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The rise of youth, in my opinion, was the most satisfactory feature of English cricket in 1978. Foremost was the success of Ian Botham and David Gower at the highest level of the Test arena, while many established stars proved indispensable in a wet summer when many matches were ruined by the weather. Behind all the pleasantness, controversies abounded, with the Kerry Packer affair the most serious and still to be resolved. He had been given the credit for indirectly bringing more money into the game in England, but this was only partly true because the Test and County Cricket Board were negotiating for sponsorship of Test matches before Packer entered the scene.
England Take The Honours
Although England won five of the six Tests played last season in the three-match series against Pakistan and New Zealand, success came mainly through the bowlers, Bob Taylor's skilful wicket-keeping, and the all-round excellence of Ian Botham - possibly our greatest find since Walter Hammond 50 years ago. Before he went to Australia, at the age of 22, Botham, in eleven Tests, had hit three hundreds while scoring exactly 500 runs at an average of 41.66 and had taken 64 wickets, costing 16.54 apiece. He is an exciting cricketer because he likes to attack with both bat and ball, and he is a brilliant fielder wherever his captain likes to place him. By the end of last summer he had taken five or more wickets in an innings eight times, sometimes at a fiery pace with an excess of bouncers. At a lesser pace he has the ability to swing the ball either way. Both Pakistan and New Zealand had too many weak links, especially Pakistan who never settled down owing to most of their early matches being ruined by rain. A few months earlier the same players had extended the visiting England team in three Test matches. Now they lost the first two Tests by an innings, mainly because of the decision not to pick the Kerry Packer players. They clearly missed Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan, Mushtaq Mohammed, and Imran Khan. New Zealand were weakened in a different way because Glenn Turner, their star batsman, preferred to play for his county, Worcestershire, during his benefit year. Could not his benefit have waited a year?
Brearley's Indifferent Form
Rarely has an England captain been under such severe stress and strain as was Mike Brearley in 1978. In eight Test innings his scores were 38, 2, 0 against Pakistan and 2, 11, 50, 33, and 8 not out against New Zealand. His critics were legion, particularly the Yorkshire contingent who favoured Geoff Boycott, although for some time he was out of action with a damaged thumb, while Brearley clearly had not recovered from the effects of the broken arm he suffered in Pakistan. Happily for Brearley, the Test selectors under their chairman, Alec Bedser, stood by him, and almost to a man the England players were behind their captain.
Eventually, Brearley demoted himself in the batting order from number one to number five after his five failures, and the fifty he made against New Zealand at Trent Bridge came as a relief to him and his supporters. In the same match, Boycott returned in triumph to repeat his feat of a workmanlike century which he achieved the previous year against Australia. But when they came to name the side for Australia, the selectors chose Boycott solely for his batting and gave the vice-captaincy to Bob Willis, the spearhead of a pace attack that included Chris Old, Mike Hendrick, and John Lever. They were supported by two off-spinners, Geoff Miller and John Emburey, and the much-improved left-arm spinner, Phil Edmonds, who filled Derek Underwood's place with no mean ability.
Kent Win Two Titles
For the first time for many years Kent were always able to put their full strength in the field. This was because they retained their Kerry Packer group of Derek Underwood, Bob Woolmer, and Asif Iqbal, although Alan Knott preferred to take a rest from first-class cricket. Consequently, they were not called on to provide any players for the England team. Kent's decision to play the Packer men caused much controversy within the county, including the loss of some members, but by elevating Alan Ealham, one of their loyal players to the captaincy, they kept the ship on an even keel. Not only did Kent retain the County Championship - a title they shared with Middlesex the previous year - but they also won the Benson and Hedges Cup to walk off with £14,000 in prize money.
The margin between success and failure in sport was well illustrated by Ealham's experience. Three years earlier in 1975, Ealham was almost lucky to get a game for Kent; he played in thirteen Championship games out of twenty, but batting at seven, eight, or nine, he averaged only 13.20 runs and thought seriously about leaving the county. His luck changed when Colin Cowdrey and Brian Luckhurst retired, and when later Michael Denness went to Essex. In 1977 Ealham was moved up the order and scored more than 1,000 runs; in addition he was one of the best fieldsmen in England. Now, in cricket circles, Ealham is "The Man of Kent", taking his place among their great leaders of the past.
