Tales from the Boundary
Of Sledging, and Such Like
With the recent series in India, sledging has been in the news. When was it ever not thus? A favourite of mine comes from the Ashes series of 2001. England were getting their usual towsing, and the selectors were doing their “stick a pin in a list of names” exercise, this time coming up with Jimmy Ormond. Arriving at the crease, he was greeted by Mark Waugh with “Jeez mate, what the heck are you doing here? This is an Ashes Test, for crying out loud.” Ormond replied “Well, at least I'm the best player in my family.” Even the Aussies liked that!
The Bodyline Series brought Douglas Jardine a lot of grief; tiring of the incessant abuse, he complained to Bill Woodfull. The Aussie skipper rounded up his men and enquired “Right, which of you b---ds called that b---d a b---d?” Not that the patrician Jardine really gave a damn. Even umpires did not escape Colonial scorn; the great Alec Skelding - he of the white boots and specs - turned down a strong appeal. Soon after, a dog ran onto the field, to be retrieved by a fielder who presented it to Skelding, saying “Here you are - all you need now is a white stick.”
The great Surrey side of the Fifties had a lot to say, though much of it was between themselves. Voluble skipper Stuart Surridge would give Tony Lock terrible stick, for one. It didn't always work - Bernie Constable cited Surridge giving Jim Laker a right earful, adding “Poor Jim was so upset he couldn't bowl for an hour!” Playing Essex once, Yorkshire got more than they bargained for when they made the mistake of targeting Johnny Douglas. His complaints being ignored, Douglas informed the close field that if it happened again, he would see the offender behind the pavilion at close of play. As Douglas won an Olympic gold medal for boxing, it was no idle threat. The chattering ceased immediately.
Though not strictly sledging, a comment of that great eccentric Roly Jenkins appeals to me. On being hit for three successive fours by George Emmett (Glos), he came halfway down the pitch and said in a very loud voice: “Emmett, if you don't like me, fair enough. But for God's sake don't take it out on the ball.” The game was held up for several minutes before the laughter - from players, umpires and crowd alike - subsided.
Finally, a nugget from Essex v Australians 1948. Facing the last over before lunch from Frank Vigar, Bradman hit the first five balls all for four through mid-wicket. At this, up piped Frank Rist behind the stumps “Is that the only shot you've got, sir?” Bradman stayed silent, then hit the last ball through the covers for four. Turning round he said “There's another shot, mate.” and walked off. Classy!
Authors Note: There is a fascinating 15 minute film of this game on the East Anglian Film Archive: www.eafa.org.uk/catalogue/142 (opens in a new browser window).