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After all, M. J. K. Smith's England team did not return from Australia with the Ashes, but they did more for cricket than the majority of International touring sides in recent years. Australia achieved their objective. They retained the Ashes which they have held since 1959, but who really took the honours? Surely, M.C.C. In planning the tour, the M.C.C. Committee concerned themselves in matters of broad principle with the image of Test matches and the approach of their players to these matches and other matches on the tour. M.C.C. were anxious that each game be approached in a positive way; that a challenge be accepted if a faintest chance of winning existed; that the team should never contemplate tactical time-wasting. To make sure their wishes be carried out M.C.C. appointed their secretary, Mr. S. C. Griffith, manager, and granted him authority to override the captain in matters of tactics, but it seems that only rarely did Mr. Griffith find it necessary to criticise adversely.
Right from the beginning of the tour, M.C.C. played positive cricket and when they had their occasional bad days these were usually due to excessive caution. Unfortunately, owing to the weather, in three Tests, the first at Brisbane and both at Melbourne, valuable time was lost to both sides and those games were drawn. England reached their peak with a run-away victory at Sydney and Australia did likewise at Adelaide. That rain prevented a result in the final Test was a calamity.
The wisdom of including four regular openers, R. W. Barber, G. Boycott, J. H. Edrich and W. E. Russell, stabilised the batting and the devastating hitting of Barber and Barrington thrilled everyone. Moreover, England found a new pair of opening bowlers in D. J. Brown and I. J. Jones with K. Higgs a valuable ally.
England can now look forward to facing with confidence the West Indies under G. S. Sobers. They come as World Champions and given a decent summer of sunshine there should be some grand cricket while both sides wrestle in the Tests for the Wisden Trophy. Sir Learie Constantine gives the background of the development of the West Indies as a cricket power in the special section which follows these Notes. A year ago in Wisden, Sir Learie condemned negative cricket in his absorbing article, Cricket an Art, Not a Science. I wonder whether that inspired Bob Barber? "The stalemate policy I know is a passing phase," wrote Sir Learie. "I must not be considered intemperate if I want to see a change in my lifetime. It will create joy and the warmth which so often the climate does not provide." Thanks to M. J. K. Smith and his gay M.C.C. cavaliers the change came sooner than most of us expected. May cricket continue to be played the dynamic way.
Looking back on cricket in England last season, one can only describe it as mainly disappointing. The sun rarely shone and one remembers mostly the cold, wet and windy conditions that prevailed. For the first time since the Triangular Tournament of 1912, we had two visiting touring teams. The New Zealanders came first and experienced a most unpleasant time in such unfavourable weather. They were a stronger combination than on their last visit in 1958, but clearly inferior to England and went down heavily in the three Test Matches. Due to the wintry conditions, attendances were small at the majority of their matches and they finished £4,000 on the wrong side, but thanks to their foresight in arranging to visit India and Pakistan, where they took part in seven Tests on the way to England, they returned home with a small profit.
The weather was kinder to the South Africans, who arrived towards the end of June. They enjoyed the satisfaction of avenging the loss of the rubber to England on their own soil a few months earlier. It was quite refreshing to see Peter van der Merwe's side playing such invigorating cricket, due mainly to the enterprise of the two Pollocks and K. C. Bland. At the present time South Africa remains outside the International Cricket Conference, but if they continue to avoid their former safety-first tactics they should surely come for the whole summer when they next visit England. At the end of the year they will receive the Australians, whom they have never beaten on the Veld. This should be the great opportunity for South Africa to show their power and emerge victorious.
