|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Fantasy||Mobile|
THE CHEERFUL NEWS from India during the winter that England had won a series there for the first time since their initial tour in 1933-34 under Douglas Jardine was a welcome change after the disappointing results in recent times against Australia and the West Indies. Now we look forward with some confidence to the third encounter with Australia inside three years. Nothing could be more appropriate than to have our oldest rivals here in another struggle for The Ashes in the Queen's Silver Jubilee year.
The Australians were held to a drawn rubber by Pakistan at the same time as England mastered India in three straight matches with two still to be played. At last three was cause for optimism in the England camp even though as James Heywood wrote four hundred years ago One swallowe maketh not sommer.
Twelve months ago I commented in these Notes that Tony Greig, while not the greatest tactician, possessed many splendid qualities and the success in India of such emphatic proportions brought out his better points. No cricketer plays the game with more dedication and no doubt his self confidence and enthusiasm inspired a party of uncertain standard when they embarked on their mission to the East. Greig, in a sense, was on trial himself following so many Test set-backs. England had not won a match since he took over the leadership from Michael Denness midway through 1975 and this, allied to his own lack of success with both bat and ball, made some people question his suitability for the job.
But everything came off for Greig on the Indian expedition. He regained his form with several praiseworthy innings, including a priceless century in the second Test at Calcutta under a merciless sun while running a temperature of 103 degrees. As captain, he received the unstinted support of his players and there was no more popular personality with the Indian multitudes.
It was satisfactory to see the Cricket Council act with such alacrity when during the third Test at Madras, Bishen Bedi, the India captain, pointed an accusing finger at John Lever and Bob Willis for using vaseline to fasten gauze strips to their foreheads to stop the sweat running into their eyes. He maintained that they used the substance to keep the shine on the ball. The Indian Board of Control decided to submit the matter to Lord's, but before the Council received the report they had contacted Greig and Ken Barrington, the manager, on the telephone, and within forty-eight hours of the end of the game, had refuted all charges of cheating with the words, "the Council totally reject inferences that the individuals concerned, or the England team, were indulging in any form of sharp practice."
The decision to send Barrington as manager with his vast background proved a great asset to the team, but in the early stages of the tour, of the four men who went without Test experience, Lever, the Essex left arm opening bowler alone met with any marked degree of success. Lever enjoyed a wonderful first Test while taking seven wickets for 46 and scoring 53. England won that match at Delhi by an innings and again they surprised India at Calcutta, the win there by ten wickets being the only time England have won in that city. Here Tolchard excelled on his debut by scoring 67. Then came the third Test in humid Madras and more stubborn batting in which Brearley, Amiss and Greig led the way. India paid the penalty for preparing (or under-preparing) wickets for their renowned spin bowlers, but England possessed an attack suitable for all occasions and between them Willis, Chris Old and Lever did wonders with the new ball and Derek Underwood proved more deadly than any of the India spinners.
Back in England, cricket certainly prospered in 1976. Following the wonderful summer of sunshine the previous year, all records were broken for spells of the hottest and coldest, the wettest and the driest weather. Unprecedented over the last 250 years in its length and intensity, was a spell of fifteen days in June and July. Up to the end of August there was the driest sixteenth month period since the record for England and Wales began in 1727. Small wonder that by midsummer most outfields resembled the Sahara desert and watering was prohibited except for limited quantities on the pitches. In many areas water was rationed with stand-pipes in the streets.
Naturally cricket flourished under such ideal conditions for the game especially with the attractive West Indies team touring the country. Whereas in 1975 the cash distribution to the counties from Test receipts, T.V. and radio, and sponsorship amounted to the satisfactory sum of £661,000, the final surplus in 1976 was expected to come to £950,000. Under the able leadership of Mike Brearley, Middlesex won the County Championship outright for the first time since 1947 and they went to Buckingham Palace to receive the Lord's Taverners Trophy from their Patron, the Duke of Edinburgh. There was a tremendous struggle for the John Player Sunday league prize, which went to Kent, who also lifted the Benson and Hedges Trophy, and Northamptonshire, one of the Cinderellas of the county scene, won the Gillette Cup. This was Northamptonshire's first success in their long history which dates back to 1820 and now only Essex and Somerset, of the seventeen first-class counties, have yet to break the ice. Both have made big strides forward in recent seasons and few people would begrudge either if reward for their efforts came in the near future.
