Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Canterbury Week 1965: It Begins

Thursday 5 August 1965.

LBJ is in the White House. That night Morley Safer’s CBS News report showing US troops setting light to the homes of unarmed Vietnamese villagers starts to turn public opinion against the war.

In London, the Wilson Cabinet and the House of Commons meet for the last time before the summer break. “The whole place is completely conked out” records the Minister of Housing and diarist, Richard Crossman. “We have taken a terrible beating; our own people are disheartened and the press are utterly vicious.”

The Beatles are No 1 with Help!, both on Top of the Pops—Alan Freeman presenting on BBC 1—and at the cinemas.

In Kent, My Life in Cricket Scorecards goes to the cricket for the first time, fifty years ago today.

It was Canterbury Week, Middlesex the visitors. A Thursday, half-day closing in Herne Bay, so our grocer’s shop shut at one and we got there for the afternoon session. My Dad had been lent somebody’s membership card (thus adding a touch of illicitness to the outing) and we took our seats in the what was then referred to as “the wooden stand”, but which now bears the names of two of those playing that day, not much more than boys, but who have been surpassed by none in the half-century since, in my eyes at least: Derek Underwood and Alan Knott. Mike Brearley appeared for the visitors.

Piecing together the evidence from Wisden, I certainly saw Knott bat, but not for long; he was out for a duck, just as he was the last time I saw him, twenty summers later. I have no specific memory of Brian Luckhurst completing the first century that I ever saw, but the Wisden helpfully says that he batted for three hours 40 minutes, so I must have joined in the applause, and that for a jaunty eighty by Alan Dixon.

Dixon had a good game. Kent had scored only 138 batting first, but his five for 22 had helped conjure a lead of 65 as Middlesex were skittled for 73. Four of Dixon’s five victims went for ducks, as did two more off Alan Brown the fast bowler. Those were the days of uncovered pitches of course, but Wisden’s report makes no mention of it having rained and tellingly, young Underwood didn’t even get a bowl. Difficult pitches were accepted as part of the game.

Batting was easier by Thursday afternoon. Bob Wilson, captain in Colin Cowdrey’s absence at the test match, declared at nine down at about the time we left. Eric Russell made a hundred, but Kent still won by 76 runs.

In truth, I remember nothing precise about the play. But the occasion stays with me: the buzz of the stand, abating as the first ball of the over was bowled; the attractiveness of white movement on green grass; all those numbers flicking over on the scoreboard; a scorecard (cricket and writing went together even then); the routine, the ritual, the theatre. 

The recruiting officer signed me up there and then.

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