Tales from the Boundary
Ray East was born in Manningtree in Essex in 1947, so how did he come to be playing for Suffolk colts versus Essex Young Amateurs in 1964? Might he have been press ganged by those blighters from Ipswich? Young Ray scored 25 before being bowled by D. L. Acfield! I wonder how often that dismissal got discussed over the years, especially as Ackers was 3 not out when the Essex boys won by four runs.
Ray was something of a teenage prodigy, making his second eleven debut 17 days short of his 18th birthday, taking 2 for 35 and 6 for 51 against Worcestershire. He followed with one for 21 and 5 for 29 against Somerset. Then came a first class debut against Oxford University, still four days short of 18. 1966 saw a championship debut at the ripe old age of 19, one of 17 first class matches that year, which yielded just 20 wickets but included a ‘five-fer’. 1967 saw 66 wickets and from then on Ray became a model of consistency until retiring from the first class game with 1,019 wickets from 410 games. I must mention a century (113) in 1976, 22 fifties and 256 catches.
Of course, Ray was more than a cricketer. He was a character, not merely a comic. I gather he opened one after-dinner speech with a self-deprecatory "There's so many of you here, there must be someone interesting coming". Vic Marks has said that Essex could be hilarious but equally ruthless at the same time*. I think it was also Vic who said that Ray's face had the look of someone who had either just seen something shocking or was expecting it to happen. It was dead pan.
In the fashion of the 1960's/1970's Ray's hair was long (but not as long as JK's), mostly with pretty large side burns. These locks must have taken a while to wash and I recall an afternoon at Chelmsford when the crowd adjacent to the pavilion were treated to a song while Ray was showering after fielding. I don't remember the song but I think it was forgettable.
Ray was unlucky that his career coincided with Underwood and Gifford, then Edmonds and Tufnell, otherwise he might have had a few Test caps. Instead he plied his trade on the county circuit before coaching the seconds and subsequently the pupils of Ipswich School. A number of the pupils looked up his cricket story. Ray said it was mostly their fathers who remembered him. Indeed we do, Ray. Happy Memories, too.
*For the interview with Vic Marks - click https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08hzx83
(opens in a new browser window).