Uppermost in the minds of most people who followed England's fortunes last summer the form of the team which opposed New Zealand and South Africa in the six Tests was a pointer to the men to be chosen for the task of trying to recapture the Ashes in Australia. Altogether the England selectors, under their new chairman, D. J. Insole, called upon twenty players and only M. J. K. Smith, the captain, R. W. Barber, M. C. Cowdrey, J. M. Parks and F. J. Titmus appeared throughout. Insole looked for positive cricket and, in turn, Barrington and Boycott were dropped temporarily for their negative attitude. Barrington, one of the pillars of England's batting for many years, remains a great player. In fact, in his five Tests last summer he scored 502 runs, average 62.75. He ran into a stonewalling groove in the first match against New Zealand at Edgbaston where, after reaching 85, he spent sixty-seven minutes before adding to his score. When England needed runs quickly in the first two matches against South Africa, at Lord's and Trent Bridge, Boycott made no attempt to wrest the initiative from the bowlers and so he was left out of the final Test at The Oval. The selectors must be congratulated for, at last, taking drastic steps to cure cricket of the deadly disease of the persistent defensive forward prod which has been a blight for too many years.
In some respects England could be said to have been unlucky against South Africa in the matter of casualties. The first to go down was E. R. Dexter. He broke a leg when pushing his car to safety after running out of petrol. His flamboyant dash was greatly missed in all three Tests. Much, too, was expected from J. H. Edrich following his not out 317 at Headingley in his only Test against New Zealand. Then came the first Test against South Africa at Lord's where he was laid low by a bouncer from P. M. Pollock and was never the same again until he arrived in Australia, where his tenacious batting proved so valuable.
Quite rightly, to my mind, there was an outcry in some quarters against the use of the bouncer. All through the years Wisden has condemned this form of attack, which is sheer intimidation of the batsman and a menace to the game. Before the mishap to Edrich, B. Sutcliffe, the New Zealand batsman, was knocked out by F. S. Trueman in the first Test at Edgbaston, a blow which virtually finished his illustrious first-class career. It was significant that during the exciting final Test against South Africa not one bouncer was delivered throughout the match. England recalled J. B. Statham and he showed everyone the proper way to bowl on his popular return to the team, taking five first-innings wickets for 40.
Brian Statham was one of several active cricketers who criticised the poor standard of pitches up and down the country. Although in his thirty-sixth year, he took 137 wickets, average 12.52. In his first season as captain of Lancashire, Statham inspired the side not only by his bowling, but by his enthusiastic leadership. While he agreed that he had bowled well, he said the main reason for his success had been the atrocious pitches he met here and there. At the end of the New Zealand tour, John Reid told me that since he first toured England in 1949 there had been a steady decline in the standard of pitches. "In fact, apart from Lord's, Fenner's and the Kent grounds, the wickets have deteriorated to an astonishing degree." It is bad enough for cricketers when rain ruins the pitch, but in the last fifteen years there has been far too much monkeying about with the "tables" on the majority of grounds. Some are under-prepared to ensure a definite result in three days, which means that the county winning the toss has the best chance of winning. The practice of leaving green grass on the surface in order to help the pace bowlers has proved a complete failure. Instead of every county possessing at least two genuine fast bowlers, as was the case twenty-five years ago, there is now a race of medium-pacers who bowl short of a reasonable length and rely on the seam to deviate the direction of the ball. Lush green outfields help to keep the shine on the ball and unless something is done the slow bowler will disappear from English cricket.
While Yorkshire can be congratulated on the marked improvement of the Test pitch at Headingley, it was their policy of under-preparing pitches for county games which led them to being dismissed for 23 by Hampshire at Middlesbrough, the lowest total in their history of over one hundred years. Essex also put them out for 75 on a poor surface at Bradford. Is it any wonder batting in county cricket has become so unattractive when such conditions exist?
Three of the best opening batsmen in England could not score a century in first-class cricket last season. The two England openers, R. W. Barber and G. Boycott, who did so well on the true pitches of Australia and made that memorable first-wicket stand of 234 in under four hours before tea at Sydney, reached top scores of 94 and 95 respectively. Barber steadfastly pursued his enterprising policy and finished the season in sixty-first place in the batting list, average 26.93. Boycott came fifteenth, average 35.29. A third example was D. M. Green, of Lancashire. Another free stroke-maker, Green managed an aggregate of 2,037 runs from 63 knocks with a top score of 85, which shows his wonderful consistency, and he averaged 32.85.
