Tales from the Boundary
"When Does a Fan Become a Nut?"
Sadly I remember playing only one game of cricket at my primary school, though we use to play on the field after school, at least until Colin Brown took his bat home. Secondary school was no great improvement, with just two periods (an hour and a half) of sport per week, which also included athletics in the summer. I did, however, play for the school first and second years a few times: the matches weren't officially 20/20 but rarely took longer than that. However, at weekends I'd cycle down to the cricket ground by the vicarage and watch a bit of village cricket and started playing at about 15.
As previously written, I was inspired by the West Indies of 1966 (not even diverted by the achievements of Moore, Hurst, Peters etc. in that year), subscribed to the Cricket Monthly and even an Australian cricket magazine (which reported on grade matches, so I knew of Kim Hughes (when aged 13) before most). I also borrowed from the library and bought as many cricket books as I could find or buy second hand, many while holidaying in Sussex. Incidentally, my brother reminded me the other day that we had seen Sussex at Hove, obviously playing Kent, as he recalls both Cowdrey and Dexter.
Which sort of brings me to a book on the Ashes tour of 1954-55, which ties in with Chris Butler's reminiscence of Freddy Brown at the top of the list, that the selectors were watching young Colin at the time, for Cowdrey made an auspicious start to his career on this tour. I did once see Freddy Brown at Waterloo Station, apparently waiting for a grandson, who arrived shortly BUT I was too in awe to strike up a conversation: he was quite imposing.
Anyway, this book, by John Arlott, contained a sentence which I've never forgotten, which went something like "This was a series between two teams of average ability". We had Hutton, Edrich, May, Compton, Cowdrey, Bailey, Evans, Tyson, Wardle, Appleyard and Statham, with Simpson, McIntyre, Bedser and Loader in reserve! Australia had Harvey, Miller, Lindwall, Benaud and a few others. Admittedly, Hutton, Edrich and Compton may have been past their best but May and Cowdrey came of age and the bowlers, headed by Tyson performed magnificently. So, when current players and sides are demonised, remember these are the heroes we remember in the future.
Meanwhile, Colonel Owen, who lived in the Old Vicarage, opposite the village cricket ground had given me a copy of the MCC Cricket Coaching Book, which featured Alec Bedser showing the 'correct' bowling action. In fact, Alec's inswing and leg cutter derived from an open action and probably his brother Eric, who was as good an outswing bowler, before turning to off breaks, might have been a better model. Hence I began learning outswing (my inswing was never as good) but it took Fiery Fred's advice to place the front foot slightly to the right in the delivery stride before I got it to swing late.
As these articles are meant to be Essex orientated I'd better mention that Trevor's wicket contribution (10, I think) in 1954-55, along with Wardle's and Appleyard's complimented nicely with Tyson's 27 wickets and Statham's 18, the 27 being well remembered, the 18 less so.