No captain of a touring team since D. R. Jardine nearly 40 years ago has had such a difficult task as Raymond Illingworth, leader of M.C.C. in Australia in 1970-71. Some English critics, who had championed the cause of M. C. Cowdrey, were against the skipper. The attitude of numerous Australians has never in my experience been so hostile to an English captain in advance of the tour. Before a ball was bowled Sir Donald Bradman, leader of Australian cricket, was critical of Illingworth as a man who overdid leg side field placing. Few, if any, of those critics had ever seen him lead a side, and for a country possessing W. M. Lawry as their captain to cavil at leg side field placings was to tread on dangerous ground.
Illingworth was put in an unfortunate position when the manager, Mr. D. G. Clark, supported by two visiting M.C.C. officials, Sir Cyril Hawker (President) and Mr. G. O. Allen, agreed with the Australian officials to change the tour programme during the rain-ruined third Test at Melbourne and play an extra Test. It meant a very heavy programme of big matches, four Tests in quick succession with only one-day fixtures separating them. The rearrangement gave Australia gates amounting in value to £70,000. English cricket received no share of the extra revenue.
A further difficulty of leadership was Cowdrey's inability to come to terms with his position as vice-captain. He had long hesitated before accepting the appointment, and his cricket might not have been such a disappointment, if he had allowed himself to be absorbed into the body of the team. As it was, his slip catching went to pieces and with the bat he played only one worthy innings before the final stages in New Zealand. Even that was on a minor occasion in Tasmania, for his only century, against Victoria, was a demoralising struggle that contributed to the team's only defeat in a first-class game.
Strangely the many difficulties which Illingworth had to overcome could be held as being partly responsible for the team"s success. They produced a brand of team spirit which has been equalled during the post-war years only by sides led by M. J. K. Smith. Illingworth had his players solidly behind him, and Edrich and Boycott in the role of lieutenants were invaluable to him. Bolstered by that spirit, Illingworth and crew were able to ride the handicaps already mentioned and also the many injuries which crippled the team. At different times Shuttleworth, Luckhurst, Fletcher and Boycott were put out of the Test side. The final triumph in Sydney was achieved with the top batsman, Boycott, and the top bowler, Snow, out of action. Even before the Test series Illingworth was deprived of Ward by a broken bone in a foot. His attacking plans had been based on the speed of Snow and Ward, who were appreciably quicker than any other bowler on either side. Illingworth did a magnificent job. Under severe provocation he remained cool off the field and courteously approachable by friend and foe alike.
That a high proportion of the first-class matches were left drawn gave rise to the belief that the cricket was dull. It is more accurate to say that many in advance expected it to be dull and saw it in that light. In fact there was much good cricket played entertainingly, and the first two drawn Tests were far from dull and pointless. Until well into the afternoon on the last day of the first Test in Brisbane Australia were still fighting to save the day. At Perth England were similarly in some danger on the last afternoon. If some State matches never got within sight of a definite result, part of the blame must go to the pitches. They were appreciably slower throughout the country than they had been even two years earlier, when the West Indies toured. Even Perth, which has been Australia's fastest pitch in the post-war years, was down to easy batting pace.
Yet, once he wound himself up, Snow banged surprising life out of the pitches. He took things very easily in the early stages, and the poor record of the team in the preliminary games sent Australia into the Tests confident and hopeful. Snow did not work up full steam until the second day of the first Test, and then his bowling struck the Australians with apprehension, which they never fully shook off.
England's success was based primarily on Snow's bowling, the batting of Boycott, Edrich and Luckhurst, and the wicket-keeping of Knott. At one time Snow had taken 26 wickets in four Tests. If Ward, bowling at comparable speed, could have been his partner, a weary, injury-stricken side would surely not have had to go to the last Test before clinching the series. That Snow was not such a menace in the final two matches was not surprising, when the tour programme was so arduous. Boycott put the seal of greatness on his batting. His Test average of 93.8 and tour aggregate of 1,535 with six centuries speak for themselves. If injury had not put him out of the final Test, he would undoubtedly have broken the record of 1,553 for an Australian tour by W. R. Hammond in 1938-39. Boycott's finest and most dominating innings was not one of his hundreds, but his 77 in the fourth Test, during which he revealed to the full his superb range of strokes.
