This morning, the wireless brought me the wonderful news that England had won the Test overcoming the mighty New Zealanders to secure the series. I was on to my second bowl of muesli (doctor’s orders – even the bloody cat gets bacon, but I don’t) before the euphoria subsided sufficiently for me to work out the fact that we had only drawn and that Matt Prior had not assumed Prince Harry’s place as second in line to the throne. The world’s gone mad – the next thing they’ll be telling us is that Peter Fulton scored two tons in the match.
Back on The Colonel’s 1956-57 tour to New Zealand, we arrived in Poursdown for the Third Test with the score at 0-0 after two hard fought draws in Windymiller and Mordormoor. As was the custom in those days, the captains agreed to a Timeless Test to decide the winners of the series and what were rumoured to be some quite significant side-bets built up on the double or quits convention popular in some of the tents scattered about on the grassy banks at grounds. Beneath that billowing canvas were the only places you could smoke, given the wind, which is all a bit different today no doubt thanks the the Human Rights Act
The Colonel won the toss and batted and soon we were two down on a damp wicket. But the sun came out and the wind dried up any moisture and Peter and Len got going and put together a decent little partnership that took us through to the close on 179-2 off 137 overs. After that, things slowed a little and I dedicated more time to those tents than would be allowed today, so things are a little hazy in my mind for the next few days.
I do recall that on the second rest day, The Colonel organised a trip up to a local vineyard with the effect that 14 wickets fell on the next day and we had somehow set the Kiwis 689 to win in the fourth innings.
By the time they had reached 300-3, the complaints had started to pile up. Two of our lads had caught a boat home, as one had used up his leave of absence from his stockbroking firm and the other had been called up for National Service in Malaya. With Wally indisposed again (and later discovered round the back of the nets teaching a couple of local catering ladies how to grip his bat handle) and Matron already fielding in the deep, we were running short. So The Colonel deployed a local border collie to patrol the covers – it stopped most drives and was very quickly up to the stumps for the run out. (I think it won the Tour fielding prize and with it a purse of £25 put up by the Daily Express). One of the umpires missed a very clear stumping because he was doing the crossword with The Colonel unable to make much of it as he was helping him with a tricky anagram clue for 7 across at the time.
Most of the Press had gone home by this time and, when it was pointed out to The Colonel that unless he was on the next ship he ran the risk of missing Ascot, it was quietly agreed to call the match and series a draw with all bets off – much to my relief. Because of the irregularities in some of the play and a general lack of media coverage after the second rest day, Wisden never printed the scorecard and my 17 (in nearly four hours) is not included in my records.
But, like England today, we went home happy (except for the dog which was quarantined for six months in Southampton and then sent back from where it came from on the next ship – prompt action of the kind from which Mr Cameron may wish to draw a lesson). The Colonel did make Ascot, but didn’t turn out in another cricket match until captaining The Gentlemen vs The Players in the celebrated match in which Wally scored 232* wearing a dinner jacket all the while enthusiastically applauded by a Duchess and two girls from St John’s Wood Lyons Tea Rooms for whom he had secured tickets. It was good to see Wally smiling again – but maybe not that much.