Sussex Strive Under Arnold Long
As in the case of Kent under Ealham, the value of having a regular captain was emphasised in the cases of Sussex and Hampshire. For five years from 1973, Tony Grieg led Sussex and they were generally in the wilderness. Yet when Grieg departed from Sussex in mid-July their luck changed. At the beginning of the season Sussex appointed as their captain their wicket-keeper, Arnold Long, who joined them from Surrey in 1976. In his quiet way he galvanised his men into a harmonious team both on and off the field. He showed his qualities as a tactician when his shrewd field placings and bowling changes proved too much for the favourites, Somerset, in the Gillette Cup final.
Hampshire's Debt to Richard Gilliat
The sudden departures of their overseas stars, Barry Richards and Andy Roberts, in mid-season, might have proved a death-knell for Hampshire. Yet under Richard Gilliat the side went on to win the John Player League. Indeed, Gilliat, during his eight-year reign, has been Hampshire's most successful captain in the county's history. They won the County Championship under his leadership in 1973 and the John Player League in 1975 as well as in 1978. Now, at the age of 34, he has decided to retire at the end of his benefit season which brought him £30,000. For the last two seasons Gilliat has been handicapped through injury and he has always been a martyr to hay-fever. A former Oxford University captain, Gilliat scored more than 9,000 runs for Hampshire, including sixteen centuries.
Whither Somerset and Essex
Of all the seventeen first-class counties, Somerset and Essex remain the only pair never to have won a major title. Their luck may well change in the near future for both went close to honours last summer. In finishing runners-up in the County Championship, Essex achieved their highest position since they were third in 1897. They possessed an astute captain in Keith Fletcher, and played two memorable matches with Somerset at Taunton. First was the Gillette Cup semi-final in which Somerset made the mammoth total of 287 for six, to which Essex replied with 287. Because Essex were all out, Somerset went to Lord's through having lost fewer wickets. Somerset almost had their hands on two trophies at the end of the season, but Sussex lowered their colours in the Gillette Cup final, and next day Somerset lost by two runs to Essex, again at Taunton, a defeat which allowed Hampshire to snatch the John Player title. Both Somerset and Essex have plenty of fine players to keep them in the forefront for the time being.
MCC Under Fire
By the time these notes reach the reader, an attempt to undermine the power of the MCC may have been resolved; in which case I sincerely hope in favour of MCC. Early in the year the TCCB set up a three-man working party to look into the structure of English cricket. The task fell upon the chairmen of Surrey, Glamorgan, and Lancashire, namely R. Subba Row, O. S. Wheatley and C. S. Rhoades, whose counties, incidentally, finished very low in the Championship. They recommended that "There should be a new governing body called the United Kingdom Board of Control (UKBC) based mainly on the first-class counties and the National Cricket Association". This would result in a winding-up of the Cricket Council and would mean a diminution of the responsibilities of MCC. The new board would meet infrequently, but would be administered by an Executive Committee, headed by a Chief Executive. For liaison purposes MCC would be represented on the Executive Committee.
The main object behind all this was that, by abolishing the Cricket Council, the guiding hand of MCC would also disappear. Yet MCC financed the NCA, and both the TCCB and the MCC have their offices rent free at Lord's, the home of MCC. The individual counties were considering the recommendations in the autumn. At the same time, F. G. Mann of Middlesex succeeded D. J. Insole as chairman of the TCCB, having defeated two of the previously mentioned chairmen, Subba Row and Wheatley, in the ballot for the post.
