MCC in Canada 1959

The satisfactory record of the 1959 M.C.C

Denis Silk
The satisfactory record of the 1959 M.C.C. side to tour Canada and America was not achieved without some moments of anxiety. In fact, a series of testing matches in the East thrust the side immediately into the fire, from which it emerged well tested and conditioned for what lay ahead. They learnt something of the ability of Canadian cricketers, the problems of matting wickets, and the need to combine closely as a team. The victories in the West and Prairies showed the side gaining in confidence and rapidly adapting itself to all conditions, so that by the time of the Test early in September the side was at its peak, and ready to support the captain, who had made this combination possible, in a 10 wicket victory.
The M.C.C. were not presented with two easy loosening-up matches in Montreal. In the first they were made to struggle sufficiently to cause the captain, who lay in bed sick, a relapse. Coming from perfect wickets at home, batsmen found this mat rather alarming, and it was only news that Bedford and Bailey had saved the first game that brought the captain round! Many of us, leaving Montreal, fairly tired after our first taste of Canadian hospitality and not exactly confident, were alarmed to hear rumours that the Eastern Canada side at Ottawa would be the strongest that we would play anywhere.
Certainly the game at the lovely Rideaux Park proved one of the most interesting, and it introduced us to several first-class players, soon to be regular rivals and firm friends. Here we met Trowse, a South Australian batsman, and Christen, a tireless fast-medium left-arm Yorkshire bowler. It was Christen who dismissed the M.C.C. for 133, taking 8 for 56 - the best piece of bowling on the tour. Only Barber played him with confidence. Trowse batted beautifully, but when he was out inThe second innings Eastern Canada gave up what had seemed a reasonable chase after 179 runs in the second innings, and a fascinating game ended tamely in a draw.
The next game was rained off, and after Hamilton and a splendid Mayor's dinner, the M.C.C. met the Toronto C.C. on their attractive ground with its fabulous clubhouse. This club was to be our second home and here at Toronto we received the kindest of hospitality. And we also received our biggest surprise. Though never in complete command, the M.C.C. batsmen scored consistently to make 208 for 8. Toronto began well and, with Trowse in full flight, Silk spread the field out defensively and this upset Toronto completely. Gunn and Trowse forced the pace, but for the last hour there seemed to be no plan and Trowse was left alone by a series of agitated partners. They finished 7 behind with wickets tumbling, and what had nearly been a convincing victory for the local side had been turned into a frustrating draw by Silk's calm tactics. The next game was less tense and Bedford ran through the opposition tail. Feeling more confident, and enjoying the kind hospitality of Ridley College, the M.C.C. were rudely awakened by Ontario and were rescued only by Green and Silk. Ontario opened aggressively with Walker playing some startling strokes, but once Bedford came on Ontario surprisingly folded up and sacrificed their wickets and any chance of a draw. This completed the Eastern part of the tour. The team felt lucky to have their,record intact and had food for thought in the eight hours' flight to Vancouver.
Vancouver and the Brockton Point ground were everything and more than rumour had indicated, and here, as everywhere, we were royally entertained, dining with the civic authorities on Grouse Mountain, living comfortably in the University, and having our every, want looked after. Cricket in the West was not as strong as in the East. They lacked a few players of the calibre of Trowse and Christen.
The first games were won convincingly, but the last one, against Western Canada, was very tight. It was only a fighting 73 by Pretlove that enabled the M.C.C. to make 159. Throughout the tour it was noticeable that there was always someone at hand to retrieve a disastrous situation - no crisis became disaster for want of a hero. What chance British Columbia had of approaching this total was ruined by Piachaud, who had, throughout the week, been reaping a harvest of wickets - he never had it better than in Vancouver. The game against Victoria was played before a large crowd. Two delightful days were spent on this lovely island and our hosts saw to it that we had a memorable rest day there.
