GOOGLIES & CHINAMEN
An Occasional Cricketing Journal
In and Within with the Professor
The Wisden Five
Most years, at about this time, I have a shot at guessing the Wisden “Five Cricketers of the Year”.
The results have been, as they say, “mixed”; my most successful efforts have been when there were three or four fairly obvious candidates. Still it provides a way, if one is needed, of reflecting on the season past and, in the current circumstances, that’s about all any of us can do.
In the unlikely event of any Googlies reader not knowing the “rules”, the five are selected (almost) always from the English season, and no player can win it twice. These are not rules, of course, but conventions and they have not always been enforced. There have been occasional “double” winners and in 1997 Jayasuriya got the nod even though he had not played in England that season. Nor have there always been five. When Wisden started printing this selection in 1889 there were six and the following year, nine. Guessing five is something of a struggle, nine might prove a considerable disincentive. At the other extreme, there have been four years when there was only a single player listed: WG in (of course) 1896, John Wisden in 1913 (player of “the year”?), Pelham Warner in 1921 and JBH in 1926. There was also, in more recent times, the well-known 2011 list of only four players. The terminology has also changed over the years. In early editions they might have been “players of the season” or “great batsmen of the year” or somesuch. In 1919 (the 1918 season being a little disrupted) they were (ye gods!) “Five Public School Cricketers of the Year”; that list included the illustrious cricketer names of Percy Adams and Adrian Gore …quite.
But for many years now it has settled down to five “cricketers of the year” (excepting the 2011 hiccup) and also from 2009 has included women cricketers (the great Claire Taylor).
One final complication – should one more be needed – is that the exercise isn’t to select your own favoured list but the list that the Wisden editor might choose. So, for example, a stalwart county cricketer who has an exceptional season or has done something memorable, might just sneak onto the list for that year, (Ian Austin, in 1999, is the embodiment of this process).
“So” - as all Australians like to begin every sentence - what about this year?
I have a long list from what was, most would agree, a stunning season. Since there was so much cricket and of such a standard, I think this year is especially difficult.
I have two “bankers” (not, it must be said, always a guarantee of success) in Archer and Sibley. The first on the international stage (22 Ashes wickets and the World Cup) and the other at County level (over 1,300 runs) and (admittedly, a touch after the domestic season) looking as if he might be England’s opener for some time.
Who else? Well, from the Ashes series: Marnus Labuschagne and Pat Cummins; from County cricket: Simon Harmer and Daren Stevens; from the World Cup, any number of players but perhaps Shakib; and from women’s cricket, the two Australians, Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry.
That gives nine in all, and a fair few more could be added. “So” …how to reduce the list?
Labuschagne had an excellent County Championship season (albeit Div. 2) and splendidly took his chance in the Test side, averaging over 50. Cummins was the top Ashes wicket taker and, arguably, with Smith (selected in 2016), the key to Australia’s retention.
Simon Harmer, who, according to Simon Harmer, is “the World’s best off spinner” (he may be right) took most Div 1 Championship wickets – including ten 5-fers - was thus a major part of their Championship success, and as captain led Essex to the Blast title. Halfway through the season, Darren Stevens was on loan from Kent and it was then announced that he would be “released” (always a rather odd term I think) at the end. He then had a decidedly purple patch including his highest ever first-class score of 237 against Yorkshire (I was there). The “release” was withdrawn, and he now has a new contract. Stevens also took 52 wickets with 30% of his overs being maidens. I doubt he will be in the 5 but he might pick up the Ian Austin award.
There were so many stunning performances in what was an unforgettable World Cup but Shakib must certainly be in a compilation of the best side and, arguably, the best player in the (for him) eight match series.
The Australian women’s side trounced England in the Ashes series and their two star players (or two of their star players) were captain Meg Lanning, who scored a spectacular 133 in a T20 match and Ellyse Perry, who seemed to be “player of the match” in almost every game.
“So” …decision time:
My two bankers (poor things) Archer and Sibley, plus Cummins, Harmer and Perry.
I’ll be happy with two out of five.
