Saturday, May 13, 2017

First win for Kent over tourists since 1937: 11 to 13 May 1967

This is the point at which we first encounter the author’s younger self, sitting on the grass by the boundary in front of where the Lime Tree Café is now located. There is a photo somewhere to prove this, showing the boy crouching behind the boundary fielder, Bishan Bedi. We reached St Lawrence for the final session of the first day of the game against the Indians in time to see Alan Dixon and John Shepherd hitting out in an unbroken partnership of 172 for the seventh wicket, compiled in two-and-a-half hours, which was roughly the speed of light in 1967.

I recall that the batting was exciting, and the moment when Dixon reached his century, his first since 1960 and the third (and last) of his career. He was helped by some abysmal fielding; Wisden reports that he was dropped three times. Vice-captain of Kent in 1967, Alan Dixon was a fine county cricketer, a genuine all-rounder who perennially batted at No 8, and who could bowl both seam up (as they would have said then) and off spin. In the latter mode he took five for 39 in the second innings.

Kent’s victory was their first over a touring team since the 1937 New Zealanders. They played plenty of good cricket, but still needed help from the weather. The one over that was bowled before the rain came on the third morning meant that the pitch was left uncovered, the Kent spinners sharing the wickets, Stuart Leary taking three with his leg spin, and Derek Underwood two. 

Or did they? Here is John Woodcock on the second day, making it clear that he does not regard Underwood as a spinner.

Strictly speaking, he is right, but misleadingly so. Underwood was medium pace (as I have written before, Playfair categorised him as LM throughout his career), and as Woodcock says elsewhere in his report, he cut rather than spun the ball. But Underwood filled the spinner’s role in any side and came to be regarded as one of the greatest spinners to play the game.

Notice that Kent played a full-strength team for this match, except for Norman Graham, who may have been injured. Despite the relentless six-days-a-week routine of county cricket in the sixties, players wanted to play in what was a prestige fixture, and spectators expected them to. I see that Canterbury Week this year is to be built around a three-day game against the West Indians, and trust that a full-strength side is put out for it.

The Indians of ’67 had plenty of classy batting, particularly Wadekar, Borde and the captain, the Nawab of Pataudi junior. It was wicketkeeper Farokh Engineer who took the eye here, hitting away merrily as he was to do for Lancashire over the next decade. The great quartet of spinners was here: Bedi, Chandrasakar, Venkataraghaven and Prasanna, but is was decent pace, swing and seam that they needed in a damp English spring, and they didn’t have it. Most counties had three or four quick bowlers better than Guha and Mohol who took the new ball for India.

Around the country there were wins for Yorkshire (Illingworth making his off breaks “talk” at Hull according to Peter West), Middlesex (a strong all-round performance from skipper Fred Titmus), Leicestershire (with Tony Lock “baffling” Glamorgan) and Hampshire, who led the table despite having played only two games.

Continuing with theme of the past foreshadowing the present, there were large Conservative gains in the local elections, though they were then in opposition and there was no election in the offing. 

Mick Jagger and Keith Richard were in court on minor drugs charges at the start of the process that led to William Rees-Mogg’s famous charge that the establishment was “breaking a butterfly on a wheel” by pursuing the matter so censoriously.

Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket

In the same package as this year’s Wisden , there arrived Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket , co-authored by Stephen Fay ...