Try as he might, Third Man finds it hard always to be open to new ideas, new ways of doing things, new International Cricket calendars.
All week he has been trying not to scratch an itch. By rights he should be in a queue in Cavendish Avenue edging towards the North Gate at Lord’s for the 2nd Test. Instead Middlesex play Surrey at t20.
Must he sit and itch? No he need not! He can leave a note on the kitchen table reading, “Off to Lord’s, back Monday night,” and pace down to the garden shed where that old Time Machine is gathering too much dust. N.B. Remember to take a step ladder.
Setting the machine’s travelling co-ordinates for NW8 9LE he is there in a trice at the back of the Wellington Hospital.
No one is about so he hides the trusty step ladder in some bushes in the Close and re-enters the Time Machine.
When should he arrive?
Silly question; 27th of June 1930, England v Australia, an easily dialled 80 years back.
Yes, the steps are still there and getting himself out of sight in a garden he makes his way over the wall and into the yard behind the clock tower at the Nursery End.
The new Grandstand gleams, the Tavern is reassuringly still a tavern and the Mound Stand, across from him, is filling up, tier upon tier of seating to the dizzying heights of the back row.
There is something special about watching from the top seats of the Mound, dark and cool but the light reflects from the arena affording the perfect panorama, like being at the motion pictures.
There is a confident air among the crowd that already looks to Third Man as if it well to around 30,000 for the day is done . Two winters before, England easily won the series ‘down under’. And the first Test in this series has already resulted in a 93 run victory for England.
Hobbs and Sutcliffe had opened, the Master making 78 in a pair of relatively low scoring first innings: England 270 all out (Grimmett 5 -107 in 32 overs), Australia 144 all out with Kippax not out 64. England’s first innings lead was extended by a further 302 runs with Hobbs again top scoring and Grimmett taking another five this time for 94 in 30 overs.
Australia’s bid for victory in the fourth innings briefly promised a cricketing sensation with that young Bradman, who everyone is talking about, scoring 131 coming in at No. 3.
Could the crowd’s confidence in England be mis-placed? With Hobbs at 47 (years not runs), Hendren 41, White 39, Geary 36 and Tate 35 there is a nagging concern that the England side is fighting a losing battle with age and capping that, Chapman the captain, has played very little cricket since the previous series.
This morning the talk around the ground is that Duleepsinhji, Allen and White will take the places of the injured Sutcliffe, Larwood and Tyldesley. Reliable Leyland we already know is absent. It all must have been a headache for Leveson-Gower, Man and White, the selectors.
Here’s cheer, though: England have won the toss on what looks like a wicket filled with runs. But Hobbs falls early caught behind off Fairfax. Woolley then treats us to a glorious hour before he too falls to Fairfax, bringing Duleep to the wicket for his debut against the Australians. At the other end Hammond cannot seem to time a thing and it is no surprise when Grimmett bowls him for 38. Three down for 105.
The undercooked Chapman fails inevitably as does Allen, but Tate in a stand of 98 with Duleep strikes some lusty blows to the delight of the afternoon spectators who are sitting ten deep on the grass around the ground and field the ball, tossing it back to the despairing Australian boundary fielders.
This is better, but Grimmett seems capabale of beating Duleep whenever he likes and Fairfax and Wall with the new ball give him trouble. Yet in four and three-quarter hours he takes his score to 173 before, trying to force the pace, he is caught at long off to the bowling of Grimmett.
30,000 stand and cheer him off! But, with the last pair in and the score not quite 400, has England scored enough?
“Time” calls the umpire as the first day comes to a close.
Post Script. Meeting Ranji on the way down Baker Street, Third Man congratulates him on his newphew’s fine innings that day.
“Yes, but did you see that rash shot to Grimmett? He always was a careless lad.”