Surely it is time that groundsmen returned to the old method of using marl, cow-manure and the heaviest possible roller. The way back to better first-class cricket is to remember that the state of the pitch governs the play. Fine weather is essential and, when the sun shines, batsmen should be able to know that the ball will behave reasonably as it comes off a fast, true surface. Bowlers will then learn that accurate length and direction, allied to speed or spin, are the main ingredients of success. The worst pitches were considered to be Bath, Old Trafford, Bradford, Chesterfield, Edgbaston, Headingley (County Matches), Hove, Loughborough, Middlesbrough, Northampton, Romford, Sheffield, Southampton, Trent Bridge and Worcester.
There was a time when the phrase "It isn't cricket" was commonly used in criticising anything shady or unfair. It meant that cricketers would never stoop to do anything so low. In recent years the public image of the game has been tarnished by many petty squabbles and questionable tactics. The recent controversies over throwing; the use of the bumper to frighten and threaten the batsman with bodily harm, and the matter of a batsman "walking" when he knows he is out are cases in point. These unsavoury problems stem from Test cricket in which the leading players in the world should portray everything that is best in the game. Instead, the courtesies of cricket often disappear when two countries meet in Test "warfare".
Fifteen years ago when I first succeeded to the Editorship of Wisden I wrote that I felt compelled to draw the attention of M.C.C. and other International cricket bodies to the problem of throwing and the menace of the bouncer and that my predecessor of seventy years ago conducted a campaign which led to the stamping out at that time of throwing. During the winter a Special Sub-Committee appointed by M.C.C. has been examining the problem, which also occupied the attention of the International Cricket Conference at their meeting last July. The results of some of these deliberations have not been published at the time of writing. Meanwhile, the Australians, through their former captain, Richie Benaud, complained about the action of C. C. Griffith, the West Indies fast bowler, when he opposed them in the Caribbean, and K. F. Barrington and E. R. Dexter criticised Griffith in similar fashion following their experience of facing him in England three years ago. I certainly do not think that Griffith was a persistent thrower during that 1963 tour. He was a comparatively docile performer in the first Test at Manchester, but by the time we came to the fourth at Leeds, he was a vastly different proposition with his deadly yorker and assortment of bouncers. Last summer Griffith came to England again under the sponsorship of Rothmans when he appeared in two exhibition matches in the Rest of the World XI at the end of the season.
Not surprisingly Griffith came through these matches with his reputation unsullied so far as the umpires were concerned, although much was said over the air and written in the Press about his action. In my opinion Griffith when really hostile does throw the odd ball; in fact he has been called in his country for this offence. He would have been most unwise to have bowled flat out in these friendly games when he knew West Indies would require him for their English tour in 1966, which I sincerely hope will go through without controversy or unpleasantness. Cricket will face immense competition from the World Soccer Cup tournament which will be the centre of attraction for the greater part of July. Whether or not tempers boil among the Soccer players and/or spectators, here is a fine opportunity for cricket to maintain its dignity and sportsmanship.
Back in 1960, H. J. Rhodes, the Derbyshire opening bowler, was no-balled by umpire P. A. Gibb for throwing in the second match of the South African tour at Derby. The doubt cast then upon Rhodes's action after he had appeared twice for England against India in 1959 blighted the bowler's career in the Test sense and he has not appeared since for his country. Gibb called him again in 1961, since when Rhodes proceeded uninterrupted until the opening match of the South African tour at Chesterfield last June, when he was called by J. S. Buller, regarded as the world's leading cricket umpire. Buller, who had just been awarded the M.B.E. for his services to cricket, said that in his opinion Rhodes threw every ball. Buller, having performed his duty, had to be escorted from the ground by the police. The situation must have been most distasteful for Buller, particularly considering that Rhodes is the son of a fellow-umpire. At the time Rhodes headed the first-class bowling averages and the public, especially supporters of Derbyshire, clamoured for him to be chosen again for England. Instead, Rhodes was left out of the Derbyshire team for two matches, although he always received support from the Derbyshire committee. Moreover, D. J. Insole let it be known that the selection committee had been instructed not to choose any bowlers whose actions were in any sense suspect.
