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Rowdy Remembers

The first genuine legbreak in England in years

In which the author tries to cover up a faux pas made while talking to the Queen

Ashley Mallett
Ashley Mallett
Cartoon: The first genuine leg break in England

Satish Acharya

Bob Massie was the culprit.
On his Test debut at Lord's in 1972, Massie took 16 for 137 to destroy Ray Illingworth's England. Massie's destructive spell cost us the chance of meeting the Queen and Prince Phillip. The match was all over before the royal couple were due to arrive, at the tea break on the fourth day. We would be denied the traditional photo opportunity of shaking hands with the Queen in that famous ground.
However, all was not lost. Manager Ray Steele rushed to the players who were already into a celebratory drink: "C'mon you blokes, get organised, we've just been invited to Buckingham Palace."
I got into a car driven by Paul Sheahan. At the palace gates we screamed past the sentry box where the man in the bearskin hat froze in a long salute. Eventually we came to a stop outside the very room where Winston Churchill awaited audience with King George VI during the war.
After we met the royals we stood about in informal groups sipping sherry.
It was at that moment I noticed the Queen standing by herself near a large bay window. Corgis flitted about at her feet. It was then I decided to cross the floor to chat with her.
What would I say to her when I got by her side? Royalty of the modern era had form with horses and the sport of kings, so what better than talking horses?
Princess Anne was a fine horsewoman. She had become European Champion at three-day eventing a year before I found myself striding across the regal White Room carpet at Buckingham Palace to speak with the Queen.
"Can I help you?" she politely volunteered.
"Thank you Ma'am, but I think I can help you."
My immediate thought was to ask about Princess Anne and how would she fare if her horse broke its leg. The horse was obviously out of the event, but did that mean the rider was automatically disqualified?
At that precise moment I stepped backwards and trod on one of the royal corgis.
To my consternation and the Queen's obvious discomfort, the more I tried to get off the corgi's paw, the harder I trod. The poor dog let off the most horrendous cry.
Had it been Queen Elizabeth I, I might have ended up in the Tower, but it was June 1972 and, knowing our Queen has always had a keen sense of humour, I went onto the front foot. We were in England at a time after Richie Benaud and before Shane Warne, so I said: "Your Majesty, that was the first genuine legbreak we've seen in England for 20 years."

Ashley Mallett took 132 wickets in 38 Tests for Australia. He has written biographies of Clarrie Grimmett, Doug Walters, Jeff Thomson, Ian Chappell, and most recently of Dr Donald Beard, The Diggers' Doctor