It was in Vancouver that the captain cracked the whip to rouse the team for the return half of the tour which promised to be an exhausting series of coach trips, and he cracked it to such good effect that the side galloped through the Prairie games. Although the opposition was often weak, that did not matter for the enthusiasm was great and inspiring. Only dedicated cricketers could face the handicaps which are present at Trail, but the enthusiasm for the M.C.C. visit and the warmth of the reception given to the team convinced us that these were indeed dedicated men. After a delightful tour of the Rockies with the Calgary members, the team enjoyed playing on the excellent wicket at Calgary, and Silk had the honour of opening a fine new pavilion, constructed entirely by voluntary workers from the club. It was here that Prideaux entertained large crowds with two feasts of stroke play. Nor could physical cold freeze the enthusiasm for cricket in Edmonton. Here again the M.C.C. scored heavily and local batsmen found Bedford unplayable. Even though the tourists had won their games easily, the cricketers of Calgary and Edmonton were not downhearted but optimistic about their plans for the future. Once again great kindness and hospitality made us reluctant to leave our friends. In Winnipeg the Manitoba team restricted the M.C.C. scoring spree, and were fighting a successful rearguard action after Smith had completed an early hat-trick when rain stopped play. This game was televised.
Piachaud's Devastating Spell
Toronto was the scene of happy reunions, coupled with the more severe prospect of the Test match. Speculation on the Canadian side had occupied the M.C.C. through several hours of delay on the C.N.R., and we found it as difficult as the Canadian selectors to pick a side. This was the greatest difficulty the Canadians faced, for whereas the M.C.C. arrived at Toronto at their peak, playing as a team, Quintrell had to captain a side many of whom were unknown to him, and of whom almost all were unused to anything but half-day cricket. If the result of the Test was a disappointment to the Canadians this factor should be home in mind. Prideaux's 100 on the evening of the first day was quite faultless, and majestic in its range of strokes - a commanding innings long to be remembered. Thompson, with calm grace, consolidated the position and 350 was a healthy total. In both Canadian innings the starts given by Walker, White and Trowse were not consolidated and the middle and tail offered no resistance. The second innings saw a brave recovery, but just as it seemed that Canada would make the M.C.C. fight all the way, Piachaud broke through to finish with 7 for 32, the most devastating spell of the tour. To lose the Test by 10 wickets was a cruel disappointment to the Canadians, for it had been closer than that. Above all it had been a sporting contest and there could not have been more gracious losers than the Canadian XI. No words could hope to express the feelings of everyone at Toronto station as we said goodbye. Little was said but a great deal was felt.
On the last lap, at Guelph, Piachaud bowled out Western Ontario, and Prideaux gave a final reminder of his class at London, and the team left Canada carrying with them from these last two games the same impression of enthusiasm for cricket that they had found all over the country. The brief stay in America which followed was no anti-climax, for Bill Frazer had organised a delightful four days which made us all wonder if future teams could not spend longer in the States. The opposition was not strong but they played with such evident zest that the results mattered little. Splendid evenings followed both games and so the team left New York, unbeaten at the wicket and still on its tottering feet off the field.
Canadian Officials Impressed
The team and Canadian cricketers alike attribute the success of the tour to the combination of Dennis Silk and John Thompson. To captain the youngest M.C.C. side ever throughout an unbeaten tour, to top the batting averages, and to make countless memorable speeches, is a wonderful achievement, and there can rarely have been a captain more popular and respected by his own team and everyone he met. All the arrangements for the welfare of the team were planned quietly in the background by the manager, John Thompson, and magically executed with puckish humour. No captain could have had a greater help, and no team a more liked companion. He was in fine form with the bat and pouched 18 catches at first slip with ease. The M.C.C. was a side well equipped for all situations, and once the batting problems had been solved, enough runs were made for the spinnersto operate confidently, for it was the spinners who really did the damage. The fielding was always keen and efficient in a critical game, and - the sense of team spirit on the field, which made it easy for the captain to keep a tactical grip on the game, impressed Canadian officials. Piachaud and Bedford took most of the wickets and both adjusted themselves to different conditions sensibly. Bedford was never visibly deterred by ill-luck or vigorous hitting, but went on to mesmerise the opposition with an almost casual artistry. After a worrying start Piachaud bowled his off-spinners beautifully and crowned a successful tour with a match-winning spell in the Test. His delight in taking wickets was a joy to see. In England pace may dominate the game, but this was not so in Canada, and Bailey, Smith and Mordaunt had to work for their wickets. Despite an early strain, Bailey was always accurate and aggressive and there can be no more whole-hearted tourist; his innings at Montreal was a wonderful example of his match temperament.
