March 8, 2002

Historic Canterbury artefact centrepiece of 125th jubilee

One of the most treasured artefacts remaining from the 125-year history of Canterbury cricket returns home this weekend for the first time in three decades.

The ball with which Albert Moss took all 10 wickets in an innings on his Canterbury debut in 1889, creating a record that has never been matched, was lost to the Canterbury Cricket Association in the early 1970s.

On Sunday it will be displayed at Addington Raceway in Christchurch as part of a function when the best Canterbury men's and women's teams will be announced in a competition run by The Press.

Moss was a 26-year-old from Leicestershire, England, who emigrated to Christchurch to avoid the tuberculosis that killed his bootmaker father.

A fast bowler, Moss took 10-28 against Wellington at Hagley Park in December 1889, forever etching his name in the history books. The ball was mounted and decorated with a commemorative plaque. It became Moss' most valued possession.

Yet Moss played just three further games for Canterbury and a drink problem led to his wife leaving him and taking Moss' valued momento with her.

Moss fled Christchurch in shame for South America. From there, still an alcoholic, he travelled to South Africa, still looking for deliverance.

The fast-bowling clerk's decision to join the Salvation Army in South Africa changed his life around and Moss became a respected figure in Pretoria for his good works for the Army.

His wife, Mary, back in New Zealand, chanced upon a copy of War Cry, the Sallies magazine, which mentioned Moss' rehabilitation and the work he was doing in South Africa.

She sent him the ball and then remarried the reformed Moss after following him to South Africa.

After Moss' death in 1945 his famous ball was sent to Lancaster Park, as was his wish.

In the early 1970s the Salvation Army rediscovered the story and recovered the ball for use as a prop when telling the salutary tale.

Only last week was the ball refound by the CCA and will be seen for the first time in 30 years by the cricket fraternity on Sunday.

However, the ball will be returned to the Salvation Army's Major Rodney Knight after it is exhibited at Addington. Back in the seventies the CCA did not realise the full value of the ball and there was some dispute when it tried to recover the heirloom in the late 1980s.

Only now has an agreement been finalised to allow to ball to be exhibited by the CCA on special occasions like this Sunday's celebration, when the amazing tale of Albert Moss will be revived once more.