This & That
I was just finalising this edition when I got a call from Bob Peach. These days such calls normally herald bad news, and this was no exception. Ossie Burton died last week from the virus after complications from a heart attack last year. I will publish all memories of and tributes to Ossie next month. Please send me your thoughts.
It is somewhat ironic to be cancelling Championship cricket because the spectators might be too close to each other. For years you have had the whole stand to yourself if you bother to turn up.
It will be interesting to see how the authorities fudge things to give Liverpool the title.
It is unlikely that there will be any current sport to report on over the next couple of issues and so I would particularly welcome from readers any contributions, nostalgic or otherwise.
In the T20 at Kandy Sri Lanka made only a modest 155 for 6 which the West Indies knocked off with three overs to spare, thanks largely to Andre Russell’s 40 not out from 14 balls and which included 6 sixes.
The England ODI performance in South Africa looks better than it did at the time as the home side went on to thrash Australia 3-0 the following month. In the final match South Africa-born Marnus Laubuschange made 108, his maiden ODI century, but Australia could only accumulate 254-7. The South Africans cruised their target with 27 balls remaining with JJ Smuts hitting 84 from 98 balls.
The Great man is reconciled to a summer without cricket
Rs are now back in the top half of the table after a surprise 1-3 win at promotion hopefuls Preston with only 10 men (Geoff Cameron was sent off). Rs 3 second half goals came from Hall, Manning and Eze and they are only six points off the play-off places.
Oz are the Women's T20 WC champs easily beating India in the final in Melbourne. 86,174 attended.
The G agrees with me about the England / Wales game, the headline is "Wales flattered by score line. England prop Joe Marler is in deep shit for grabbing Welsh capt Alun Wyn Jones by the bollocks, an act that Charlotte Wilson caught on camera for the G!
J Marler can expect a ban of at least 12 weeks, which would put him out of the summer tour to Japan and would put a question mark over his international future. The disciplinary panel may also take a dim view of Joe's tweet "bollocks. Complete bollocks".
A big pile of bumf arrived from Middlesex CCC today, of which I have read hardly any so far, but I did notice that one AE Moss continues to do sterling work for the Trustees of Middlesex Cricket Trust despite his recent death.
Joe Marler has been banned for 10 weeks, which pretty much ends his season, while M Tuilagi has received a 4-week suspension.
This morning's news was the England Test series in SL was definitely going ahead, but I have just accessed the Beeb website and have immediately been confronted by the news that the series is off! The reason, of course, is the coronavirus even though there have been repeated assurances that SL was virus-free! There are other virus cancellations happening around the world.
Sat pm: there is hardly any football on today, but Hampton are definitely playing as I can hear the occasional roar. They are playing Oxford City and it is 1-1 at half-time...and at full time. Hampton stay in 8th place, one slot outside the play-off places.
The O's sports supplement is a pathetic sight this week. It has been reduced to a skinny 12 pages, but even so they struggled to find anything to fill it. There was one page of cricket, which was slightly interesting, but the rest was tedious.
Mon 16/3; Six Surrey players are self-isolating "as a precautionary measure". Umpteen tours abroad are ending early or being cancelled altogether. SA has suspended all cricket and football activities.
Tue 17/3: Alex Hales is self-isolating having returned from Pakistan with coronavirus symptoms. Euro 2020 has been postponed for a year to 2021: this seems sensible to me. Other sports are putting things back by a few weeks, which will not solve anything.
Wed 18/3: England cricket is "braced for a delayed start to the season", but the main problem is that "the biggest priority is being able to stage the men's international schedule and the Hundred" which is completely hopeless as I never attend the first of those and will take no interest in the second. Those I do take an interest in ie the Championship and the 50 over Cup are the formats that are most under threat so I could go through the season without seeing any cricket at all. Jimmy Anderson says, "we might not even bowl a ball this summer". Jack Morgan says, "I might not even see a ball bowled this summer".
Fri 20/3: there is "cautious optimism" that the 2020 season may yet be salvaged. Middlesex chief exec Richard Goatley said: "we all expect a delayed start to the summer because sport across the board has been cancelled in the coming months. But the ECB seem really on top of this and focused. We're seeing the right sort of leadership. We might be playing cricket before people might think too. We shouldn't be writing off the cricket season just yet." I suppose it is encouraging that people are optimistic, but I do not feel optimistic myself. The G fills a space in the sports pages with a report from Vic Marks on the Somerset v Essex Gillette Cup semi in .... 1978! In case you cannot remember, Somerset narrowly won a thriller, but were soundly beaten by Sussex in the final. Alec Stewart confirms that the Hundred and the T20 are likely to be the only domestic competitions played this summer.
