Friday 30 January 2009

Final Score

So the Bearded Wonder has gone, carried off by Legionnaire's Disease, apparently contracted in Dubai. Legionnaire's Disease - there's something curiously TMS about that, but I can't quite put my finger on what. A touch of Raj-era doom, perhaps. 

Many years before the era of analysis, Frindall proved the baroque beauty of stats, filling his scorebooks with dots and marks and tics of all hues. Some of them look as dense and gothic as long equations, pages and pages that only a few could really translate.

One of the great wonders of cricket is that is has the depth of field to contain personalities as diverse as scorers and sloggers. It's the game of Andrew Symonds and John Arlott, Bill Frindall and Ian Botham. 

Tonight I dug out Frindall's Scorebook, a record of the 1979-80 season in Australia that, as a kid, I coveted for some months before I cobbled together the £15 price tag. Expensive even now, let alone 1980, but it was worth it. It's an extraordinary document. 

Cricket had been divided by Packer and Australia's response was to invite both England and West Indies to tour, playing alternate Test matches against each. Australia lined up as McCosker, Laird, Border, Chappell, Hughes, Hookes, Marsh, Bright, Lillee, Hogg, Thomson. Not bad. England: Gooch, Boycott, Randall, Willey, Brearley, Gower, Taylor, Dilley, Willis, Underwood. Not bad. West Indies: Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Kallicharran, Rowe, Lloyd, Murray, Roberts, Garner, Holding, Croft. No spinner, then.

Australia lost 2-0 to West Indies and England lost 3-0 to Australia. Australia got 48 hours between the third Test against West Indies (lost by 408 runs) and the third Test against England (won by 8 wickets). 

Frindall described it as 'long, hot, confused and often bizarre summer'. He was not wrong. The first Test against England was the one when Lillee used his aluminum bat and Geoff Boycott carried his bat for 99 through England's second innings, the first time that had happened in Test cricket. 'I hate to imagine what he said to poor Willis,' noted Frindall, wryly.  

Looking at the reproductions of Frindall's scorecards in the book brings it all back. Here is the power of his work. Viv Richards' lowest score on the tour was 74. Boycott's 99* occupied 337 minutes and 285 balls. He hit eight of them for four. England were all out at 5.11pm on the final day. To Geoffrey's deep joy, Ian Botham was man of the match. The gate receipts were $138,153. There are stories inside all of those stats. Frindall even notes which batsmen wore helmets. King Viv, needless to say, did not seem to have one in his luggage.

Reading the foreword, this was the sixth such book Frindall had produced. Even so, it requires a six-page explanation of how his scorecards work. Many parts of them remain a mystery, but within those pen strokes are the story of an remarkable summer, trapped forever. That's his legacy.


Anonymous said...

"To Geoffrey's deep joy, Ian Botham was man of the match." - made me laugh IMMODERATELY

The Old Batsman said...

You can just imagine it, can't you. 'Well done Geoff, you've just made history and missed a test hundred by one run. And our man of the match is....'