Tales from the Boundary
"Wot 'Appened Was..."
I can't remember how my brother and I came to be at Colchester Castle Park in 1965 to watch Essex play the South Africans. Our cricket experience up to then was watching Elmstead Market play about 4 mile east of Colchester on the ground by the vicarage. My hero was the opening batsman, Jim Stubbings, who, I later realised, probably modelled himself on Sir Len Hutton, not least having a razor sharp parting in his hair and always being immaculate, not least in his defensive technique. Jim's scoring shots were mainly the pull, cut and onside push. It was through taking 4 for 12 for the village that I got to play for the Gilberd School team and thence for Colchester & East Essex on the very same Castle Park.
Anyway, my main impression of the South African match was that we were a long way from the action and I was not very enthralled with "first class" cricket. That changed in 1966 watching West Indies on my Granny's TV (in monochrome). I remember the West Indies as Hunte, Nurse, Kanhai, Butcher, Lloyd, Sobers, Holford, Murray, Hall, Griffiths and Gibbs (but I might be wrong). The next year I watched India and Pakistan: Gavaskar, Engineer, Wadekar, Vishwanath, Pataudi, Solkar, Abid Alli, Madan Lal, Venkat, Bedi and Chandrasekhar; I think Hanif, Sadiq and Mushtaq Mohammed played for Pakistan, along with Intikhab Alam BUT time may have clouded the memory. Of course, this was the season that Hobbsy made his Test debut and was selected for the winter tour of West Indies, though his role was mainly as drinks waiter, in which capacity he had a profound influence on the series by advising Colin Cowdrey in the last Test that it appeared that Gary Sobers was planning a surprise declaration, which information led to England's unlikely win.
Meanwhile, back at Elmstead Market, I was looking through some old score books and came across the card for Elmstead v Mistley & Manningtree (can't remember the year but I expect early to mid-sixties) and read R E East 102 not out and 7 for 36! Now, Ray himself has claimed that Keith Pont's bicycle ride took place at Chesterfield BUT I remember it from Chelmsford. Of course, he might have repeated it all over the place. I do remember Keith's debut when he went to sit with his parents while waiting to bat, which drew a surprised look from ‘Tonker’ Taylor on the balcony but it did show that Keith wasn't nervous.
Roundabout this time (1971-73) I was a law student at the old Mid-Essex Technical College, within a stone's throw of the county ground and an Essex member so spent a fair bit of time watching cricket. One day I was "selected" to operate a small scoreboard on the pavilion terrace for Essex Seconds v Warwickshire Seconds and got to have lunch with Eddie Hemmings, Bill Blenkiron and Alan Oakman. I feel sorry for the Warwicks batsman who was out next ball after I indicated he was on 49.
By this time I was playing for Colchester. Mike McEvoy and I once put on fifty for the last wicket: I scored four. It was also batting jack that I went out to face Kenny Wallace (Essex seconds captain) on a hat trick. I survived and my partner and I then played out the final half hour against Kenny AND Trevor Bailey - the highlight of my cricket life.