Sat 21/3: it is official, the start of the season has been put back to the end of May; no details at the moment.
I have just finished reading the 130-page April issue of the Cricketer, which (almost) completely ignores the topic of the coronavirus. The only two mentions in the whole mag are in i) Simon Hughes's editorial: "Let us hope that it is not the year that all county cricket is staged behind closed doors because of Covid-19. The UK's deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries sounded a positive note when she suggested on March 10 that the virus 'will not survive very long outside', making large public gatherings outside less of a risk than in community centres or, say, pubs"; and ii) on the news pages: "culture secretary Oliver Dowden said it was 'very premature' to be talking about cancelling sporting events in the UK. He said the decision will be driven by the facts and evidence and science". That's it, subject closed!
On Middlesex's prospects for the new season, Nick Friend concludes: "it would be a surprise if Middlesex's white ball reinvigoration did not continue under Morgan. As for the Championship... hopes of promotion might depend on a significant upturn with the bat." There is also a double page spread on Middlesex "reject" Harry Podmore, now excelling with Kent (95 wickets in two seasons). We are also treated to a prominent photo of a totally bald pair of Middlesex pace bowlers, our old mates MWW Selvey and SP Hughes and a longish article (including 2 photos) on our ex-keeper Ben Scott, who now runs a company called Kinetic Cricket.
Sun 22/3: Vic says, "there may be no red-ball cricket at domestic level this season, such is the eagerness to satisfy TV companies", who want Test Matches and T20 (and possibly the Hundred).
Mon 23/3: the county season has been delayed by at least 7 weeks until 28 May.
Wed 25/3: no sports news today, but it is interesting to note that off-licences have been added to the governments list of essential UK retailers allowed to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic!
Fri 27/3: Ali Martin makes a valiant effort in today's G with 2 long and fairly interesting assessments of the current prospects for the coming (?) season, but it is really all speculation with little in the way of hard facts, which cannot disguise the fact that, once again, there really is no sports news. Later, I looked at the BBC website and found that there was some news after all: Ollie Rayner has retired aged 34 after 313 fc wickets @ 33.26, 51 of which helped Middlesex win the County Championship in 2016. The Beeb fails to mention his brilliant close catching and his (sometimes) handy batting. He also played for Sussex, Hampshire and Kent. In due course, I hope to come up with his complete career record, but at present, I only have figures up to 2018: first class runs 3,251 @ 20.7 with 2 hundreds, best 143* v Notts @TB 2012, his best bowling was 8-46 v Surrey at the Oval 2013 (I was there!) and he had 189 first class catches at the end of 2018.
Sat 28/3: I thought the G might have had a few words to say about Ollie, but there not a solitary word... there's so much other stuff going on, of course! So, I tried the Middlesex website and (guess what?) Ollie does not get a mention!
Sun 29/3: today's only cricket news is that Sir A Cook wants to cancel the County Championship! I think he means just for this year, but he does not make it clear.
Wembley, Pricey etc. Matters
Bob Fisher joins in these recollections
I enjoyed very much the article in the latest edition by Alvin
Nienow as it brought back warm memories of John Price, Bob Talbot, Ken
Pearce, David Watson, Peter Ray and Bobby Pipe.
In 1959, we played Wembley at Corfton Road and it was in an Evening
Standard League game. This league was a 'hotch potch' and the only way I
can describe it being played was that if you played another Middlesex
side then that constituted a league game and there were points allocated
dependent on the result. At the end of the season, the Standard
calculated the points per game average and the winner was the club with
the best average. Looking back if a club had played just one game and won
then their average would have made them an unassailable league winner.
We in fact topped The Middlesex Division and played a Surrey side in a
final which we won, the first ever piece of silverware won by the club.
However, in the game against Wembley they made a high score with their
opening batsman, who's surname I believe was Thomas making a century.