Smith found himself bowling a great deal as second seamer and he did so with obvious relish. He also kept wicket efficiently and could hardly be expected to make many runs as well. Mordaunt did not take many wickets, but he thumped the ball out of sight and pocketed close catches with the same ease and safety as he holed the golf ball on countless greens throughout Canada. Barber's reputation had preceded him and he lived up to it. He alone played Christen well in the vital early games, and his bowling figures do not reflect the hypnotic effect that he had on Canadian batsmen; he bore many injustices with true Lancastrian fortitude. Howland had the unenviable job of keeping to spinners on wickets from which the ball spun at unpredictable heights and widths, and he did the job well. He could not be included in the Test side because Smith was required to bowl, but he took this disappointment with characteristic cheerfulness. The captain and the manager were quicker than most of the batsmen to settle down, but it was not long before everyone was making runs. Pretlove weathered a shaky start and never looked back after his invaluable 73 at Vancouver. Although often given only a short while at the wicket, he always put bat to ball heartily before the declaration. There were many brands of humour in the side but none more individual than Green's. He played several elegant innings between 20 and 50 and will long remember the day he hit Christen twice straight for 6. Prideaux is only mentioned last because he was the youngest member of the side. He was the outstanding batsman of the tour. He rapidly adjusted himself to opening and played with a mature blend of concentration and aggression which was a joy to watch. He gave his best to the captain on and off the field, and he probably wore cowboy dress more becomingly than several others who fancied themselves more. It was a happy team and a loyal one, carrying its loyalty even to the banquet hall to laugh dutifully at the captain's speeches, though this support was not needed to make them the success that they always were!
An Improvement Since 1951
Since the 1951 tour, the standard of play in Canada has risen, and in the three months which have elapsed since the return of the M.C.C. it is certain that the Canadian cricket officials will have discussed every possibility for improving this standard further. It should be remembered that Canadian cricketers were handicapped in several ways when playing the M.C.C. They were used to half-day league matches which are not good practice for whole-day or two-day games. Throughout Canada there is a dearth of spinners and consequently none but the experienced first-class players from abroad could cope with Bedford, Barber and Piachaud. The best performance against the M.C.C. was by Toronto because it was a club side and not one selected from a region. This emphasised another great handicap. Whereas the M.C.C. rapidly became a combination, selected Canadian sides were unused to each other's play, and the captains could hardly hope to weld an assortment of talents unknown to them into an effective combination in one day's cricket. Experienced players like Trowse, Christen, White and Quintrell could overcome these difficulties, but many others could not, in the conditions, do themselves justice. There is no go slow in Canadian cricket, but a refreshing desire to attack, and the fielding was always extremely keen. The most impressive feature throughout the country was the tremendous enthusiasm of all players and of a legion of people whose interest keeps the game going from committee rooms and scorers' boxes and, if not in white flannels, then in umpire's coats. With this enthusiasm urging them on, many of the junior players with whom we played, or whom we coached, will always be assured of enjoyable cricket in Canada. When one considers the efforts made to keep cricket alive and to ensure its future in Canada, the devotion of its controlling officers and local committees, the distances travelled to play a single game, the care taken over pitches, and the refusal to be disheartened by an often a bathetic press, then those of us who have had our cricket handed to us by our parents, fostered by schools, and encouraged and enjoyed with clubs and universities feel very humble.