The three leading batsmen in various combinations seldom failed to give the side a good start. In the first-class matches there were eight opening stands of more than 100, including five in the Tests, and seven more exceeding 75. Edrich was even more successful than on his first Australian tour four years earlier. Because he was the happier dropping down the order, Luckhurst was Boycott's usual partner, but, when on occasions Edrich resumed his long standing partnership with the former, success was invariable. They shared five opening partnerships producing 162, 32, 161 unfinished, 107 and 104, the last three being in Tests. Some of us thought that Luckhurst would have to adjust his methods to the higher bounce of the ball on Australian pitches. In fact the bounce was less than usual, and what adjustment might have been needed was speedily done. From first to last he was an outstanding success, the highlight being his 109 in the Melbourne Test despite the handicap for much of the innings of a broken bone in his left hand.
If those four were the key players, it must not be supposed that this was other than a team triumph, to which the regular supporting players contributed handsomely as and when required. Prominent among them were the veterans, Illingworth and d'Oliveira, both of whom stood up to the most arduous tour of my experience remarkably well. Illingworth was consistency itself. Whatever was needed from his bat he supplied, and after scoring 8 at Brisbane he was never again dismissed in the Tests for fewer than 20. Some said he should have bowled more. Although his bowling was unsuited to the conditions, he averaged 22 eight-ball overs per Test, and in the crisis of the final match he successfully took over the main spin bowling role when Underwood faltered. As captain always under pressure on and off the field, as batsman and as bowler he had an exceptionally busy and very successful tour.
On d'Oliveira's first major tour, of the West Indies, I was critical of his approach to the business. He had an unsuccessful playing season then. It is more than pleasant to give him unstinted praise for the full part he played in Australian. Knee trouble, which did not always allow him to bowl, did not deter him, and after the big three he was the most successful batsman. Willis, who joined the team after Ward went home, ranks high in the order of merit. He was much the least experienced member of the party, but under Illingworth's leadership he bloomed luxuriantly. He did not have quite Ward's pace, but he had sufficient with Lever to support Snow against Australian batsmen surprisingly vulnerable to fast bowling. He was second to Snow in the Test bowling averages and third in all first-class matches. Moreover he made two superb catches of crucial importance in the two Tests that were won. Lever did nothing before the team went to Tasmania. He seemingly had neither the pace nor the method to suit the conditions. In Tasmania he had the encouragement of success in matches regarded as first-class, though the opposition was hardly that. Back on the mainland he moderated his pace and immediately became a bowler of consequence, though he did not always have his due share of luck in the Tests.
The team's spin attack was relatively weak. Wilson was completely out of his depth, and he took four of his six first-class wickets against Tasmanian batsmen. Underwood did little to develop the guile necessary on true batsmen's pitches, and he rarely threatened to take wickets, except when conditions were reasonably favourable to his bowling in Sydney. Even then he did not make the most of them, for when wickets did not come readily he tended to bowl faster and faster and dig the ball in more and more. The unlucky bowler was Shuttleworth, who took five wickets in the second innings at Brisbane, strained perhaps too hard for pace at Perth, and then lost his Test place through injury and never regained it until the team moved to New Zealand.
Two young batsmen had varying fortunes. Fletcher began in magnificent form, brimful of strokes and confidence. Then he struck a bad patch, and on emerging from it he suffered injury to his right hand. It was thought to be ligament trouble. In fact a bone was broken, and he played under that sever handicap in the last two Tests. In the circumstances scores of 80, 5, 33 and 20 were obviously of greater merit than was thought at the time. Hampshire, like Wilson, was generally out of his depth, and his figures would have made dismal reading without the 156 he scored off the weak Tasmanian bowling.
