The 25th Anniversary Match Report
A one-eyed view from the ex-captains’ perspective
Anniversaries are a bit like funerals, a time for retrospection, a gathering of like-minded souls, memories, the inability to remember, thoughts of what might have been, a general totally biased glorification of past achievements by one and all — for a few magic moments time almost comes to a standstill.
On the other hand, back in 1974 the Rolling Stones wrote:
Time waits for no one, no favours has he
Time waits for no one, and he won’t wait for me
Drink in your summer, gather your corn
The dreams of the night time will vanish by dawn
And time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me
And time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me
No no no, not for me….
What that has got to do with this cricket match is beyond me, but somehow it snuck into this match report while I wasn’t watching.
Anyway, back to the plot. Expectations were certainly high — who could possibly forget the last anniversary match some 5 years ago? How time flies — feels like bloody yesterday…
The ex-captains side were not given a chance on paper, with an average age some 20 years higher than the current MCC side. It all came down to the last over, almost in total darkness – A Kiwi from Auckland (Bostock) with not much of a reputation with a bat in his hand, facing up to a tri-athlete from Christchurch (van Dalsum), who is his heyday was terrifyingly fast on a very hard Hirschanger wicket, a while back in one of those drought-ridden starts to a cricket season — this is not to mention all the other remarkable feats he has graced village cricket in Germany with over the years. For innocent bystanders, this might have been a Plunkett Shield showdown between two of the biggest rivals known to the Land of The Long White Cloud. In true FA Cup tradition, on this day the underdog had the upper hand and miraculously summoned all his limited potential and a little that he had only momentarily ever known, to pummel this South Island upstart down the ground seemingly for a six to win the game. But the cricket gods had other ideas, and due to the darkness of the darkness, the umpires had to give the benefit of the doubt to the bowler and signalled only a four. Nonetheless, the current MCC side clutched victory from the jaws of defeat a couple of balls later to win by a whisker.
What we were in for this time round? On paper, the ex-captains side had a much stronger bowling line-up to what they could muster five years ago, where their seam attack was short of numbers. On this occasion, the line-up read like a who’s-who of past MCC fast bowling legends. Tony Jacobs, the living legend per se (unrivalled on 206 wickets for the club), still playing at the ripe old age of 87, or was it 67? He’s the one who’s taken more five-fers than most of you have had hot crumpet either before or even during breakfast. As Des pointed out, one of the humble current players (doubtless a dying breed) went up to Tony in the pub, and asked “Are you THE Tony Jacobs?” (“How about an autograph, Richie, who should I make it out to?” — those were the days). Tony captained MCC back in the 80’s, and was Trevor Hazeldine’s successor, if my memory serves me well.
Trevor was also there, all the way from Sydney. He was one of the original founders of the club from RFE (Radio Free Europe); for those of you too young to have heard of this outfit, it was a bit like the RAF, but without the machine guns! No, if the truth be known, it was a CIA-financed organisation that broadcast to eastern Europe in the local languages in the Iron Curtain days, and was for many the only avenue to objective news broadcasts. But when some Bulgarian secret service fellow turned up at the flat of one the RFE employees, it certainly put the willies up the rest of them (“The bowler’s Holding, the batman’s Willey” — those were the days). Trevor had only a relatively short stay at the club, but has remarkably to this day the best bowling average of those worthy of being included in the all-time bowling statistics list. Trevor had a classic bowling action, that reminded to a point of the infamous Thommo, awesome stuff. He was also a very useful lower order batsman, who played the odd cameo — in the Pommie Ashes side, he would have been batting at No.6 (sic). He had a remarkable knack in commanding his bowling line-up, and was known for some very unorthodox but successful bowling changes. None more so, than a quite unbelievable game against NAMMA, at a ground at a Munich Nato base. MCC had struggled to make 107, which was not really going to be enough. Namma had two batsmen, Hardy and Blake, who were known for their brutal slaying of bowling attacks in the Munich league. Hardy once made about 180 out at the MIC ground — couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch! That’s neither here nor there, but on this Satdee arvo, NAMMA were cruising at 81 for 2 after 17 overs. This is the moment when regular bowlers try to look inconspicuous in the field, as the desperate captain, looks for someone to make an impression. I personally was most grateful not to be put to the sword, and Trevor instead went for Chris Langfelder. A phenomenal leg-side stumping of Blake, from our Aussie banana-bending keeper, where poor Blake barely raised his heel out of the crease, and the rot set in — the rest is history: Chris took for 5 for 3, and NAMMA were all out for 89. One could never forget Trevor sitting in the beer-garden hours later, still shaking his head at what had happened.
Ross Crichton was also in the seam attack, an off-stump to off-stump bowler whose accuracy was second to none. His delivery stride at times was so close to the stumps, that he was in serious danger of damaging the “house jewels” ( or the “wife’s-best-friend” — take your pick). He hadn’t played though since 1993. Mark Lichtenhein, also an active player, was another who served the club admirably over a long stint, with miserly accuracy — he was the club’s first ever European Operations Manager, and to this day no-one really knows what this title meant — he did organise the odd tour, and how could anyone forget how in Basel in terrible heat, he managed to snick an attempted pull into his eyebrow — to say the least, there was more than the usual red stain down his groin on this afternoon.
