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When a merchant seaman stripped down to his trainers and hurdled the stumps during an Ashes Test at Lord's
July 20, 2013
The current Test, being played under cloudless skies and with temperatures nudging 90°F, is the hottest Ashes match at Lord's in almost four decades. While 1976 set 20th century temperature and drought records, the previous summer had been almost as warm. Although snow fell days before the start of the World Cup in early June 1975, thereafter the country basked in weeks of sun. The nation shed its clothes and basked. Some shed a few too many.
The World Cup replaced a planned tour by South Africa and left the second half of the summer empty, so it was filled with a four-Test Ashes series. England had been thrashed the previous winter but the public wanted to see the Australians and the next series was not scheduled until 1977, so the move made commercial sense.
Although England went into the second Test at Lord's on the back of an innings defeat at Edgbaston (their fifth in seven Ashes Tests in nine months) there was a sense of renewal. Mike Denness had been sacked as captain and replaced by the ebullient and popular Tony Greig, and the selectors made a raft of changes which won support.
A year earlier an American fad had reached the UK - streaking. Originating as a campus prank at high schools and universities, it caught on in other countries, the spread aided by the Ray Stevens hit single "The Streak" in 1974. That year the UK had its first high-profile sporting streak at Twickenham.
In the second Test in July 1975, England recovered from 49 for 4 to gain a first-innings lead, largely thanks to Grieg's 96. In their second innings they piled on the runs and set Australia an impossible 484 to win. On the fourth afternoon, as England's lead closed in on 500, the temperature in central London nudged 94°F (34°C) and inside Lord's a large crowd sweltered. The MCC took the rare step of allowing members to remove jackets while inside the pavilion (as they have done this year as well).
The most vocal spectators gathered on the standing area in front of the Tavern - long since gone - where they downed pints and swapped jibes. Among them was a 24-year-old merchant seaman called Michael Angelow. "The match was pretty boring and there was a bit of banter going on between me and the Australians," he recalled earlier this month.
With England on 399 for 6 and Bob Woolmer and Alan Knott at the crease there was a brief lull as Chris Old, England's 12th man, brought Woolmer a drink. Spectators were roused from their slumber by the sight of Angelow, wearing only his trainers and black socks, trotting out towards the middle. Slowly a buzz rose from the stands as people were alerted to his presence, and as he reached the middle John Arlott, commentating from the top of the pavilion for Test Match Special, saw him.
"Ah, a freaker," Arlott chuckled. "We've got a freaker. He's down the wicket now. Not very shapely. And it's masculine. And I would think it's seen the last of its cricket for the day."
Angelow hurdled the stumps at each end to the amusement of batsmen and fielders and the bemusement of umpire Tom Spencer. "I'd been drinking but certainly hadn't had a skinful," Angelow said. "I wouldn't have been able to jump over the stumps if I had."
These days we are used to any pitch invader being chased down and thrown to the ground by yellow-jacketed stewards, but in those more gentle times crowd control at Lord's consisted of a few dozen policemen sitting on benches in front of the stands. None tried to intervene. patiently waiting for Angelow to finish his parade. He returned not to the Tavern but to the Mound Stand.
"The police are mustered and so are the cameramen," Arlott continued. "He is being embraced by a blond policeman, and this may well be his last public appearance but what a splendid one… and so warm. Many have done this on cold rugby grounds but this fellow has done it in front of 25,000 on a day where he doesn't even feel cold."
Angelow was covered up and led from the ground to enthusiastic applause. The next day he was front-page news, although he also had the small matter of a court appearance for "outraging public decency".
In the Daily Mirror, Angelow said he did not think the MCC would be too pleased but pointed out he had waited until the end of the over so as not to cause any disruption. "A group of Aussies said things needed livening up so I stripped off and headed for the middle. It seemed the natural thing to do."
The papers explained how Angelow had been bet that he would not streak. "I remember the JP asked me how much I had won for the bet and then told me that's what I'd be fined."
His mother was less impressed. "I can only think he must have gone to London and started drinking and as a result did this dreadful thing," she told the Daily Express. "My first and only reaction was one of utter disgust. We are not that sort of family. He's in for a ticking-off from me when he gets home."
"It wasn't really seen as being such a big scandal," Angelow said. "I went back to watch the match the next day. Nothing was said when I got back on the ship either. I don't think it was seen as anything other than a bit of a joke."
The Daily Mirror accompanied Angelow back to Lord's and took a picture of him, fully clothed, back in the Tavern. "When I look out over the pitch I can't believe what I did yesterday," he said. "I must have been out of my mind."
His brush with fame was short-lived, although he admitted he "was offered money to do it again at the Grand National and at Wimbledon but I didn't want to know. I also had people offering me parts in porn movies and all sorts of weirdos calling me."
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Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and AfricaFeeds: Martin Williamson
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