Alan Price was a regular at this stage in the 1st team whilst I was just
making up the numbers, by then not keeping wicket, but a reasonable
fielder. Anyway, I was batting at 10 and Alan at 11 and John Price
having run through our early batting had us 9 down when Alan joined me
at the wicket. It was in the era when a minimum of 20 overs had to be
bowled in the last hour and there were around 10 overs to go. Somehow
with Price bowling from one end and Ray from the other, we managed to
block out surrounded by Wembley fielders. As we walked off, Bobby Pipe
hurried after us both and shook our hands congratulating us on our
defiant display. Some 60 years later, I can almost still feel the warmness of his handshake.
At Corfton Road back in those days, there was no kitchen attached to the
side of the pavilion as there is now and in that area for each game was
sat a number of regular supporters of the club who were noisy and let
you know if you misfielded the ball but they seemed to have a good
knowledge of the game.
The club also had a steward who was responsible for opening and closing
the gate that led from the pavilion entrance to the field of play. I can
remember fielding in that area in a game against the Bush when Bob
Talbot was both coming out to bat and when his innings was over and this
group of men clapped him both onto the field and out of it. Another good
memory of years long ago.
Peter Burke adds to the Wembley compendium with this anecdote supplied by his brother, Jeff.
Amusing to see Prof Nienow in print and confirming the old Bush games against Wembley and JSE Price in the depths of autumn/winter! I may be wrong and memory fails (it usually does!) but I seem to remember Bobby Pipe going on to be secretary of Northwood Golf Club, where such cricketing luminaries as Carl Goldsmith, Mike Heaffey, Ron Hooker, Brian Hall et al played in the 80’s and 90’s. There must be a legion of stories about those times and that crowd!
There are also a legion concerning the Bush piss artist and banker extraordinary, Steve Thomas.
Again, the Bush are playing Wembley in the October gloom on their ground, The Bush scraped together a side including my brother probably in his mid-teens...... and also Steve Thomas.
At the end with the Bush hanging on for a draw in the absolute gloom, he swears Pricey was bowling, (but it may have been Peter Ray), Steve Thomas said “Fuck this”, went to the car park and drove his car onto the outfield behind the bowlers arm with the headlights shining down the pitch on full beam!
Nostalgic Wit Matters
Peter Burke suggests that readers should send in their best and most humorous club cricket memories? It could get the memory banks working during these difficult times.
He shared this suggestion with Alvin Nienow who replied:
What a good idea! There must be so many hilarious tales from both on and off the field. It could fill the pages of Googlies many times over; and with so much gloom around it could keep us cheerful until we come out the end of this pandemic or until we keel over! Given the age of most of its readers, I fear it could be the latter. I will send something.
We shall see what is forthcoming
George continues his series of nostalgic pieces with this by Simon Burnton
There can’t be many Tests with such an unexpected twist as that between England and West Indies in Port of Spain, 52 years ago this week. Here’s Bruce Barber in the Guardian at the end of day three, under the headline “A disgrace to the name of cricket”: “In the mid-afternoon hours the only critical problem was to decide whether the batting or the bowling plumbed the lower depths …
“Some devil’s brew was served at lunch, for after that the name of cricket was tarnished. Carew, a second-change off-spinner who would be lucky to get on most Saturdays in league cricket, was allowed to bowl 13 overs, of which 12 were maidens, for one run and one wicket. The leg-breaks of Rodriguez were a distant approximation of that mystic art which Wright or O’Reilly would have disdained to own, so high was the proportion of full tosses and long hops and even no-balls. From 35 overs, 35 runs were struck.”
Two days later: “England defeated the West Indies in the fourth Test today in one of the most stirring finishes ever to thrill a cricket crowd.”
In between: the declaration, an act of cricketing alchemy that turned what was ghastly into gold.
West Indies were 92 for two, 215 runs ahead with a draw apparently guaranteed, when Garry Sobers called them in, giving England 53 overs to knock off the required runs. This was, to be fair, an England team that rarely scored anything but slugglishly, and had almost capitulated when Sobers tried a similar trick in the second Test, but this time they clicked into gear. The finish line was crossed with three balls to spare, and Sobers took the blame. That night an effigy of the West Indies captain was hanged and burned in Port of Spain, and his reputation never recovered. “That declaration and result followed me for the remainder of my career,” he grumbled.
