ENGLAND are coming! The old enemy will soon be on their way here to defend the Ashes and GRAHAM BICKNELL opens the batting with memories of a history-making day at Lord’s:
THE FIRST World Cricket Cup was a minor miracle – a miracle it happened at all actually. It was my first and last World Cup but the memories still linger in this old journo’s twilight years. It ended brilliantly in still the best one-day game I’ve seen to this day, the Aussies losing to the Windies by 17 runs.
It was a thrown-together-at-the-last-minute affair. How the Pom cricket powers managed it will always remain a mystery to me.
The cup was accomplished with a minimum of publicity. Probably wise at the time because there were a number of overseas teams to accommodate once they managed to get them all there. Then, among other things grounds had to be organised, another problem because the county season was in full swing. But all was achieved and in a rather short time cricket excitement built up. But I always felt it was touch and go.
Never a big fan of the To-and-froms despite living there, writing for four years from the Murdoch bureau and playing three seasons in the Middlesex League, we Aussies were never left in any doubt that we were regarded as the progeny of “criminals.” Players such as “Chook” McClure and I responded by snaffling any spare talent of the female variety as they came though the Shepherd’s Bush Club doors on Saturday dance nights. The locals didn’t like us. We didn’t care.
Season 1975 was interrupted by that World Cup and I was chosen to cover the tour with the Aussies. All of a sudden, players from the countries competing descended on London. The Sri Lankans were a visual surprise. They looked like schoolkids. Little schoolkids. And were they ever happy to be there. Probably the first time out of their country, they were laughing and babbling, presumably in Tamil because none of us had a clue what they were saying.
The Aussies were there too. And while most of them piled off the bus, Ian Chappell and his co-selectors stayed aboard and emerged to inform the media chappies that Richie Robinson and Jim Higgs had missed the World Cup boat.
They might have been tiny but the little Lankans could bat. When they took us on at The Oval they showed they had class. They’d also never seen anything resembling the terror Jeff Thomson unleashed.
Thommo hit opener Mendis with sandshoe crushers in three consecutive deliveries. He began hobbling off and Max “Tangles” Walker asked him if he was OK as he passed. “Yes, but I go now,” the little soldier replied.
I brought up the Mendis assault over a beer later that night with the Aussie dangerman at the bar of the team hotel in the West End and the laconic Thomson replied: “Yeah, and they reckon I’m not fucking accurate!”
As a kid of 10 I had watched a Yorkshireman with massive shoulders bowl full throttle at the Aussies at Adelaide Oval. Like Thommo, “Fiery” Fred Trueman was ferocious.
The semi-final at Headingley was Gary Gilmour’s finest day. He swung the ball both ways and was virtually unplayable, finishing with six. The Poms couldn’t cope with him and didn’t total a ton between them. It was all over bar the comeback and Chris Old nearly delivered it.
It was Gilmour again who came to the rescue. A cover drive to the boundary off Old, a rare four that day, sealed it.
That set Australia up for the final against the West Indies. The final at Lord’s on a strangely lovely London summer day saw some amazing performances: Skipper Clive Lloyd’s majestic rapid century; Roy Fredericks hooking Lillee for six then toppling over and falling on his wicket; the miraculous fielding of Viv Richards in the covers; Greg Chappell belting a six from the first ball he faced. It had it all.
The problem was we didn’t have laptops or email back then because they were yet to be invented. To file copy we had to sprint out of the press box into a backroom which had about 20 phones. This meant that every 10 pars or so I’d rush out, calculating that for about every 15 seconds I was missing a delivery, possibly a wicket.
At one opportunity, with the Windies batting, I dashed back into what was an empty room with all phones free. There was one bloke there though and he was on MY phone.
The bloke had the widest shoulders I’d ever seen. But time was short so I tapped him on one of the monster shoulders and said: “Excuse me mate, you’re on my blower.” The black-haired phone bandit turned around and said in a broad Yorkshire accent: “Won’t be a second, lud.”
I’m not sure whether I gasped, reeled or fought to keep from fainting but I managed to reply: “Take your time Mr Trueman.”
Author: Graham Bicknell
Graham “GB” Bicknell began his journalistic career as a copy boy on Rupert’s first paper, the Adelaide News.
Sent to the Melbourne bureau he wrote his first weekly sports column, “Over the Border” with Aussie rules the subject of course.
After joining The Herald, he covered football, general news and police rounds.
He spent four years in London where he reported on the first cricket World Cup, the Ashes series, two FA cups, Wimbledon and the world swimming championships.
Back in Australia in 1975 Bicknell joined the Australian, just in time for the election after the dismissal of Gough Whitlam.
He then bounced over to the Daily Telegraph where GB found himself writing three different columns as the same time — one a daily on the goings-on in the town, two sports columns, one for the daily and one for the sister Sunday.
He later worked in magazines and freelanced before spending 11 years, up until his retirement, as Deputy Editor and a writer of fine features for the Geelong Advertiser.