One finds that, even among the players who have opposed Derbyshire, opinion is divided concerning the legitimacy of Rhodes's action. Like Statham, Rhodes is loosely jointed; he bends his right elbow back below the horizontal when his arm is outstretched in the final motion of delivery. As it comes down to release the ball, there is a whippy action. Many slow-motion film shots have been taken, sometimes when Rhodes has been unaware of the presence of the film-men. These studies may be helpful, but the fact remains that the umpire is the sole judge of each single delivery. A black and white film of the action of Rhodes was submitted by Derbyshire to the M.C.C. sub-committee. For the film, the inside of Rhodes's bowling-arm was painted black and the outside white.
Worcestershire celebrated their Centenary by winning the County Championship for the second season in succession. Nearly six hundred people attended the dinner on November 16 in the Indoor Bowling Club, Barneshall, Worcester, to mark this achievement and we heard Lieut.-General Sir Oliver Leese, from neighbouring Warwickshire, who came as President of the M.C.C., speak for the second time at this historic function. He declared it was a fabulously fine effort for Worcestershire to achieve success in a wet year when it was difficult to get decisions and proved the quality of the players. They took advantage of the pitches to the full and bowled with an attack of infinite variety and resource. He considered Worcestershire had attained the well-nigh impossible by winning ten of their last eleven matches, culminating in the grandstand finish at Hove, where they clinched the title with only ten minutes of extra time to spare. Worcestershire owed a debt of gratitude to their captain Don Kenyon. It was no mean feat to have led a county side to the top of the Championship at the same time as acting as a member of the Test Match selection committee in a year of dual tours with six Test Matches. One of the surprises of the evening was the presentation of a cricket ball to each of three players, L. J. Coldwell, R. G. M. Carter and N. Gifford, who performed the hat-trick. No one could recall three bowlers of the same county previously accomplishing this feat in the same season.
Manufactured finishes to County matches have become common in the last ten years, due to the negative attitude most counties adopt towards run-getting on the first two days. The matter blew up at the end of the season when Worcestershire snatched a valuable victory over Hampshire at Bournemouth after A. C. D. Ingleby-Mackenzie closed his first innings at lunch-time. In any case, the sun had transformed the pitch and no doubt Worcestershire would have needed only a few overs to dispose of the tail. The general grievance was that Worcestershire were given a chance to get ten points when their main rivals, Northamptonshire, had completed their programme. Northamptonshire did not complain. They remembered they received similar generosity at Clacton when T. E. Bailey, the Essex captain, declared 145 behind with only six wickets down, and that K. V. Andrew promptly declared his second innings when only one ball had been bowled. Then they shot out Essex for 88.
The National Sporting Club revived the prize for the fastest hundred of the season by inaugurating the Café Royal Centenary Cricket Trophy to mark the centenary of the London restaurant which is now their home. The award of one hundred guineas was confined to matches in the County Championship and was won by J. M. Parks, who hit 100 in an hour and forty-two minutes for Sussex against Leicestershire at Hove. When Parks hit the fastest hundred in 1959, he took only sixty-one minutes, a fact which emphasises the change of tempo in County Cricket in a comparatively few seasons.
A player from Ceylon, C. C. Inman, the Leicestershire lefthander, set up new world records for the fastest fifty which he completed in eight minutes with eleven scoring strokes against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. This was another case of farcical third-day county cricket when the fielding side, through N. Hill, who served up slow full tosses, gave away runs to persuade the opposition to make a declaration that would provide a chance of a definite result. Not surprisingly, umpire J. S. Buller sent a report to M.C.C.
