Saturday, October 31, 2009


It’s one of the famous cricket photos – so famous that you really even have to look at it to be able to describe it pretty closely.

To begin with, it's always a colour memory, even though the picture is in black and white. That's down to the TV coverage being in colour – so it's probably the first recognised colour Ashes memory. That may sound odd, but consider. Think of Bradman batting - you think in black and white. Likewise any thoughts you have of Hutton, Miller, Lindwall, Benaud bowling out England in 1961, Trueman's 300th test wicket - all black and white images or snippets of film in the mind. Even after this memory, Ashes thoughts are still in black and white - Snow cuddling the fan at Sydney, Jenner getting beaned - black and white. Things only really started going properly technicolour when Lillian Thompson started flashing her bouncers around – better to see the blood on the wicket I suppose.

Anyway, back to the picture. Underwood has bowled, left arm round (something I watched him do either live or on TV thousands of times)

The fielders are playing ring-a-ring-a-roses around the batsman. Everyone is in shot, apart from the square leg umpire. I can see Colin Cowdrey at first slip (and probably second slip too…) Edrich in the gully, The aforementioned John Snow is at short leg.

Sawdust litters both ends of the wicket – so redolent of circuses, you expect to see a clown’s car go across the pitch, with bits falling off every five seconds. Bearing in mind the MCC committee were in the pavilion at the time picking the side to go to South Africa that winter and thus bringing us the D'olivera affair, 'circus' and 'clowns' are apt images.

The ball has hit the batsman in front – though from the still photo it looks as though Inverarity has been hit on the backside whilst facing point and waving his bat at someone on the boundary at third man...

Deadly is appealing, as is Knotty, and every fielder, including Milburn at square leg – though how the hell he can tell whether it’s out or not is totally beyond me...(A pet hate – indulge me!)

The umpire's finger is going up. I think it was Arthur Fagg - like bowler, keeper and slip, also of Kent and England – no neutral umpires in those days.

Of course, it’s the back story that really makes the picture. After all, England beating Australia at the Oval isn’t a rare occurrence, but we’ll remember this picture for longer than we will the latest incarnation of it, which is Cook catching Hussey a few months back. Even though the Underwood wicket didn’t actually clinch the Ashes, but merely tied the series.

It’s the big clean up that makes this what it is – hundreds of supporters helping Cowdrey dry the wicket. A lake at 3pm, play ready to start less than two hours later.

It couldn’t happen today. Player safety is much more of an issue (remember what happened at OT for a 20/20) Then, rather pathetically, we’re not allowed on the outfield - so some officious jobsworth would probably make the players do it on their own, and finally, and most obviously, it doesn’t need to happen. If some much as a pigeon wees on the pitch the the covers come charging on.

1 comment:

The Old Batsman said...

Tremendous post - the notion of a black and white memory, and of some sort of common received memory, should be explored more often. I'd love to know hoe the players remember it....