Curbing The Bouncer
For years the bouncer has been a contentious subject; batsmen with ability to hook - Denis Compton, Bill Edrich, and Sir Gary Sobers, to name a few - did not mind them; indeed they enjoyed taking toll of the bowlers who delivered them. In modern times the act of deliberate intimidation to make batsmen fearful of getting severe injury has been almost systematic with all countries, excepting India, exploiting this evil deed. I wonder whether present-day sponsorship, which offers huge sums of money to the victors, has not encouraged players to win at any price. Matters came to a head in June, in the England v Pakistan Test at Edgbaston, when Bob Willis injured Iqbal Qasim, a late-order batsman who had gone in as night-watchman. An experimental note agreed at the International Cricket Conference in 1976 reads: "Captains must instruct their players that the fast short-pitched ball should at no time be directed at non-recognised batsmen." Willis contravened this edict, but some questioned whether this applied to a player sent in as night-watchman who could possibly, against good-length bowling, help to remove the shine if the new ball was in use.
Grievous Bodily Harm
At the same time as the Iqbal Qasim controversy, a rugby union player, who in an off-the-ball incident punched an opponent on the jaw, breaking it in two places, was convicted at Newport Crown Court (South Wales) of causing grievous bodily harm. The conviction, believed to be the first of its kind for violence on the rugby field, could have important implications in curbing the growth of violence and foul play in all sports.
One Bouncer An Over
The International Cricket Conference decided in August to limit bowlers to one bouncer an over under an experimental law. If a bowler exceeds this limit he will be no-balled for the first offence, officially cautioned for the second and third infringements, and barred from bowling for the rest of the innings if it happens a fourth time. Members of the ICC were asked to implement the new ruling and then it will be decided whether to make the measure permanent. However, the rule being only experimental, countries do not have to adopt it, and Pakistan took no notice of it in October when the Northamptonshire fast bowler, Sarfraz Nawaz, and the Sussex fast bowler, Imran Khan, subjected the Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar to a barrage of bumpers at Faisalabad in the first Test between the two countries for seventeen years. Gavaskar called his captain, Bishan Bedi, on to the pitch to protest and the Pakistan captain, Mushtaq Mohammed, immediately took off the offending Safraz.
The Ugly Helmet
The 1978 season will go into cricket history as the one when the ugly helmet was used by many players to protect themselves from injury, not only when batting but also when fielding in the suicide positions. I remember that Patsy Hendren first used one, made by his wife, in the early 1930s when facing Larwood and Voce and the West Indies contingent, but that was an isolated case. Now, when batsmen have been laid low by the spate of bouncers that captains and umpires have tolerated, how could I, as an observer in a safe and comfortable seat, blame the players for wearing something to protect themselves from serious injury. Dennis Amiss, the only batsman to score 2,000 runs, wore one regularly. It was made of fibre-glass in Birmingham and retailed at £29; more than 100 went to the counties.
Whether a fielder should be allowed to wear a helmet is a different matter. When Philip Russell (Derbyshire) was struck in the fact at short leg by a shot from Malcolm Nash (Glamorgan) at Chesterfield, the ball lodged in the visor of his helmet. He suffered a fractured cheekbone, but the injury might have been much more serious. It was no catch because umpire Harold Bird promptly called "dead ball"; and that is now the official ruling from Lord's in the event of similar incidents. Nor is the batsman out if the ball bounces off a helmet and without touching the ground is held by a fielder. The TCCB have ruled that the wearing of a helmet gives the fielder an unfair advantage and if the ball rebounds from the helmet the umpire must call "dead ball". However, a catch may be taken if a batsman snicks the ball on to his own helmet.
Cornhill Insurance's £1 Million
For a period of five years, beginning in 1978, Cornhill Insurance sponsorship will inject £1,000,000 into Test cricket. In 1977-78 the basic tour fee for each England player was increased from £3,000 to £5,000, and last summer each player collected £1,000 for a single Test appearance. In addition, Test umpires' fees went up from £175 to £750 a match. This meant that Cornhill's outlay in 1978 was something like £175,000. It was reckoned that Schweppes provided £175,000 for the County Championship; Benson and Hedges £130,000 for their cup; John Player roughly the same for the Sunday League; and Gillette at least £100,000. This summer Prudential are giving £250,000 for the World Cup and they also sponsor the one-day Internationals. When one also takes into account the £1,500 awarded each month by Bonusbonds - £1,000 to the County Cricketer of the Month and £250 each to the batsman with most runs and bowler with most wickets, plus all the luncheons and teas provided by various people and firms at most county matches, first-class cricket has much to be thankful for. There is also the generous support of the county club members. Nor must one forget the three "Ws" - the Wrigley Cricket Foundation, now in its ninth year of encouraging young cricketers, Whitbread Brewery, who sent young talent to Australia in the winter, and Wilkinson Sword Blades, who sponsored the Under-19 team which went to Australia at the beginning of the year under the guidance of Freddy Brown, chairman of the National Cricket Association.