Two Men who will be Remembered
Those who planned in such detail for our visit and who shared in the wonderful hospitality given to us everywhere will know already how grateful we are for all their efforts, and we can only hope that their pleasure in the tour approached our own. Two men in particular will be remembered - our couriers. They both met us, one in the - East and one in the West, with apprehension, like trainers encountering a fresh bunch of lions, but they soon became part of the circus. Doug Blacklock suffered any amount of jocular disrespect with benign good humour, and calmly marshalled a not always punctual side without ever breaking out from his placid, measured tread. In a year or two there will be a pub in the south of England where cricketers will always be welcome and where the M.C.C. will collect to see a very close friend. To Bill Weighton cricket means a great deal and to it he devotes a great deal of time. But he found time to guide us through the hectic weeks from Vancouver to Winnipeg without a hitch, and after Winnipeg it was a long time before the side could accept the fact that Bill was no longer one of the party.
Don King and Lew Gunn
It is impossible to mention all the officials who do so much for cricket in Canada. but two men must be mentioned. As we were greeted by our christian names on alighting from the coach at Ridley College by a complete stranger with a very powerful grip, we realised that we had met a remarkable person. This was Don King, without whom cricket in Canada could not exist. Whilst travelling backwards and forwards across the country, his amazing energy and enthusiasm communicate to all districts the policy of the Canadian Cricket Association, a policy aimed at making Canada one of the recognised cricketing countries of the world. All the friends he made in our team wish him every success in all the plans that he has for the attainment of that ideal. The President of the Canadian Cricket Association, Lew Gunn, shares that ideal. He has toured England with a Canadian side and was surely not a long way off playing against us in the Test this summer. The result of the Test was a disappointment to him which a wonderful sense of humour soon conquered, and the night that he was in the chair at the final dinner at Toronto was the happiest of cricket occasions. Many of us received wonderful hospitality at his home with his family for which we shall always be grateful. The kindness and love of cricket which Don and Lew showed us were typical of all that we found in Canada, and these were our, lasting impressions of a memorable tour.
M.C.C. 192 (J. A. Bailey 49, P. 1. Bedford 46*). Montreal 106 (P. 1. Bedford 6 for 32). Won by 86 runs.
M.C.C. 145 (R. W. Barber 37, J. R. Thompson 34). Montreal and District 75 (D. J. Mordaunt 6 for 29). Won by 75 runs.
M.C.C. 133 (R. W. Barber 55) and 168 for 6 dec. (J. R. Thompson 45*, M. H. Bushby 35). Eastern Central 123 (J. D. Piachaud 5 for 15) and 139 for 5 (J. D. Piachaud 4 for 60). Drawn.
M.C.C. 347 for 7 dec. (R. M. Prideaux 91, M. H,-Bushby 71, D. J. Green 56, D. J. Mordaunt 40!). Ottawa 60 for 1. Rain.
M.C.C. 228 for 4 dec. (D. R. W. Silk 128, J. F. Pretlove 41, M. H. Bushby 30). Hamilton and District 157. Won by 71 runs.
M.C.C. 205 for 8 dec. (R. W. Barber 42, D. J. Mordaunt 36*, D. R. W. Silk 34, J. F. Pretlove 33). Toronto 199 for 7 (R. W. Barber 6 for 76). Drawn.
M.C.C. 252 for 8 dec. (M. H. Bushby 61, R. W. Barber 54, R. M. Prideaux 39). Toronto and District 157 (P. I. Bedford 8 for 60). Won by 95 runs.
M.C.C. 195 (D. R. W. Silk 60*, D. J. Green 38). Ontario 112 (P. I. Bedford 5 for 21). Won by 83 runs.
M.C.C. 249 for 5 dec. (R. M. Prideaux 60, A. C. Smith 53*, D. J. Green 49). B.C. Mainland C.L. 134 (R. W. Barber 3 for 19, A. C. Smith 3 for 39). Won by 115 runs.
