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Essex Shield

Tales from the Boundary



I doubt there are many, if any, people who get a mention in a weather forecast, the exception being John Kenneth Lever, the weather forecaster being John Kettley, as in the song, which goes "John Kettley is a weather man, a weather man, a weather man, John Kettley is a weather man - and so is Michael Fish" (though the latter is best known for denying the possibility of a storm with near hurricane force winds, which flattened several trees the day after).

I think it was one day in the 1970's (as far as memory serves) that John Kettley started his forecast with "John Lever should get a lot of wickets tomorrow".   Those in the know will know that this indicated that a warm muggy day was in prospect i.e. ideal conditions for swing bowling.  In those days we believed that such weather conditions and a well shined ball was the only way to get a cricket ball to deviate in the air.   I'm afraid I don't understand the science of reverse swing at all and am too old now to try it out.

Anyway, J.K. Lever was a hero of my youth, even though he's only three years older.

I remember arriving early at the Castle Park in Colchester for the Essex game against Derbyshire in 1968 and getting into conversation with Johnny Arnold, the umpire.  JK and Stuart Turner came out to loosen up.   "Which one's which?", asked Johnny.  Well, they're both tallish and blondish and Stuart had yet to grow a moustache but JK was just 19 and suffering the facial torment of teenagers.

JK made his seconds' debut at 17, playing 3 matches; his first class debut a year later, playing 14 matches and taking 27 wickets; he played 6 seconds' matches in 1967 but only ever two more.   Barry Knight moving to Leicestershire was one reason which saw JK pitched into the firsts as a tenderfoot.  He responded with 50 wickets in 1968 and 62 in 1969; only 31 in 1970 from 16 matches but from then, till his last three seasons, never dropped below 50.   JK's glory years were 1978 and 1979 with 106 wickets in both AND 106 (again) in 1983 and 116 in 1984.

JK's run up was not short but long and purposeful, shirt sleeves buttoned at the wrist, a powerful action and strong follow through.  When JK marked out his run up one could settle down and relish the moments to come.  
Here's some reminders -

Andrew Appleby

Editors Note: The author subsequently sent these links to an interview (split into two parts) with JK posted in June 2020 (they open in new browser windows): and