Yet for the England team there was little glory until the Indian visit. Indeed, during the summer one felt that never in one hundred years of Test cricket had the old country been so short of talent of the highest class. This time the West Indies put England through the mill. Under the able captaincy of Clive Lloyd and the shrewd management of Clyde Walcott, their side, rich in batting and fast bowling, enjoyed many days of triumph while winning the five match rubber 3-0. Not since 1948 when Sir Donald Bradman's Australians carried all before them had England gone down so heavily at home.
Nothing went right for the England selectors, Alec Bedser (chairman), Sir Leonard Hutton, Charles Elliott and Ken Barrington. They travelled far and wide in their search for players, particularly young fast bowlers, and no doubt the fear of being beaten led them into a defensive groove. First, they decided to appoint Greig, captain for all five Tests. That seemed a sensible and constructive move, but apart from the fourth Test at Headingley where he scored 116 and 76 not out, Greig had a lean summer with bat and ball. His seven other Test innings brought him only 51 runs and his five Test wickets cost 67.20 runs apiece. In addition, he made some strange bowling changes and field settings.
It is customary in England for the captain to be co-opted on the selection committee and he usually gets his way in the final choice of players. So when the 45-year-old Brian Close stood up boldly to the hostile West Indies bowlers and made 88 for Somerset while the Test Trial was in progress a few miles away at Bristol, Greig pleaded for him to be recalled. Close justified the move with an average of 33.30 in three Tests and in partnership with John Edrich (39) at Manchester made up the highest combined age of any Test opening pair since 1930, when G. Gunn (50) and A. Sandham (39) opened for England in West Indies and J. B. Hobbs (47) and F. E. Woolley (43) started the batting against Australia at Lord's.
It was in trying to solve one of their deepest problems that the selectors asked Close to open at Manchester, where on the Saturday the West Indies fast bowlers, and particularly Holding and Daniel, gave a display which was unsavoury as well as being bad cricket. England, left to score 552 to win, with thirteen hours twenty minutes of the game to run, were at their mercy. Yet by ducking out of the way of the numerous bouncers or taking the ball on various parts of their anatomy, Close and Edrich were able to see out the last eighty minutes of the day. They nudged 21 runs, 11 of them from the bat, off 17 overs, three of which were bowled by the off spinner Padmore, who had to be brought on to cool things down. Condemnation to a man in both the printed and spoken word brought sense to the Monday play, to the advantage of the transgressors. The fast men aimed at the stumps and were vastly more effective for the remainder of the tour.
Close and Edrich were not to appear again, and probably they were not sorry about that. But though the experiments continued--there were different opening pairs in each of the five Tests--the selectors still showed a reluctance to give young batsmen a chance.
Altogether twenty-one players appeared for England in the five matches and of the younger brigade Peter Willey alone showed real promise, yet it was suggested that he had some technical fault and I thought he was unfairly treated in being left out of the side that went to India. There was no question about his ability when Colin Cowdrey named him Man of the Match for his brilliant 65 at Lord's which gained Northamptonshire the Gillette Cup.
England's batting problems go back to 1974-75 when Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson ran riot in Australia. Only when both countries possess men of extreme pace and bounce can the rival batsmen expect any relief from intimidation. Last summer as many as half a dozen new ball bowlers figured in the England attack but none produced the devastating speed of the West Indies quartette, Holding, Roberts, Holder and Daniel. Hendrick, Snow, Willis, Ward and Old all broke down during the season. Only the medium-fast Selvey, who had a brilliant start in his first Test at Old Trafford, where his movement in the air and off the pitch surprised the opposition, proved any sort of find for the selectors.
