17th June 2020
It was 50 years ago today – 17th June 1970 – that the first day’s play took place in the unprecedented five-match “test” series between England and the Rest of the World (ROW). The series had been arranged at short notice following the cancellation of the planned tour of England by South Africa – then the leading test match side.
Unusually for the time, this first day was a Wednesday, rather than a Thursday. The following day was designated a “rest day” as it was when a General Election was being held. (The Conservatives, led by Edward Heath, brought an end to the 6-year period in office of Harold Wilson’s Labour Government).
The ROW team for the first match at Lord’s included 4 South Africans: Barry Richards, Eddie Barlow, Graeme Pollock and Mike Procter. This formidable quartet was assisted by 4 West Indians (including the captain, Gary Sobers) and one player each from Australia, Pakistan and India. Sobers and Barlow scored centuries in a ROW innings win.
I have two strong memories of the series. The first is attending each day of the fourth match at Headingley and watching from my customary seat – at square leg, roughly two-thirds of the way back – on the Western Terrace. The star performer was Barlow, though this time it was with the ball, as he took 12 wickets in the match, including 4 in 5 deliveries (with a hat-trick) in England’s first innings. Sobers made another century as the ROW won a tight game by two wickets to take a winning 3-1 lead in the series, which was duly converted to 4-1 in the final match at the Oval.
After all this time, I can recall the young Chris Old running up the hill from the Football Stand and bowling out Clive Lloyd in the ROW’s first innings. Lloyd remained in his defensive position at the crease for a while, as if he had only played and missed, at which point Old pointed to the off bail on the ground and (politely I’m sure) informed the batsman that he had been dismissed. How is it that these fleeting images remain in one’s mind after half a century?
My other recollection is of recording each delivery of the Oval match in one of my Compactum scoring books, courtesy of the intermittent BBC television coverage and/or the exhaustive ball-by-ball commentary of Test Match Special on Radio 3. This game was characterised by the high-quality batting of Pollock and his colleague Rohan Kanhai in the ROW side and Geoff Boycott in England’s second innings, all of whom registered three figures. At the other extreme, Brian Luckhurst of Kent – Boycott’s opening partner – registered a “pair”, his stumps twice routed by in-swinging yorkers from the ferociously quick Procter.
Hindsight suggests that the 1970 ROW side was one of the most powerful cricket teams ever assembled: to be ranked, perhaps, alongside Warwick Armstrong’s Australian tourists of 1921, Don Bradman’s “Invincibles” of 1948 or the formidable West Indian sides of the 1980s captained by Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards. The margin of their series win was no surprise. However, the competition did England no harm. Ray Illingworth (by then of Leicestershire) retained the captaincy for the subsequent tour of Australia and it was the core of England’s team in the ROW series – Basil d’Oliveira, Alan Knott, John Snow et al – that won the Ashes 2-0. (Illingworth remains one of three successful Yorkshire-born captains to Australia, the others being Len Hutton and James Cook).
For the 15 year-old perched on his seat on the Western Terrace or listening to John Arlott and EW Swanton on the radio in the small dining room of his parents’ home, the 1970 England-ROW series was an unbridled joy. The best players in the world – who received far less media exposure than their counterparts today – were performing right in front of him. Moreover, these were hard-fought matches – contested, as far as I could see, as keenly as if it had been the originally planned England-South Africa series – not friendly knockabouts.
In preparing this short piece, I checked the scoring details in my 1971 edition of the Playfair Cricket Annual (price: 20p). The publication referred to the games as test matches. But the quotation marks I used in the opening paragraph were not accidental. The International Cricket Conference (ICC) later ruled that the series had not warranted the highest status, but had been merely “first class”. Accordingly, the runs, wickets and catches (and one stumping, by Farokh Engineer) of the players have not counted towards their test career records.
For one player in particular, this turned out to be especially bad news. Alan Jones – a prolific batsman for Glamorgan – opened the batting for England on that first day at Lord’s. He made 5 and 0 in the match – another double victim of Mike Procter – and did not play for England again. Not only were his runs in that game expunged from the test match records, but so was his entire test match playing career.
(Note for future pub quiz reference: Alan Jones holds the record for scoring the most runs in first-class cricket – over 36,000 – without winning a test cap. His Glamorgan colleague, Don Shepherd, holds the corresponding bowling record with his 2,200-plus wickets).
The perils of blog posting. On the very morning that this particular blog was posted, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced that Alan Jones would be awarded an England cap to mark his appearance in the first match of the 1970 series against the Rest of the World.