Sobers' 254 at the MCG (00:00)
Producer: Ranjit Shinde
July 17, 2012
Garry Sobers, 254 v Australia, MCG
'The best batsman I have ever seen'July 17, 2012
In 1971-72, Australia played against the Rest of the World in an international series that was to make up for South Africa not touring the country.
The Rest of the World were in a bit of trouble. The first Test match was a rain-affected one in Brisbane, so that was a draw. Then in Perth, Dennis Lillee absolutely wrecked the Rest of the World. He got 8 for 29 in the first innings - they were bowled out for 59. Garry Sobers had made a duck, out to Lillee, and Australia won by an innings and plenty in Perth. So they were 1-0 up.
Australia had taken a lead in the third match in Melbourne, quite a substantial lead on the first innings, and the credibility of the whole tour was in a bit of strife.
Garry was out for a duck in the first innings, bounced out by Lillee, first ball. That night we were having a drink together in the dressing room and Garry walked in. He walked over to Dennis and said, "Well bowled, Dennis, but just remember, I can bowl bouncers too, and I bat better than you." So when Dennis came in, Garry bowled a few bouncers at him. Then Garry came in to bat in the second innings. His side was in a bit of strife and he scored a magnificent 254, to underline what a great player he was.
I had the good fortune of playing with him for a couple of seasons with the South Australian side, so I had seen at very close quarters how good a player Sobers was, but this was just a reinforcement. He smashed us all over the park. It was a good attack, I think. Lillee and [Bob] Massie were in the side, and I think [Terry] Jenner and [Kerry] O'Keeffe were the spinners.
And I remember it was still the days of rest days in the middle of the match. Going into the rest day, Garry was 132 not out , and because I played a lot with him, we knew each other pretty well. When I walked into their dressing room that night to have a drink, Garry was sitting on his own in the corner. That was a bit of a surprise for me because Garry was normally in thick of things. He loved to be chatting about cricket and whatever it might be, but in with his team.
He said, "Ian, come over." And I walked over and he said, "Sit down," and he said, "Mate, Pru's left me". Pru being his wife, from Melbourne. And I said, "Garry, if that's what pissing you off then give me her phone number and I will ring her up and tell her to come home immediately." A bit of dark humour, I guess. And when he didn't laugh - because Garry was very quick to laugh - I thought to myself, "This is quite serious".
But it didn't stop him from taking it out on us when he went out to bat again. He went on to get 254. It's an innings that Bradman described as the best that he had seen. There is one shot in particular that I remember. Kerry O'Keefe was bowling to him, and Garry used to have this… not a very high backlift, but he had this very big cock of the wrist, much like Brian Lara. For the younger generation, if you remember Lara, then that was very similar to Garry's wrist cock. Then he had this huge follow-through when he really got after the ball and the bat would finish right down the middle of his back. He hit this thing - it was pretty much a straight drive - and Kerry O'Keefe sort of ducked, and the thing just kept going. It sort of went like a plane taking off. It went for a six. That shot has always stayed with me.
That innings, Sobers was the genius. He is the best batsman that I have ever seen. Forget all the other things. Forget what he could do as a bowler, as a batsman, and as a captain. He is the best batsman that I have ever seen, and that innings for 254 just confirmed that for me.
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