Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Fortysomethings' Guide To TV's Great Sporting Moments - A Second Extract

4 August 1975

Over to Our Live Outside Broadcast From: Lord's Cricket Ground, St. John's Wood, London.

Action Replay: There is much to remember from the four-test 1975 Ashes series. England, on their knees - and with the cream of a generation of test batsmen having had their confidence shot to fragments after a winter's hammering by the fearsome pace duo of Dennis Lillie and Jeff Thomson - lost the first test (at Edgbaston) by an innings. Immediately afterwards, they also lost their captain Mike Denness. His replacement was the best England cricketer of the era, the brash South African-born all-rounder Tony Greig. As a tactician, Greig was a complete novice - especially compared to Ian Chappell, his wily Australian counterpart - but, as a leader of men Greig could (given the right circumstances) be inspirational. His first team selection proved to be just such a moment, calling up the 33 year old Northamptonshire batsman David Steele. Bespectacled and with greying hair Steele was an unlikely figure as 'the saviour of English cricket' – the Sun's Clive Taylor comparing him to 'a bank clerk who went to war.' Yet over the following two months Steele would become a national hero, averaging over sixty in three tests and becoming the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year in November. And, all of this after he got lost in the Lord's pavilion on his way out to bat on the first morning and ended up in the basement toilets.

From being 49-4 at one point (including, sadly, a third failure in three innings for the young Graham Gooch playing in just his second test and would wouldn't feature in the national team after this for another three years), England recovered magnificently. Steele's 50 was followed by a true captain's innings from Greig who fell just four short of a deserved century. With valuable contributions from Alan Knott (69) and another debutant, Bob Woolmer (33), England saw off the much vaunted Australian attack of Lillie, Thomson and Max Walker to reach 315. Then their own paceman, John Snow, got stuck into the Australian top order, taking four wickets and, with help from Peter Lever, Derek Underwood and Greig, reducing their opponents to first 81-7 and then 133-8. A valiant 99 from the under-rated Ross Edwards and a big-hitting 73 not out from Lillie (including three massive sixes and a last wicket partnership of 69 with Ashley Mallett) pushed the Australians to 268. England's second innings was steady rather than spectacular, John Edrich anchoring himself for the best part of two days at the crease to score 175. As Monday wore on, England's push for runs increased, with Greig hitting an entertaining 41. At 3:20 England had just passed the 400 mark with six wickets down.

What Happened Next?: It was a stiflingly hot afternoon – temperatures reached 93 degress at one point (hotter, it was noted, than the temperatures in North Africa that day) - with many of the crowd bare-chested. [Note 1]. Jeff Thomson was bowling to Knott from the Pavillion End when, after several hours spent in the Tavern, a friend bet Michael Angelow, a 24 year old merchant seaman and cook from St Albans, £20 that he wouldn’t dare to streak across the pitch. Angelow politely waited for Thomson to finish his over, then whipped off his kit and set off, wearing only plimsolls, black socks and a sheepish smile, on a mazzy run from the corner of the Tavern Stand towards the Nursery End athletically hurdling the stumps (startling umpire Tom Spencer in the process) on the way with one fist raised in triumphant salute. 'He's going to be greeted when he gets back. Probably pick up a ten pound note from somebody,' chuckled Jim Laker on the BBC, seeing the funny side of it, along with most of the Australian team. [Note 2]. Angelow was certainly luckier than a streaker at a later cricket match, who was pursued by a sour-faced Greg Chappell and dealt a resounding cover drive across his bare backside.

[Note 1]: This author, attending his first ever day's test cricket in the Nursery End, ended up in bed that night in Southampton with a very nasty sunburn that lasted for most of the rest of his subsequent family holiday, on the Isle of Wight.
[Note 2]: Although our primary interest in this book is television, it's worth reporting the reaction from BBC Radio's Test Match Special. 'It’s a freaker,' noted the great John Arlott, a true master of the dryly comedic one-liner. 'Not very shapely and it's masculine, I'm afraid!'

Back to the Studio for a Summing Up: Angelow had, indeed, seen his last cricket for the day. He was nabbed by the bobbies (steady) and carted off to Marylebone Magistrates' Court when he admitted 'insulting behaviour' up a'fore the beak. When he revealed the exact amount that the escapade had won him from his bet Lieutenant-Colonel William Haswell, chairman of the bench, proved that he enjoyed a good joke too. 'The court will have that £20,' he told Angelow. 'Please moderate your behaviour in future!' Just a few months later in their Christmas TV Special Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, brilliantly, parodied the event (using cleverly edited footage to suggest that Eric had been the streaker). England eventually declared at 436-7 setting the Australians an improbable target of 484 to win. The game ended the next day in an entertaining, but predictable, draw. As were the next two tests [Note 3] and Australia ended the summer retainaing the Ashes.

[Note 3]: This included the hugely controversial climax to the following - third - test, at Leeds. With the game finely balanced for a classic last day finish (Australia needing two hundred and twenty runs to win, England requiring seven wickets), supporters of the imprisoned bank robber George Davis broke into Headingley overnight and vandalised the pitch leading to the game's ultimate abandonment.

What the Papers Said: I Declare, a Streaker at Lord's was the Sun's predictably hyperbolic headline. The Times was rather more dignified, and humorous, noting 'Woolmer hit Mallett for two large sixes towards the Tavern, whence the streaker had, of course, appeared … he was caught on the boundary.' Wisden completely ignored the incident at the time but, many years later when writing the obituary of Tom Spencer they noted that when Spencer retired photographer Patrick Eagar had given him Eager's famous photograph of Angelow hurdling the stumps. Spencer, it was said, would show the photo at his local, the Seaton Delaval workingmen's club, to "give them a bit of a laugh."

Also That Day:

- In Music: The Bay City Rollers' 'Bye Bye Baby' remained at number one for a third week but the lads in tartan were about to be replaced by Typically Tropical's 'Barbados.' It's 'in de sunny Caribbean sea,' apparently. It's hard to tell which was the more disturbing, The Goodies' 'Black Pudding Bertha' (the queen of Northern Soul was at no. 34) or Roger Whittaker's 'The Last Farewell' (no. 29).

- On TV: One good thing about summer was, of course, daytime telly. Wacky Races, Casey Jones and Here Come the Double Deckers on BBC1, The Tomorrow People on ITV. And Graham Kerr in The Galloping Gourmet. Okay, maybe it wasn’t all great. The Roger Moore movie The Man Who Haunted Himself was the BBC's evening highlight. Opposite that was the quiz Whodunnit? (hosted by Jon Pertwee) and Mark McManus in Sam. The story of Big John Cannon and family, The High Chaparral, topped BBC2's entertainment for the night.

- In The News: Anti-communist riots took place in Portugal. The site for the new British Library was announced. Three female 'professional pickpockets' from Chile on holiday in London were jailed after being caught 'loitering' in an Oxford Street store. The scoundrals. A military coup took place in Bangladesh. The hot summer continued with temperatures in the nineties. John Stonehouse, the MP who attempted to fake his own death before running away to Australia was refused bail at Bow Street magistrates whilst awaiting trial on fraud charges. Despite having her election as Prime Minister in 1971 declared invalid by the High Court, Indira Gandhi and the Congress party still clung to power in India.

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