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The annual gathering of the cricket stars of the world, under the sponsorship of Rothmans, once again signed off the English season even though the Oval Test and MCC's: team for South Africa overshadowed much else in that period.
Four first-class matches, at Bournemouth, Canterbury. Lord's and Scarborough, were scheduled for the visitors. They had an initial set-back when Colin Bland, arriving in England with a Rhodesian passport, was allowed to sleep one night in London but was promptly deported next day. With only ten players fit to open their programme, they brought in Saeed Ahmed, but with a succession of aches and pains at Bournemouth (including the indisposition of the captain, the Nawab of Pataudi, who batted in neither innings) they went down to Hampshire some twenty or so minutes from time on the final day. It was much the same 200 years ago, when the men of Hampshire could take on all-comers and beat them.
Wilfred Rhodes, aged 90 and living within easy reach of the Dean Park ground. was there to see (he "sees" more than many spectators) Derek Shackleton take his 100th wicket of the season for the 20th consecutive time: the victim was Graeme Pollock, who doubtless concluded that number 8 was not his favourite position in the order, I and 0 being his contributions this time. Though six men in the side had a double-century to their credit in Test cricket, they were unable to combat a turning wicket when Marshall declared and set them 289 in 280 minutes. The young Natalian, Richards, with four wickets for the county all season to that point, spun them to destruction with seven for 63, and there-upon changed ranks to help the injury-stricken visitors in their next engagement: as did Roy Marshall, who had just scored his first hundred of the season (on August 23!).
The Rest of the World's luck seemed to he out again at Canterbury, where Kent were met while England was locked in battle against Australia at the Oval. On a friendly pitch, and without Cowdrey and Knott, Kent ran up 339 for five by Saturday evening, Luckhurst scoring a chanceless 113 out of 194 with a freedom that must have made his admirers long for this sort of approach from him in the championship. But if the truth be known, the bowling was woefully inadequate, and the play, as a spectacle, lost much in consequence.
Dixon declared at the overnight score and Hanif Moham¬med (who continued the role of captaincy he had assumed at Bournemouth) in his turn declared 51 behind, having him-self scored 79 in three-and-a-quarter hours and shared a stand of 136 in two hours with Butcher. The third declaration came at lunch on the last day, Luckhurst having just completed his second century of the match, in three hours. Barlow and Richards atoned for their first-innings ducks when they set out to get 253 in 34 hours to win. Barlow was in great form: his hundred came in 105 minutes, and when he was stumped first out at 225--he had hit a six and 22 fours in his 153, made in 145 minutes. Though Leary, the seventh bowler tried, took four wickets, the World XI won with half an hour to spare. Richards (8I) took his aggregate for the season to within two of 2,000. And so, after a three-day break, to Lord's. Though not fully recovered from a thigh injury, sustained at Bourne-mouth, Graeme Pollock was hack in the side. as was Pataudi. And how well Pollock played. after the first three wickets had fallen for 17. He scored 44 beautiful runs, with his own brand of majesty, before he was caught in the gully off Con¬nolly. playing at Lord's for the first time since choosing Lords as his home ground for 1969. The match was the last of the Australians' tour.
Rain, which rarely deserted Lord's on a big occasion in 1968, halted affairs at tea when Lindsay was in full spate and looking certain for a hundred. Pataudi again withdrew during the match because of injury, and on the Bank Holiday Monday the Australians just edged ahead. Hall and Peter Pollock this time achieving a fine speed and control. But the almost unknown Randolph Ramnarace, from Guyana, howl¬ing medium pace, dismissed Chappell, Walters and Sheahan in quick succession to steal much of the honour.
The distinguished visitors were beaten for the second time on the final day at Lord's when they collapsed in their second innings for 107. Hall, after taking two quick wickets, suc¬cumbed to cramp in his left leg, and Peter Pollock had a bruised heel. In the circumstances the Australians romped home by eight wickets.
Under a cloudless sky at Scarborough and before a great crowd, an England XI (which included six Yorkshire-born players) were put in by Sobers, brought in to strengthen the side together with McKenzie and Lawry. Boycott, out of the first-class game since his back injury in the Edgbaston Test had played recent innings of 126, 98, 59 and 80 for local teams in south Yorkshire: and he now scored a splendid 93 with all his old assurance. In the second innings he made an undefeated hundred and showed no trace of his injury. In between, the Rest's batting again collapsed, the Yorkshire-men having a hand in the capture of every wicket. Close eventually set the Rest 305 to win in 220 minutes, but before tea it was all over. Hobbs and Illingworth bowled finely, the England XI gained an easy win, and the Rest of the World, brought to England at a cost of some £I0.000, licked their wounds and went off to beat the Cavaliers in a one-day game at Motspur Park.