In the spin department, there was the afore-mentioned Langfelder, whose brilliant use of flight manages to hide a seeming lack of spin — there is to this day some doubt whether Chris actually tries to spin the ball, but with 177 wickets to his name, it must be pretty useful whatever he does. Yours truly bowls the odd leg-spin, but certainly got more turn on the turf or coconut matting wickets we used to play on, than the current FLICK OFF pitch. And last but not least, there is Graham Lees, also a former RFE spy, who came all the way from Bangkok, or was it Hong Kong (“picked up VC in the war, or that was what his mother said” – Pete & Dud). He bowls left-arm orthodox in principle, although the bag of tricks he comes up with in any given spell, bares little in resemblance to Derek Underwood, whose feats he doubtless would love to live up to.
The batting line-up was a different matter. Here the stocks were not quite up to the high standard set 5 years ago. Vince Scanlan (sitting in 11th place with 1248 runs for the club) was doubtless going to be sorely missed. Bill Cooper the swashbuckling batsman, and top wicket-keeper (with 1883 runs 6th in the club’s batting list) would have to be relied on for another cameo — little did we know that he wasn’t going to show, which was an awful pity. Jai Singh could not make up his mind whether he could come, and eventually missed selection — but could have taken Bill’s spot had he turned up. Doug Giles, who for unknown reason was continually called the “5th highest run-maker of all time” in the pub on Fridee night (1941 runs in the last printed stats) — his fans were certainly many that night, especially those with the big thirst and loud mouths; the following day Des also mentioned that Doug with 155 innings prior to this match, was the batsman with the most innings for the club — it’d make you wonder whether he actually takes the pads off. This reminds of the famous Aussie batsman Ian Redpath who was also a very passionate Victorian football follower of his beloved South Melbourne (later Sydney Swans), who even insisted on wearing his Swans sweater on his wedding night — whether Doug would admit to a similar feat on his is hard to know. And for those of who used to frequent the winter St Annahof cricket Stammtisch evenings on a Friday night, could hardly forget some of the marvellous discussions/arguments that Doug used to get involved in, taking the mickey out of conservative political opinions — he invariably turned up in a festive mood — whether they always had birthday celebrations on Friday arvos at work, or he was otherwise engaged is not known (as Trevor Hazeldine would have said: “In don’t know what he’s on, but I’ll have a crate of it”). However, Giles and Carr posted most of their best scores literally decades ago. On paper, it was difficult to determine how soon the tail actually began.
On Friday night in the pub, the current captain Lovell (Lovo to some) claimed there was no point playing unless we changed the sides (what a cheek — as Steve Waugh said to Ganguly in his last Test: “show a bit of respect, pal”). Who does this upstart think he is — does he simply drink too much — hard to say, I was never there when the odd bike or bat went missing at 7am in the morning somewhere in Englischer Garden, or wherever (sending out a search party was never an option as the man himself was never quite sure how he got home, let alone which route he took). Or was he just the old “two-bob watch” or even a standard “turd-puncher”? The members of the ex-captains’ side just sat there in disbelief and hoped that this little so-and-so was going to have to eat his words. For those of you who were unlucky to miss out, there was a very interesting walk from the pub along Maximialanstrasse to the Odeonsplatz U-bahn. Trevor Hazeldine might have been a little shaky on his feet, but when two are walking along at 2am in the morning, one is never quite sure who is bumping into who. Trevor remembered his Munich days, when in journalistic terms, he had the impression that they were really making an impact, compared to some of the more tedious inconsequential work he currently has to suffer. He also mentioned the very special passion that Victorians show for their football, quite different to a Sydney-sider’s following of a Rugby league club. This passion seems to be omnipresent, when the ex-legends of the club come together; it can also be described by the one-and-only Dermie Brereton, an ex-legend Aussie Rules footballer, who wore the number 23, well before some other upstart in another code made this number infamous. He played the game how it should be played, hard as bloody nails, asked for no quarter and gave none — a man playing a man’s game. A few years ago, it was claimed he was the instigator in the so-called “draw a line in the sand” game, when his former club was getting a hounding by one of their arch-rivals. What followed is history: his side got thrashed, but they won the fight — several players were disqualified for lengthy periods. The morale of the story: the result’s not important, but how you play the game! Or as Greg Chappell was quoted just after the underarm bowling incident back in 1981:
“… The most important thing is not to win but to take part; just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is to have fought well…”
The day itself was a glorious sunny afternoon fitting for the occasion. Bill Cooper didn’t show up, and Trevor was busy trying to relocate his luggage that BA had mislaid, forcing him to invest in some new clothing. Matt Parry and Paul McGree, a last minute inclusion, opened the ex-captains innings, and handled the bowling with ease. Matt has recently left Munich to head for London, where he is now combining physics and statistics, doubtless in a lot different fashion than Mr Chairman has ever attempted, either while compiling the club statistics, or in trying to defy the laws of physics and add to his remarkable tally of 141 wickets.