The Advisory County Cricket Committee have wisely, to my mind, relaxed the limitation of the leg-side field for 1966. The only restriction in number will be to no more than two men behind the batting crease. The seventy-five yard compulsory maximum boundary has also gone, which is something I, among others, have urged for some time. Now it is non-obligatory. Another welcome change is the option to forfeit entirely the second innings if a county captain so desires and thus will be done away with the empty parade of two batsmen going to the wickets for one ball. It will also save the ten minutes between two innings.
Falling attendances at county matches are causing serious concern. In 1947, the number who paid for admission totalled 2,200,910. In ten years it dropped to 1,174,079 and in 1965 to 659,560. Certainly county membership has risen and last year came to 136,492, showing a decrease of 5,215 on 1964. In order to arrest the decline one of the remedies put forward is the innovation of county cricket on Sunday which follows the lead in Australia, where in 1964-65 Queensland and Western Australia opposed each other at Brisbane and Perth on the Sabbath. In England, no money may be taken at the turnstiles on Sunday, but revenue can be obtained through other channels such as seating, match-cards and car-parks. The experiment has been confined to twelve matches in 1966 of three-day duration and if successful many more fixtures will run through successive week-end days in 1967.
The dangers of comparing various batting and bowling feats over the years, especially when one goes into details, has been brought home to me concerning some facts given in the 1965 Wisden in the biography of G. D. McKenzie when he appeared as one of the Five Cricketers of the Year. It was claimed that McKenzie established a new record for a bowler when, for Australia, he took 73 wickets in fifteen Tests in the space of one year, December 11, 1963, to December 8, 1964. I am grateful to one of our vigilant readers, M. E. Quinlan, of East Molesey, for pointing out that between December 15, 1911, and August 22, 1912, Sydney Barnes played in eleven Tests for England during which he, too, took 73 wickets, but in the space of only 252 days. During the 1911-12 tour of Australia, Barnes took 34 wickets and, returning home for the Triangular Tournament of 1912, took 39 wickets in the six Tests. He plagued the South African batsmen by getting 34 wickets for 282 runs in six innings and he took five wickets in the three innings he bowled against Australia. Despite breaking some ribs in a fall at his home last July, Sydney Barnes, then in his ninety-third year, made a splendid recovery in Staffordshire Infirmary. He remains tall and upright and still retains his perfect copper-plate handwriting.
Cricketers who think they can trespass on private property, without permission, to retrieve balls hit for six from gardens adjoining their ground should remember the case decided in the High Court, London, on October 22, 1965. Mr. Justice Lyell ruled that members of the Egham Club of Surrey had no right to enter the garden of Mr. Hector Arthur Tidd searching for a lost ball. The Judge said that cricketers who went into gardens to recover balls did so by courtesy of the owners and not because of any right. Mr. Tidd had been subjected to constant trespass by members of the club and others collecting balls. "He does not want to stop cricket being played on the ground. He is justified in saying that the landing of cricket balls in his garden is a source of danger" commented the Judge. There was a swimming pool and disabled children were allowed to use the garden. The cricket ground measured 320 feet by 340 feet and was bounded by houses.
The fiftieth anniversary of the death of Dr. W. G. Grace occurred on October 23, 1965. To commemorate the occasion a service was conducted by the Rev. A. N. B. Sugden at Elmers End Cemetery, Kent, where the remains of the greatest of all cricketers are buried. Mr. Sugden, chaplain at the cemetery, some weeks earlier drew attention to the neglected state of the grave and with Mr. Ray Ingelse, from Holland, organised a Memorial Fund which received support from various parts of the world. A new plaque was unveiled and a laurel wreath, bearing the M.C.C. colours, including Red and Yellow roses, was placed on the grave. Mr. A. E. R. Gilligan read the lesson. Mr. Sugden reminded the congregation that in 1948 Donald Bradman brought some of his Australian side to honour "W.G." on the one hundredth anniversary of his birth, and laid a wreath. "Cricket is a fine game; with some it is a religion," said Mr. Sugden, "and if it continues to be played in the spirit in which W. G. Grace played it--he put the bat to the ball and hit it--then the future is in good hands."