What if Aamir had bowled in Sideburns with Ian Chappell as Captain?

In June 1972 hair was long and sideburns even longer.  President Nixon campaigning for re-election in November was pursuing the war in Vietnam with relentless vigour.  For the young in the UK the hope of 1968 and the Summer of Love was fading fast and there was a sense of a long night extending forever. 

Yet Nixon and his team were not so self-assured.  As Third Man made his way to Lord’s to watch the Australians, Nixon and his cronies, who, intent on smearing their opponent  with ties with Cuban election funding, had been caught burgularizing the Democratic National Committee headquarters in a building called Watergate,  were conspiring in the Oval Office to use the CIA to block the FBI’s investigations into the break-ins.

Reaching distant Australia later than San Francisco or Swinging London, the season of young love  lasted longer.   The selectors of the twenty-sixth Australian team to visit England therefore dumped the old generation of Lawrie, Redpath and McKenzie and opted for youth.  Of the seventeen in their tour party only seven had toured England before.  They even ‘cut’ a record, how cool were they?

Having lost the first Test at Old Trafford, the younger generation did not seem to be doing any better than their elders.  Yet a suitably hairy young fast bowler called Dennis Lilley, had swept to the wicket along an irresistible 22 yard run and sent 6 of Old England back to the shed for 66.

But it was not political but meteorological oppression that was to dominate discussion around the ground as the second Test begun under heavy cloud and muggy swing-inducing humidity.  And it was not Lilley but another young pace man who was to dominate the play.

On that Thursday morning a light drizzle delayed the toss which was won by the dour, battleworn, pugnacious Tyke, Raymond Illingworth, who had lead England to an Ashes victory in Australia in 1970-71 and now, one up in the series, led a confident side.

Yet Australia were soon in the box seat with a 25 year old Western Australian, Bob Massie swinging the ball through Boycott’s defences with late movement.  Lillee trapped Edrich lbw and clean bowled Luckhurst to bring England to their knees at 28 for 3.

What Massie, a young man from Subiaco, Perth, made of this sticky, thick London atmosphere that gripped the ball and made it turn corners is hard to say.  Perhaps it took time for the lacquer to come off the ball and for his opening partner Lilley to get the differential polish on the ball.  Perhaps it took time for him to learn to exploit the swing – for a time he  experimented with bowling round the wicket to control the devastating movement.  But England, thanks to MJK Smith and our old friend Basil d’Oliviera took the score to 54 for 3 in the shortened first session of play and then, after lunch, on to 84.

The sun, masked by thick cloud, was now at its hottest, the atmosphere at its ‘closest’ and Massey gloried in the afternoon, trapping d’Oliveira with a slower ball and bowling Smith, only for Australia to be held up again, this time by the flamboyant Greig and the impish Knott.

Hair on Hair - Massie trims Snow's off stump. A follically challenged Gifford looks on.

It was by no means a rout.  Lilley bowled 28 overs in the innings, Massie 32.5.  The England batsmen showed their native skills but ultimately could not cope with the abnormally late movement.  Indiscrete shots by batsmen getting on as best they could led to the dismissals by Massie of Greig caught behind and Knott caught Colley.  The day ended with England 249 for 7 with only two overs left before a new ball could be taken.

Friday brought that new ball and Massie used it to remove the last three wickets.  Subiaco Man with figures of 8 for 84 walked up the pavilion steps, through the double doors into the Long Room to a standing ovation and, in those far off days, a well deserved hot bath and the merest trim of those whiskers.  

Back in the White House, Nixon and his Chief of Staff, Bob Haldeman forgot to turn the tape off.  The war in Vietnam continued for another three years.

For both Massie and Nixon the Test wasn’t over yet.

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3 responses to “What if Aamir had bowled in Sideburns with Ian Chappell as Captain?

  1. Pingback: Proof of Purchase – Taliban and Al-Qaeda Main Beneficiaries of Gambling Accusations. « Down At Third Man

  2. Pingback: Hypnotic Away Swing « Down At Third Man

  3. Pingback: The Strangest Things – England v Pakistan Lord’s Test 2010 | Down At Third Man

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