Much of the most interesting moments in that series happened, like the declaration, off the field of play. During the fifth day of the second Test a riot erupted in protest at Basil Butcher’s dismissal, leading to an 80-minute delay and the plentiful if imprecise use of tear gas. “The police threw their gas bombs straight in the path of the prevailing north-east winds,” Alan Ross wrote in the Observer. “As a result, those whom they wished to flush out escaped almost scot-free while the players, the TV cameramen, the cowering members and their friends in the pavilion were obliged to undergo the mild equivalent of a Somme gas attack. Tear gas is a very unpleasant business, scorching both eyes and lungs, and I don’t recommend it.”
After that game, like the first, was drawn England moved to Barbados, where during preparations for the third Test the vice-captain and best all-rounder, Fred Titmus, lost four toes in a swimming accident. “Two were cut off by the propeller of a small speedboat around which Titmus and several teammates were cavorting as carefree as dolphins near the shore,” the Guardian reported, “and two others had to be amputated.” Astonishingly Titmus returned to action within two months but would play only four more Tests, and none for six and a half years.
And then the declaration, which prompted the only positive result in a series that otherwise featured four draws.
That this series is seen as some kind of nadir for Sobers is puzzling. He scored more runs than anyone else on either side, averaging 90.83; only the spinner Lance Gibbs bowled more than his 232.5 overs; and among the West Indies players he ranked No 2 for wickets and No 1 for catches. Also confusing is the divergence between his extremely negative view of the series, and other observers’ more positive spins.
“That series was so boring,” Sobers wrote. “England were bowling something like 12 or 13 overs an hour operating with two spinners for much of the time and eight men on the offside, bowling on the off stump. I got so sick of it. I was so fed up. I was there to play cricket and this wasn’t what I thought of as cricket.” The former England player Reg Simpson said England’s slow over-rate was “negative and dull, and the sort of thing that is killing cricket”, adding: “I applaud Sobers all the way and am quite disgusted at England’s bowling only 22 overs in two hours. There was no justification for it and people have a right to be incensed by it.”
Meanwhile in the Guardian, Bruce Barber gushed of the series that “Barbados in the third Test afforded respite from almost unbearable thrills”. In the Observer, Ross was equally effusive: “Four thrillers out of five is something no one can complain about, though most of the Tests took a long time to get under way, keeping up a predictable steady rhythm until the weekend and then, on the verge of drifting into stalemate, accelerating into high drama. Cricket as a spectacle in the West Indies tends to be disappointing but each match, often surprisingly, acquired a dramatic intensity of its own and the series as a whole was an astonishing one.”
Without the Sobers declaration, none of those words would have been written. It was a gamble that lost his side the Test and the series, and himself a reputation, but it also turned the mundane into the memorable, and as such was surely a noble act of self-sacrifice in the causes of sport and entertainment. “I wanted to make a game of it rather than letting the game die,” Sobers said. “When things pay off you are great and when they don’t you are a darn idiot.” The truth is that this one did pay off, and handsomely. Perhaps it’s time this moment was redefined as something that rather than castigation deserves celebration.
The Professor ran into Douglas back in PCV times in South Africa
It was pleasure to meet the Professor in Port Elizabeth. He does have an enviably deep understanding of the game, though it was food for thought when one of the three square legs set again at PE held an important catch.
On one matter I diverge from comments in Googlies: the band at Port Elizabeth. I have played cricket at Burton’s Court in Chelsea, where, in times past, it was counted a particular pleasure to have one of the regimental bands playing. I recall, on the other hand, that when a similar privilege was afforded to an early Village Cup final at Lord’s one of the players asked for the music to stop as it affected his concentration.
To me, it would be quite wrong to think of the traditional band at Port Elizabeth as anything but a pleasure to listen to. As one who has little time for what is now classed as music, their tuneful melodies were a delightful contrast. Also, in the main, they know when to keep quiet.