M.C.C. 211 for 9 dec. (M. H. Bushby 38, A. C. Smith 30) and 61 for 4. Western Canada 111 (J. A. Bailey 4 for 30) and 160 (J. D. Piachaud 5 for 29). Won by 6 wickets.
M.C.C. 193 (C. B. Howland 46, J. R. Thompson 34, D. J. Green 32, D. R. W. Silk 30). Victoria and District 75 (J. A. Bailey 5 for 25). Won by 118 runs.
M.C.C. 246 for 9 dec. (R. M. Prideaux 60, D. R. W. Silk 53, J. F. Pretlove 38, D. J. Green 35). B.C. Colts 48 (J. D. Piachaud 8 for 17). Won by 198 runs. (Not official match.)
M.C.C. 159 (J. F. Pretlove 73, J. D. Piachaud 27*). British Columbia 103 (J. D. Piachaud 6 for 41). Won by 56 runs.
M.C.C. 161 for 6 dec. (D. R. W. Silk 43, J. F. Pretlove 41 *). Okanagan 20 (J. A. Bailey 5 for 9). Won by 141 runs.
M.C.C. 260 for 4 dec. (R. M. Prideaux 140, J. F. Pretlove 58, M. H. Bushby 49). Calgary 79 (R. W. Barber 4 for 11, J. A. Bailey 3 for 19). Won by 181 runs.
M.C.C. 208 for 6 dec. (J. R. Thompson 80, D. R. W. Silk 30*). Edmonton 41 (P. I. Bedford 6 for 24, R. W. Barber 4 for 11). Won by 167 runs.
M.C.C. 242 for 6 dec. (R. W. Barber 73, R. M. Prideaux 45, D. J. Green 38). Alberta 64 (P. I. Bedford 5 for 24, R. W. Barber 4 for 23). Won by 178 runs.
M.C.C. 251 for 4 dec. (R. M. Prideaux 87, R. W. Barber 50, M. H. Bushby 37, D. J. Mordaunt 30). Alberta 54 (P. I. Bedford 5 for 6). Won by 197 runs.
M.C.C. 169 for 7 dec. (D. R. W. Silk 60 *, M. H. Bushby 32). Manitoba 24 for 4 (A. C. Smith 3 for 15, including hat-trick). Rain.
M.C.C. 350 (R. M. Prideaux 106, J. R. Thompson 73, R. W. Barber 54) and 13 for 0. Canada 184 (P. 1. Bedford 5 for 54) and 178 (J. D. Piachaud 7 for 32). Won by 10 wickets.
M.C.C. 160 for 5 dec. Toronto Colts 73. (Not official match.)
M.C.C. 176 for 4 dec. (D. J. Green 66*, M. H. Bushby 54). W. Ontario 46 (J. D. Piachaud 6 for 20). Won by 130 runs.
M.C.C. 217 for 5 dec. (R. M. Prideaux 131). S.W. Ontario 57 (J. D. Piachaud 7 for 25). Won by 160 runs.
M.C.C.. 280 for 5 dec. (D. J. Mordaunt 134, R. M. Prideaux 34). Philadelphia 63 (A. C. Smith 7 for 30). Won by 217 runs.
M.C.C. 302 for 5 dec. (J. F. Pretlove 100*, R. M. Prideaux 61, D. J. Green 47, D. J. Mordaunt 30). British Com. C.C. 88 (P. I. Bedford 5 for 28, J. D. Piachaud 4 for 35). Won by 214 runs.
Record : Played 23, Won 19, Lost 0, Drawn 4.
Centuries R. M. Prideaux (3)-140 v. Calgary, 131 v. S.W. Ontario, 106 v. Canada; D. R. W. Silk-128 v. Hamilton and District; D. J. Mordaunt-134 v. Philadelphia; J. F. Pretlove-100* v. B.C.C.C., Washington.