Tales from the Boundary
"Those Were the Days My Friend"
I became a junior Essex member in, I believe, 1968. Those were the days of the "travelling circus", secretary 'Topper' Brown, skipper 'Tonker' Taylor and a bare minimum of players: Ward, Edmeades, Barker, Fletcher, Irvine, Boyce, Tonker, Turner, Hobbs, East and Lever, with occasional assistance from Cambridge students, Jorden and Acfield, and sometimes club players, especially when Fletch got his Test call up.
I remember Howard Sherman (Ilford, I think) scoring 54 and 28 (against Yorkshire or Leicestershire) on the Garrison ground at Colchester. Geoff Boycott liked the Garrison ground; well, he scored 260 not out and 233 (before being LBW to Hobbsy, as the umpire was getting bored). We also saw John Snow (controversially dropped from the Test side) vent his wrath on Essex, with Gordon Barker playing a cameo brave and technically brilliant innings.
In 1968, after sitting some exams in the morning, a school mate and I travelled to Southend to watch the Australians. Luckily Bill Lawry was out soon after we got there, though he had scored 135. I got Eric Freeman's autograph. Another autograph I got was Gary Sobers: I was dumbstruck and just held out a pen and my book. I also got Bill Bowes to sign my membership card AND Graham McKenzie signed a poster I had: I modelled my bowling on Garth's, though never so quick as he was BUT I did once bowl Geoff Smith with a banana of an outswerve.
The Essex I watched as a youth were not very successful in terms of trophies but always entertaining. Robin Hobbs was a particular favourite, with his Peter O'Toole blue eyes, electric in the covers AND his wife was a cracker. About 40 years later, on my return to the county ground I met him and shook hands. The eyes are as blue as ever. I remember seeing Brian Ward on a visit after he'd gone to live in Argentina: he had a good looking lady with him too.
John Lever was just beginning and Stuart Turner returning to give yeoman service, aided by the exuberance of Keith Boyce, who delighted in hitting sixes into the river, throwing in from the boundary and took a catch in the covers once which was probably the best I've ever seen, like a baseball player without a mitt; he took some wickets too.
I WAS THERE when Fletch scored 147 not out against Yorkshire to secure an unlikely win. We were standing on the seats - even in the Members' stand!