My party piece has long been the writing down of every Test cricketer since the war. There are 404 if you want to have a go. I was caught on the hop by being invited to write down every such player from the inter-war years and gratified to get to around 125 of a total of 140. This all led me to compose a quiz. I am aware that almost every question is now answerable without moving from your chair, mainly via Cricket Archive though there are other sources. So, if you are interested in having a go, I suggest two points an answer before looking up and one thereafter. With best wishes as we await the smell of freshly mown grass and leather.
1. Who won his first cap in the same Test match as these England captains:
a) Mike Atherton
b) Nasser Hussain
c) Michael Vaughan (2)
d) Ted Dexter (2)
e) Alastair Cook (2)
2. Nineteen men played Test cricket for England before and after World War II. Can you name them?
3. From the nineteen name:
a) The four who made a Test century both before and after the war;
b) The four who made one only before the war but not after;
c) The only one who made his first Test century after the war.
4. Name the ten players who made England Test appearances before and after World War I.
5. Name the four England umpires currently on the ICC elite panel.
6. The last specialist batsman to be a one-cap wonder in Tests for England was Alan Wells. Name the other players with only one cap since then. There have been 14.
7. Of all England’s post-war one-cap Test players, who has made the highest score?
8. Name the pairs of brothers who have played Test cricket for England since the War. (5)
9. And the fathers and sons who both played post-war. (8)
10. And the fathers and sons who played but with the father only pre-war. (3)
11. And all post-war Test England cricketers with a grandfather who was a Test cricketer. (3)
12. Name the 29 players who appeared for England in the summer tests of 1989.
13. Which England Test cricketer died while playing in an inter-diocesan cricket match?
14. Which England cricketer lost the 1934 season as he was in prison for manslaughter?
15. Which England cricketer was in the squad for a football world cup?
16. Which England cricketer received a jail sentence of 13 years for drug smuggling?
17. Which England cricketer, after the death of another Test cricketer, married his widow?
18. Which England captain lived to read his own obituary?
19. Who was the England captain in Hobbs’ first Test match?
20. Which England cricketer played as a saxophonist in the band of Fred Elizalde?
Big Bash Matters
Nick Howson picks his team of the 2019/20 season
- Marcus Stoinis
The opener's blistering 147 against Sydney Sixers was the standout performance of the competition.
- Josh Philippe
One of the most promising uncapped Australian players around and among a batch of players who could yet propel himself into the squad for either of the next two World Cups.
- Liam Livingstone
With the sixth-most runs and seventh-best bowling average, the Englishman was the premier allrounder in Australia.
- Alex Hales
The sleeping giant of England's T20 roster who kept Thunder's hopes alive longer than they probably should have been. As they snuck into the playoffs Hales went on an outstanding run of scores. Scores of 85, 63, 47, 60 and 59 put Thunder one match away from the final.
- Jonathan Wells
Wells was the best middle-order batsman in the tournament as Strikers reached The Knockout before stumbling. He had a handy knack of coming in to recover a situation and on seven occasions finished unbeaten.
- Glenn Maxwell
Faded after a fast start but when Maxwell came to the part Stars looked near-enough invincible. Influential with the bat, coy with the ball and intelligent in the fielding with a good rotation of bowlers and fielders.
- Beau Webster
Only five players hit more runs in the competition which given his place in the order was an admirable effort.
- Tom Curran
Only one player took more scalps in the competition with the England allrounder excelling to drive Sixers to glory.
- Adam Zampa
A deceptively good bowler whose wickets often came from batsmen taking him lightly. Had a truncated competition thanks to the India ODI series but upon his return was arguably the best bowler around. He took 10 wickets in the last four matches as Stars reached the final.
- Daniel Sams
The top wicket-taker in the competition as Thunder went within one match of the final. His 30 is the most ever taken in a single Big Bash campaign.
- Haris Rauf
The fairytale story of the Big Bash. The 26-year-old had three different spells with Stars as an injury replacement but was one of the most potent seamers around. His pace was lightning and accuracy metronomic.
The Last Old Danes Gathering
If the current embargoes are relaxed in time this event will go ahead. I will try to be more specific next month.
All the back editions of Googlies can be found on the G&C website. There are also many photographs most of which have never appeared in Googlies.
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