Great cricket howlers (Part 1)

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SEASONS may change but the slips and snickers never stop. Columnist LAWRENCE MONEY revived his Boot in Mouth for the footy season and now rolls his arm over with some cricket classics:

AS ONE scribe quipped after watching the Fourth Ashes Test grind to a draw on a dead-dog MCG pitch, it was as painful as “repeatedly listening to an Andre Rieu Christmas album”.

True, but it did give Yorkshire legend Geoffrey Boycott the chance to hit political correctness for six. “If any batsman gets out on this pitch,” Boycott told Nine viewers, “he should stand on a chair, tie a noose and jump on it.”

This Boycott pearler went to air without so much as a trigger warning, which is possibly why it went through harmlessly to the keeper but, as co-commentators Shane Warne and Mark Taylor stifled their mirth, my mind flitted back to the glorious 1980s when retired willow-wielders seemed so much more at liberty with wit or witlessness.

Noose flash from Geoff Boycott. Artwork by Gordon Napier
Noose flash from Geoff Boycott. Artwork by Gordon Napier

They were the days when I collated an annual log of cricket commentators’ quotes, dubbed “In Slips”, which appeared in my In Black and White column in Melbourne’s now-gone afternoon Herald.

The late great Norman May was in full flight back then on ABC radio, his ability to analyse the game without parallel: “It’s a big swing, the ball’s in the air and he’s out – bowled.”

Richie Benaud (Nine), another commentary giant who has since passed to glory, was also prominent: “The field has been set to make Lillee stroke to mid-off (pause) or to long-on as he just did.”

Former Aussie captain Ian Chappell, still in the Nine booth to this day, was outstanding back in the 1980s: “Qadir’s third delivery would be the top-spinner which doesn’t spin.”

Or on another occasion: “By gee that was plumb. I’ll bet most of you fellas at home have your fingers up right now.”

Yes, well, with terms such as maidens and balls and sweet spots, cricket does present a rather perilous patch for those at the microphone. One recalls the late great John Arlott back in the days of Neil Harvey when Arlott painted this particularly inspiring word picture:

“There’s Harvey, standing legs apart, waiting for a tickle.”

Arlott did have a colourful way about him. “Like an old lady poking an umbrella at a wasp’s nest,” is the way he saw the batting style of Aussie bowler Ernie Toshack.

“Like an elephant trying to do the pole-vault,” is the vision Arlott had of corpulent Pakistani skipper Inzaman-Ul-Haq as he tumbled over his own stumps.

But our Aussie commentators were every bit as good. “That’s a lovely shot,” said Jim Maxwell on 11 February, 1984, “but he missed the ball.”

“He’s got equal proportions on each side,” said Keith Stackpole, “five fieldsmen on the leg side and four on the off side.”

My readers were of much assistance during those years and I still retain a letter from Brian Donnelly of Police Road, Rowville, in February 1985, a communication which I never got around to publishing.

Allows me to relay Brian’s thoughts right now. “Did you notice the effort by Ian Chappell after Allan Border was dealt a crippling blow to the groin?” wrote Brian. “After leg-pumping and a fair bit of (medical) attention, Allan was able to resume. As he took his stance, Chappelli remarked: “And now Border is facing up again with just one ball to go.”

I’ll have a further search through my In Slips files. There’s plenty more gold in them thar hills.

mm

Author: Lawrence Money

Lawrence Money has twice been named Victoria’s best newspaper columnist by the Melbourne Press Club. He wrote columns for 37 years on the Melbourne Herald, Sunday Age and daily Age — and in Royalauto and Your Sport magazines — before retiring in 2016 after a 50-year career in journalism.
He still treads the speaking circuit, does radio gigs, tweets on @lozzacash and chases a long-gone 13 golf handicap. He clings to the eternal hope that the Melbourne Demons will once again win a flag.

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