the World XI, it's time to rewind to a series of classic matches
between England and the Rest of the World in 1970. Steven ***,
former Cricinfo editor, talks to some of the veterans of a tough
series that you won't find in the record books.
WCM archive - England v Rest of the World 1970
Steven *** talks to some of the veterans of a tough series that you
won't find in the record books
Ray Illingworth isn't in much doubt about the capabilities of the Rest
of the World team he faced as England's captain 30 years ago: They were
the strongest side that's ever played cricket.
It's the batting line-up that most people remember from that 1970
summer. Garry Sobers led his fellow West Indians Rohan Kanhai and Clive
Lloyd, as well as Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock and Eddie Barlow from
South Africa. And if you managed to get through that lot you had to
contend with Mike Procter and Intikhab Alam way down the order. But it
was the bowling that impressed Illingworth: There was Procter, Graham
McKenzie and Peter Pollock with the new ball, then Sobers, who could
bowl anything, two legspinners in Mushtaq and Intikhab, and Lance
Gibbs, the best offspinner in the world. Basically they had 13
world-class players to choose from.
With talent like that the World were expected to dominate the series,
and they did win it 4-1. You might think that England must have been
fortunate to register the 1, but llly thinks it was closer than that:
"Actually we were a little unlucky. We certainly should have gone into
the final Test at two-all, and we might have won that too. All in all,
it was a ***y good performance in a ding-dong series."
The matches were marketed and played as proper Tests. Illingworth
pooh-poohs any suggestion that they were merely exhibition games: "The
World XI may have been a bit lax after they won the first match easily.
But after they got a *** in the second game I can assure you that
they were deadly serious! The winning team in each match picked up
2000, and there was also 3000 on offer for winning the series."
It was originally announced that full England caps would be awarded,
and that the matches were to be unofficial Tests (so, technically, were
all of South Africa's after they left the British Commonwealth in
1961). The matches appeared in Wisden alongside regular Tests until
1979, but were then quietly dropped.
Eddie Barlow's Headingley hat-trick had an orthodox beginning - Alan
Knott and Chris Old bowled - but an unusual end. Don Wilson's bat-pad
lobbed straight to silly point, but the fielder there didn't look quite
as e***d as the others - because he was England's 12th man, Mike
Denness. They had two injuries - Barry Richards and Rohan Kanhai- and
only one substitute, so when the second one happened the wasn't much
choice but to send me out, remembers Denness, who had played in the
first match of the series but then lost his place.
"Don Wilson got a big nick, and it was so obvious that I don't think I
even appealed. The picture just shows me standing there. Don just
looked at me and walked straight off. It was a bit embarrassing, and I
didn't think I should celebrate too much, but I don't think the England
team held it against me!"
England made changes for the fourth Test: in came three Yorkshiremen -
Geoff Boycott, Chris Old and Don Wilson- on home turf at Headingley.
For Wilson, it was an England recall after six years. "I think they
were thinking of taking a flight bowler to Australia that winter, which
might have been why I came in for Derek Underwood, he says. Or it may
have been that they were worried about poor attendances and stuck three
Wilson flighted his way to two wickets, but made more impact with his
brief batting appearance. "Eddie Barlow was on a hat-trick when I came
in. We were good friends - he'd actually been staying with me that
summer. He called out `It's you or me, Wils!' and ran in. I got a big
nick and was caught at point, and I walked. So he got his hat-trick. I
thought I'd hit it, anyway - on the TV it looked as if it missed the
bat. Afterwards Raymond told the press that I'd do anything to get in
the record books!" It was Barlow's finest hour with the ball: he took
four wickets in five balls and finished with 7 for 64. Then he grabbed
five more in the second innings.
The World were left needing 223 to win, and were hamstrung by injuries
to Richards (back) and Kanhai (hand). But they were forced in anyway at
183 for 8, with 43 still wanted. Wilson thought he'd struck: "Straight
away Richards got a big nick on a bat-pad to point. But he didn't walk,
which I thought was a bit rich seeing as I'd marched straight off
earlier. I expect I told him so. The umpire, Arthur Fagg, said he
wasn't out... and Richards and Kanhai went on and won them the game."
Illingworth remembers that too: "Richards got a big edge but wasn't
given out. If he'd gone they'd have needed about 30 with Lance Gibbs
in. We should have won that game and then it would have been two-all."
So a big Oval crowd saw an interesting finale rather than a clamorous
climax. Graeme Pollock, who'd had a quiet series, returned to form with
an upright century, and shared a poignant stand of 165 with Sobers, his
only real rival as the greatest left-hander of the day. Unlike most of
his colleagues, Pollock wasn't playing county cricket that season: in
between these five-day games he'd turn out for Sutton, in the Surrey
Championship. Peter Kearns, still playing club cricket 30 years later,
was a team-mate then: "He used the heaviest bat I'd ever seen. It was
like a railway sleeper. He'd lean on what seemed to be defensive shots
- but they'd whistle through the covers for four before anyone could
move. I've never seen anyone with such fantastic timing. It was a huge
privilege to play with him."
There was also a fine debut at The Oval for Peter Lever, who bowled
fast and straight. His reward was seven wickets and a trip to
Australia. After a gritty 157 from Boycott, the World needed 284 to win
- and got them. Kanhai made 100, but they were in trouble before Lloyd
and, inevitably, Sobers turned the tide. Lever wasn't as effective, and
Wilson was injured.
So the Rest of the World wrapped up a thrilling series, in which each
match was won by the side batting second. Ray Illingworth says: "It was
hard, really hard. And the players weren't best pleased a few months
later when the caps we'd got were wiped off."
The last word on that World XI series has to go to Garry Sobers, who
dominated it with 588 runs at 73.50 and 21 wickets at 21.52. He was
unsentimental in his 1988 book Twenty Years At The Top: "I believe it
was the strongest collection of cricketers ever assembled in England...
yet we struggled to beat a moderate England side." He had a theory
about that: "The attitude of saying to oneself `If I don't get a score
it doesn't matter, because we've got a lot of good players to come,' is
totally unprofessional, but I suspect that some of my players felt that
Sobers had checked before the series that the matches would have Test More from http://SportToday.org/
status and count in the records, and was also rather miffed to discover
later that they weren't. Realistically, they don't satisfy one basic
requirement of international cricket - one nation striving to overcome
another - and the mechanics of operating separate Test career records
for a few players proved confusing when Wisden tried it. So the
eventual decision was correct: they weren't Tests. But they were
P.S. This is more than what can be said about the recent "Test" match
between the World XI and Australia.
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