Ted Dexter's Promotion
One of the more recent sponsorships, by Holt Products, emanated from some comments from Ted Dexter in the 1972 Wisden when he was welcoming the Australians. He remarked that for more than half the tour they would be playing what could only be considered "friendly" fixtures with the counties in which already hard-worked county players would be content to take it easy against the tourists while the tourists themselves would be practising for the Tests. Only the hardiest of cricket watchers would play to do so.
Now, Holt, the car care and chemical manufacturers, have become involved in a sponsorship of about £20,000 which will give a much-needed fillip to this season's fixtures between the county sides and the Indians. There will be a trophy plus £500 to the county judged to have given the best performance, with those who win sharing £5,500. If no county succeeds in beating the Indians, an extra £500 will be provided to give the Trophy winners £1,000. An additional £500 will be awarded to the county that produces the next best performance against the Indians, who themselves will collect £500 every time they beat a county side, plus an extra £100 for each consecutive victory. There will also be £1,000 to be shared between the outstanding batsman, bowler and wicket-keeper. The scheme was devised by Ted Dexter and Mr Tom Heywood, chairman of Holt Lloyd International.
Youngsters For The Future
In addition to the winners of the Whitbread Brewery awards, Chris Tavare (Kent), Mike Gatting (Middlesex), Wayne Larkins (Northamptonshire) and Jon Agnew (Leicestershire), who have been to Australia for further experience, there are many other young men waiting to prove their worth. Among the batsmen are the left-handed Kevin Sharp and right-handed Bill Athey (Yorkshire), David Smith (Warwickshire), Paul Todd (Nottinghamshire), Alan Lilley (Essex) and two products of Millfield School, Philip Slocombe and Peter Roebuck (Somerset). Joining Agnew as fast bowlers are Graham Dilley (Kent) and Hugh Wilson (Surrey), and there are several wicket-keepers, Bruce French (Nottinghamshire), Jack Richards (Surrey), and Andy Brassington (Gloucestershire), not forgetting Paul Downton (Kent) who went to Pakistan and New Zealand with the England side two winters ago and is now back at Exeter University.
Tom Smith Retires
After 25 years of continuous service as general secretary of the Association of Cricket Umpires, Tom Smith retired at the 24th AGM, every one of which he has attended. The ACU was his brainchild, being formed as the result of a meeting convened by him at a Mitcham pub in March 1953 and attended by 24 umpires. Now the Association has a direct membership approaching 4,000 and well over 100 affiliated bodies, bringing the number of umpires represented to 9,000. Tom Smith was awarded the MBE for his services to the game in 1973, and in the same year he was elected an honorary life member of MCC. In partnership with S. C. Griffin he has done two years' work re-writing the Laws of Cricket. The new general secretary of the ACU is Leslie J. Cheesman, a dental surgeon from Epsom. He has been deputy general secretary for five years.
In the Queen's Birthday Honours, W. H. Webster, past MCC president and Corinthian footballer, received the CBE for services to sport, and W. A. Hadlee, New Zealand administrator and former captain, received the CBE for services to cricket. The MBE went to Norman Gifford, the Worcestershire captain, and to R. J. Inverarity and I. J. Brayshaw, of Western Australia, while in the New Zealand list I. W. Gallaway received the MBE for services to rugby and cricket. Earlier, in the New Year Honours, Jack Newman, of Nelson, who played in three Tests for New Zealand in the 1930s and was president of the New Zealand Cricket Council from 1965 to 1967, received a knighthood.