Finally Knott and Taylor. M.C.C. have perhaps never had two such accomplished wicket-keepers on tour. The fast bowlers owed much to Knott. His agility standing back enabled him to make and take catches that others might not have considered chances. In six Tests he held 21, also stumping two batsmen, and did not miss anything obvious until the final match. He had a great tour augmented by much good batting. Behind him was Taylor in top form also. There was not much to choose between the two. If Knott's agility gave him a marked advantage when standing back, Taylor was at least his equal standing up. If anything he looked the more polished in that position. It was fitting that Illingworth should give him a Test in New Zealand, a well-earned reward for an always cheerful and uncomplaining understudy. The team in general was fortunate in their reserves.
For the Australian team the series was a bitter disappointment. It was fortunate for them that the pitches were not as fast as usual, for their play of fast bowling, even on easy paced ones, was fraught with peril. Only Lawry was a well-organised batsman, and he was so largely defensive that he batted nearly 25 hours for his 324, and Redpath was not much quicker. That Lawry should be relieved of the captaincy was not surprising. He was negatively unimaginative but to drop him from the side for the vital last match was generous to England.
Walters, so good four years earlier, was so shaky against pace that he needed all the luck that was going to make enough runs to remain precariously in the side. I. M. Chappell was also disorganised, and his brother lost his way after playing a brilliant innings in his first Test. Stackpole, the only batsman able to hook fast bowling, was much the most successful, and also the luckiest in the matter of umpiring decisions. With McKenzie stale and Gleeson setting no problems after the early Tests Australia's bowling was never strong. Thomson had a good match in favourable pitch conditions for Victoria, but subsequently he tended to become a comic character rather than a Test bowler. Lillee was quite the best fast bowler tried, and there were obviously great possibilities about the leg-break bowling of O'Keeffe. Australia suffered also from a low standard of wicket-keeping, and their fielding generally was not so good as England's. His batting kept Marsh in the side, but behind the wicket he was clumsily fallible.
Even before the change of programme the fixture list was bad. There were nine one-day games of no consequence, which cost the touring team several injuries, and the last four Tests were due to be played with only one other first-class match intervening, in which to exercise the reserves. An international side should consistently meet worthy opposition, and not be asked to frolic with up-country teams of club standard. One-day games in future should be restricted to over-limited games such as the one in Melbourne which attracted 46,000 spectators.
Test Matches-Played 8; Won 3, Drawn 5.
First-Class Matches-Played 16; Won 4, Lost 1, Drawn 11, Abandoned 1.
All Matches- Played 29; Won 13, Lost 3, Drawn 13, Abandoned 2.
Wins- Australia (two), New Zealand, Tasmania, South Australia Country XI, Victoria Country XI, Queensland Country XI (two), Western Australia Country XI, N.S.W. Country XI (two), Otago; N.Z. Central Districts.
Losses- Victoria, Australians, Wellington.
Draws- Australia (four), New Zealand, South Australia (two), New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, Combined XI in Tasmania, Northern N.S.W. Country XI, Western Australia in V&G game.
Abandoned- Australia, Southern N.S.W. Country XI.
Match reports for
Match reports for
South Australia v Marylebone Cricket Club at Adelaide, Oct 30-Nov 2, 1970
Victoria v Marylebone Cricket Club at Melbourne, Nov 6-9, 1970
New South Wales v Marylebone Cricket Club at Sydney, Nov 13-16, 1970
Queensland v Marylebone Cricket Club at Brisbane, Nov 20-23, 1970
Western Australia v Marylebone Cricket Club at Perth, Dec 5-8, 1970
South Australia v Marylebone Cricket Club at Adelaide, Dec 18-21, 1970
Tasmania v Marylebone Cricket Club at Hobart, Dec 23-26, 1970