The reluctance in recent years to give youth a chance has not been confined to Test level. Indeed, how can the selectors find young men when their advance is hampered in the counties? This trouble has grown since the disappearance of the amateur captain. Many established professionals jealous of their positions (and that is natural) will not find room about the middle order for the promising young batsman. They say that he must prove himself, but how can he when he is going in at number eight or nine?
For this reason alone, it was most gratifying that in January four young county cricketers, Mike Gatting, 19, ( Middlesex), Ian Botham, 21, ( Somerset), Bill Athey, 19 ( Yorkshire) and Graham Stevenson, 21, ( Yorkshire), set forth to spend three months in Sydney and Melbourne, mostly in grade cricket. Australia agreed enthusiastically to assist in the development of four of England's most promising young cricketers who were chosen by the England selectors together with Colin Cowdrey and Frank Twistleton. The latter two are directors of Whitbreads Brewery, who sponsored the visit with the specific objective of developing the talents to Test level. At present, a three-year scheme, costing about £30,000, is envisaged. It is the idea of Frank Twistleton, a former Gloucestershire chairman and member of the Test and County Cricket Board. In future winters Australia will not necessarily be the destination.
One of the most ambitious coaching schemes of the many already in existence in Britain for cricketers of various ages, including women, is the plan to build the M.C.C. Indoor School on the Nursery Ground at Lord's. This good news was given by the M.C.C. President, Mr. C. G. A. Paris, at the last A.G.M. The cost was estimated at £150,000 to which that noted business man, Mr. J. A. Hayward, who is an M.C.C. member, promised £75,000, provided the other half was subscribed from other sources. In the past Mr. Hayward has helped to finance women's cricket teams on tour. He lives in the Bahamas and in 1969 gave £150,000 to the National Trust for the purchase of Lundy Island. There will be seven nets in this School at Lord's, of which the Inner London Education Authority have said they will make the fullest use. At the moment there are no cricket facilities in some primary and secondary schools in the London area.
Later in the year, Mr. W. H. 'Tadge' Webster, M.C.C.'s new President, speaking at the annual lunch given by the Wrigley Foundation at Painters' Hall, London, dwelt on the National Cricket Associations debt to Wrigley. Since 1969, they have assisted youth cricket in many ways, with support for schools' representative matches, overseas tours, visual aids to coaching and the national six-a-side Indoor Competition started the previous winter and now expanded from 23 to 33 English Counties plus a Scottish representation. Nearly 1,000 clubs played for the most recent Wrigley Trophy. F. R. Brown, chairman of the N.C.A., displayed the new manual 'Test' Cricket in Clubs and Schools and paid tribute to Mr. Frank Hoppe, international marketing vice-president of the Wrigley Company.
Accompanying the M.C.C. Cricket Coaching Book in its fourth and revised edition is one from Australia, the Frank Tyson Complete Cricket Coaching. Conscious of the importance of promoting the game and developing cricketers at all level, the Victorian Cricket Association decided to appoint a permanent full-time State Director of Coaching and they considered that they were extremely fortunate to gain the services of Tyson for this important post. The book is outstanding in two respects; it instructs coaches of cricket how to teach the sport and it reduces the explanation of the technique of cricket to a level which is easily understood even by the youngest layman. Any youngster can pick it up and read in simple terms, aided by action pictures and diagrams, how he should execute a cricketing skill. In his comprehensive study Tyson acknowledges the help he received in the preparation of the manual from a host of experts including such noted Australian players as Lindsay Hassett, Ian Johnson, Bill Lawry, Dennis Lillee, Ernie McCormick, Len Maddocks, Ian Redpath, Richard Robinson, Paul Sheahan, George Tribe and Max Walker, as well as Ray Steele, the V.C.A. President.