Paul started very cautiously in true Boycott tradition (no shot forward of point before lunch was Boycott’s motto). However, several ex-captains batsmen seem to have got a start, but the lack of match practice may have caused the string of rash strokes that lead to their own downfalls instead of building potentially solid innings to support Paul. This left the side in a difficult situation with the possibility of an innings total well short of a competitive score. At the break Paul and Mark Lichtenhein were still holding things together. Paul started very cautiously, but ended up seeing the ball like a bleeding water-melon and made about 66, a lifetime high score. The way he pasted the current MCC attack around the park made Lovo’s prediction of a one-sided affair look a little short on intellectual content. Paul did admit afterwards that knowing the opposition’s bowlers inside out, did help a little. He was ably supported by Mark who was probably seeing it like a bloody pineapple, and also got stuck into some ordinary bowling with a few very well struck blows, ending up with about 35.
Tony Jacobs is not only a legend bowling, but also has one record which never likely to be beaten — seven consecutive ducks in a season, all LBW!!! This came about from a tactic used by several world-class players — the proverbial Harlem Shuffle in front of the wicket just as the ball is bowled — the deciding factor being that the top batsmen made contact with the ball, while Tony was seen muttering to himself as he wandered off the ground bemoaning another early end to a potentially match-winning innings. Thus, when Tony came to the wicket, there was a distinct hush amongst the large crowd, all thinking “My God, history is not going to repeat itself?” Tony had other ideas, and although the signature shuffle was as obvious as bloody daylight, he casually clipped the ball through mid-wicket for two runs, and left several former colleagues eating their words. The ex-captains side ended up with about 149, and certainly Lovo looked more like a flannelled fool, than a top captain, as he wandered off for the tea break.
On paper, this game was set up for a scintillating second stanza. But on paper, so was the last Ashes — right Tones, “it’s going to be close”. The old hand Pidgeon McGrath was dead right (5:0 — close my arse!). If this bowling attack could bowl anywhere near to it’s potential, some of the MCC batsmen were going to have their work cut out. But it wasn’t to be. Tony and Mark, bowled very admirable spells. Trevor, who hadn’t played any cricket since about 1987, had lost the odd yard, while Ross Crichton’s radar gave you the impression he had been watching too much of that fellow Harmison (“Barmy Harmy”), whose first ball at the Gabba in the First Test, landed in the disbelieving hands of England’s all-time most unsuccessful captain, Fredalo himself, at second slip! The spin department only showed rare glimpses of past magic, with two catches taken in the deep, but with some pretty ordinary stuff in between. Warnie put one past Weston’s outside edge; he supposedly played with Adam Voges in Perth — was he that Sandgroper (a weird nickname for West Australians — can hear Tones in the background muttering “the odd grope in the sandhills with one of those Aussie hippie chicks is hard to beat” — say no more…) whose wife was getting boned by Michael Slater on some Ashes Tour, and was that another Adam?
Anyway after the tea break, the script got badly fast-forwarded, and before you could say “Bob’s-your-uncle”, we were drinking the Forschungsbrauerei brew, and Des Bradley, was handing out personalised MCC statistics to members of the ex-captains side. In the interim, Des had a made a very poor attempt to meet the high standards of the local Munich mayor who opens the Oktoberfest with only a few strokes of his pork sword — or was it a mallet? Des, in his infinite wisdom, manage to squirt all over the place, in a fashion, even women in his life could hardly remember. When handing out the statistics, Des mentioned someone who supposedly had sledged a spectator — what he forgot to mention, was that this was during a brilliant opening stand between Bennett and Carr of 73 in the 1986 Cup final, with Carr going on to make an all-time high of 82 — the opposition made only 72! That certainly put Stuart in the legend status, if he hadn’t already acquired it through other feats. His son was busy describing how that scoreboard was put together after the game, and if it had not been for the efforts of Stuart martialling the troops together in the innings break, which somehow reminded of army procedure in Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket”, the team photo might have never come about.
The rest is a bit of a blur. Bostock was putting on a very brave face when confronted with the fact that NZ had choked at four successive World Cups, each time bailing out at the semi-final stage; a genuine cricket lover who doesn’t care who wins, or merely from a small nation with small expectations?
As a famous Aussie Rules coach once said:
“The better side on the day, was beaten by the scoreboard”.
With a bit of luck, some of us might be back in 5 years time…
SCORECARD 40over MATCH.
FORMER CAPTAINS WON TOSS AND NAIVELY ELECTED TO BAT.
Parry b Weston 13
Mcgree ct Khanna b Weston 66
Giles ct Morgan b Scott 1
Carr b Sobek 6
Chrichton ct Ellis b Weston 4
Lichtenhein b Weston 27
Jacobs no 10
Langfelder b Weston 0
Hazeldine b Weston 0
Bennett no 1
Mcc former captains 149-8 off 40 overs
Palfrey c Carr b Lees 54
Morgan c Giles b Langfelder 15
Weston b Jacobs 14
Lovell no 35
Khanna no 18
MCC won by 7 wkts