Momentous at the WACA
Ian "Sticks" Brayshaw has made a valuable contribution to Australian cricket and its history with his latest book, The Miracle Match.
A Gillette Cup semi-final between Western Australia and Queensland at Perth's WACA Ground on December 12, 1976 might seem to have few, if any, claims to such an august title.
But this was no ordinary one-day match, and fittingly this is no ordinary read because Brayshaw has shrewdly blended the improbable happenings of that eventful day with insightful pieces on, and interviews with, some of the great players and characters who were involved in it.
The powerful line-ups, in batting order, were:
WA: Bruce Laird, Ric Charlesworth, Rob Langer, Kim Hughes, Craig Serjeant, Rod Marsh, Ian Brayshaw, Bruce Yardley, Dennis Lillee, Mick Malone, Wayne Clark.
Queensland: - Viv Richards, Alan Jones, David Ogilvie, Greg Chappell, Phil Carlson, Jeff Langley, John Maclean, Graham Whyte, Jeff Thomson, Denis Schuller, Geoff Dymock.
On a Perth pitch that was livelier than usual, WA were sent in to bat by Chappell, and were dismissed for just 77 in 22.5 eight-ball overs, with seamers Dymock and Carlson taking three wickets each, Chappell two and Thomson one. Only three WA batsmen got to double figures - Charlesworth (25), Langer (15) and Yardley (19); five failed to score - Hughes, Serjeant, Marsh, Lillee and Clark.
Marsh, WA's captain, tried to rally his players, saying: "There's a big crowd here. Let's not let them down. Let's make 'em fight for it." Lillee responded with: "Make 'em fight for it be buggered. We're going to beat these bastards!"
Within two hours Lillee was accepting the Man-of-the-Match award for figures of 4 for 21 off 7.3 overs, having dismissed Richards (0), Ogilvie (9), Chappell (2) and Schuller (0), as Queensland were routed for 62 in 20.3 eight-ball overs. Clark took three and Malone two.
Six weeks later, in the cup final at the MCG, WA defeated Victoria in another thrilling, heroic effort. Needing 165, WA slipped to 74 for 7, 125 for 8 and 139 for 9 before last pair Malone (47 not out) and Clark somehow survived long enough for Malone to clinch victory with an inside edge off medium-pacer Trevor Laughlin for four to fine leg off the third ball of the final over.
Within four months, the cricket world would be rocked by the news of the formation of Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket.
Introducing part of his interview with Hughes on the semi-final, Brayshaw writes: "Kim Hughes brought another slant to the discussion - one that was never far from anyone's minds during those years leading up to WSC", and he quotes Hughes as saying: "Talking about the money we got that day - and it was the same for all of us, from the captain down - we later found out that the bloke on the gate, a lovely old fellow, got more than we each did for playing!
"And it was a huge game, televised Australia-wide and featuring such world stars as Richards, Chappell, Thomson, Lillee and Marsh, with a big crowd in attendance. Unbelievable entertainment, and all we got for the part we played was 18 bucks. A ten, a five, a two and a one - all notes in those days!"
Brayshaw supports Hughes by writing: "And the competition sponsor actually paid more money to each of a handful of 'dolly birds' who floated around the ground during the game, promoting its name and products. It was a good thing that money wasn't king for cricketers back in 1976."
Brayshaw's chapter on Hughes, headed "A Flawed Diamond", is a revealing feature of the book, but so too are those on Richards, Chappell, Lillee, Marsh, Thomson and others, and especially readable are the comments most have on each other.
As a capable middle-order batsman, medium-pace swing bowler and sound fieldsman, Brayshaw, now 72, was a fine all-round cricketer in strong WA teams from 1960-61 to 1977-78. In 101 first-class matches, he scored 4325 runs at 31.80, took 178 wickets at 25.08 and accepted 108 catches. His career highlight was taking all ten wickets (for 44 off 17.6 eight-ball overs) in Victoria's first innings of 152 in the Sheffield Shield match at the WACA in October 1967.
If he had been in his prime at various stages over the past 35 years, he would have been preferred ahead of several inferior players who have represented Australia in at least one of the three formats of the game.
Importantly, in the context of this book, the 25th he has written or co-written, Ian Brayshaw, MBE was always regarded by his peers as a gentleman cricketer, on and off the field, and he continued to be admired and respected as a journalist/commentator-cum-author.
The Miracle Match is another reminder of his talent and decency.
The Miracle Match
By Ian Brayshaw
Hardie Grant Books