Frank Tyson bowled for England seventeen times against Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and the West Indies. He emigrated to Australia in 1961 and taught at Carey Baptist Grammar School as housemaster, senior French master and cricket coach for thirteen years. He also became well known for his T.V. and radio broadcasts of Sheffield Shield and Test cricket and comments to a host of newspapers and magazines in England and Australia. His prowess as a fast bowler is dealt with by Richie Benaud in the fascinating article that follows these notes.
The retirement of Titmus after twenty-eight summers at Lord's soon followed the Middlesex Championship victory. He found the offer to coach Surrey and captain their Second XI so attractive that he abandoned his plan of playing one more season. In another way his winter proved memorable, for the Queen awarded him in M.B.E. in the New Year's Honours list. Throughout his career Titmus's appearance and bowling style hardly varied, so that while many aspects of cricket changed he was a constant factor and by the 1970's a Lord's institution. Despite prolific wicket-taking feats as a young man, he was surely a finer bowler at the end of his career, having mastered his control of flight, spin, length and the subtle floater that behaved like a slow outswinger and brought Parfitt and Radley so many slip catches.
He showed a battling approach to his cricket, not least by standing up squarely to the fast bowlers on the scene when he made the bulk of his Test appearances in the early 1960's. He needed all his fighting qualities to play again--let alone in Tests--after having four toes chopped off in a boating accident in Barbados in 1968. The accolade to his skill and courage came when, at the age of 41, he was chosen for the M.C.C. 1974-75 Australian tour. His cricket life began and ended with a championship and, though there were bleak times in between, Titmus wheeled away to such effect that only nine bowlers in the game's history have taken more wickets, and only four men have achieved more doubles. Altogether Titmus scored 21,530 runs, took 2,811 wickets and held early 500 catches.
England has lost one of its most colourful personalities in the decision of John Jameson, the Warwickshire opener, to take up the post of coach at Taunton School. That is poetic justice, since it was from their ranks that he was first spotted and induced to go to Edgbaston. At the age of thirty-five he is still very much at his peak. He will be sadly missed from the county scene, but one looks forward to watching the products of his coaching. In a first-class career which spanned sixteen years Jameson specialised in sixes. He hit 18,941 runs, including thirty-three hundreds, and he shares with Rohan Kanhai the world second wicket partnership of 465 unbroken when he played his highest innings, 240 not out against Gloucestershire at Edgbaston in 1974.
There will also be a familiar figure missing from the Hampshire ranks as that splendid all-rounder Peter Sainsbury takes a well deserved rest after twenty-three seasons in first class cricket. The only player to take part in Hampshire's two winning Championships of 1961 and 1973, Sainsbury excelled as a left-arm slow bowler in getting 1,316 dismissals and as a dependable late order batsman, particularly in a crisis. He made 20,176 runs. And by brilliant fielding he held 616 catches. In 1971, he missed the double by 41 runs.
That solid Yorkshire opening batsman Phil Sharpe has also bid farewell to the first-class scene although he will appear in the Bradford League for Manningham Mills. He spent seventeen summers with his native county, during which he turned out thirteen times for England between 1963 and 1970 and he will always be remembered as a brilliant first slip where he held the majority of his 617 catches. Sharpe never snatched at the ball, but waited for it to come to him with his hands moving backwards. He scored 22,540 including 2,031 with Derbyshire during the past two seasons.
Injury brought Brian Luckhurst's playing career to an abrupt end midway through last summer, but happily he has not severed his Kent connection for he has stayed as assistant cricket manager to Colin Page. He was only fifteen when he joined Kent in 1954 and, on his day a splendid opening bat, he made twenty-six appearances for England between 1970 and 1975. Luckhurst played a vital part in Australia in 1970-71 when he scored 455 runs in the Tests, average 56.87 and helped Ray Illingworth's side to regain the Ashes. In all first-class cricket he made 22,293 runs including 48 hundreds and he shone as a close-to-the-wicket fielder with 393 catches. He also helped Kent to six one-day cup and Sunday League successes.