Our sherpas through the undulating terrain of live cricket, the callers of the game are the subject of this month’s 10. Vithushan Ehantharajah recalls the quirks, quips and nonsense that’ll stay with us forever.
10. BRADMAN’S FINAL INNINGS BAGEL
Four to reach that magical three-figure average. There was history to be made at The Oval in 1948. The commentator Rex Alston greeted The Don’s arrival to the crease with silence, allowing those at home to drink in the crowd’s ovation. The reins were then handed over to John Arlott, who delivered the first recorded jinx: “I don’t think I’m as deadly as you are Rex – I don’t expect to get a wicket.” Bradman pushes Eric Hollies’ first ball “towards the Houses of Parliament”, though not all the way, Arlott assures. Soon silence, only this time it’s stunned: “He’s bowled!” Off trots The Don, 99.94: “Bradman, bowled Hollies, nought. What do you say under those circumstances?”
9. “ONE OF THE GREAT BALLS…”
The summer of 2005 had so many gems. To just shout “Jones!” in a crowded room would elicit a “Bowden!” instantly followed by a calm, “Kasprowicz the man to go”. But we’ve gone with this quip from Mark Nicholas, as Steve Harmison fooled Michael Clarke in the Birmingham evening sun and Nicho came with us.
8. NASSER’S DONKEY SNEERS
Not long ago, India’s fielding was a lot worse. Nasser Hussain noticed as much and, at the end of a long tour of England in 2011, remarked that they were carrying “one or two donkeys in the field”. Ravi Shastri, not an ass man, wasn’t happy and urged the BCCI to complain to the ECB. Legendary Pakistan batsman Zaheer Abbas implored the BCCI to give the English a taste of their own medicine by delivering a strongly worded letter to the ICC. Nasser apologised and then made the same comment during the 2012 Test tour of India.
7. GREATS PREDICTING GREATNESS
The good players – the really, really good ones – can predict what happens next. So it was little surprise, during a 2009 game between an Australia XI and an Australian Cricketers’ Association XI, featuring some mic-ed up modern-day legends, that Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne offered us this: “Hopefully this is going to deck across,” started McGrath, at the bottom of his run-up, “catch to Warnie would be nice”. As McGrath enters his delivery stride, Warne implores Adam Gilchrist, behind the stumps, to “dive in front” and do the honours. McGrath hits his mark, David Warner, the batsman, has a nibble, and Gilly does the rest. Oh how they cackled.
6. LABOURED SEGWAY
Loveable oldies and unruly students, our affection for those at Channel Nine has slightly diminished by the relative absence of stalwarts Bill Lawry and Richie Benaud. While the adults are away the Warnies, Tubbs and, quite spectacularly, Heals will play. Ian Healy, once Baggy Green general, now drunk uncle at a wedding, fresh from ribbing a Channel Nine cameraman for tumbling on a Segway, decided to give it a go. Moving was no issue but stopping was, as Heals took a huge tumble, eating equal amounts humble pie and turf in the process.
5. TEST MATCH FILTH
The established media entity revered by many as the sound of the summer. Test Match Special has provided the cricket-loving fan at work with distracting cake chat, obscure guest combinations – prime minister David Cameron and the band Keane, for one – and a fair bit of blue. There was the famous “leg-over” comment from Aggers, which Henry Blofeld requested as one of his eight Desert Island Discs. Later, Aggers would warn of the difficulty in “putting a rubber on” to Michael Vaughan (he meant grip), who himself had another fit of giggles with the late Christopher Martin-Jenkins over a discussion about Daniel Vettori’s rod.
4. BENAUD’S FINAL CALL
Cricket’s most influential personality. Everyone has their own impression of that silk-like voice with its caressed inflexions. If it’s not “222 for 2”, it’s Beefy’s lofty smack, back over Alderman’s head which went “straight into the confectionery stall and out again”. Maybe the rhetorical “I suppose it’s only logical, if you need 24 to avoid the follow-on, then why not get it in four hits?” as Kapil Dev did just that against England. Or the simple, “Morning everyone”. For us, it’s his last stint on commentary in England, with Glenn McGrath bowling to Kevin Pietersen: “It’s time to say goodbye… It’s been absolutely marvellous for 42 years… It’s been a privilege to go into everyone’s living room throughout that time. What’s even better, it’s been a great deal of fun…[McGrath castles Pietersen]… but not so for the batsman!”
3. IS THIS THING ON?
Swearing in an on-air studio is asking for trouble. In recent times, Dean Jones was sacked by Ten Sports after microphones caught him referring to Hashim Amla as a “terrorist” during South Africa’s Test against Sri Lanka at Colombo in 2006. Our peak foul- up comes frrom last year’s Lord’s Bicentenary celebration match between MCC and the Rest of the World. Andrew Strauss, off-duty, watching Kevin Pietersen traipse off to the pavilion, used a four-letter word to describe England’s greatest run-scorer (it wasn’t ‘doos’). Soon, Strauss was apologising, after social media went wild, with the former South Africa captain Graeme Smith, asking: “Did the head boy slip up?” He very much did.
Nasser again, this time with some friendly fire. Handing over during the end of the fourth day of the first Test at The Gabba, 2010, the calm was pierced by a howling screech. “So far so good for England,” said David Gower, as Strauss and Cook were into a match-saving opening stand of 188, followed by “Gah!” We at AOC have never had the misfortune of wringing the neck of a parrot, but we’d expect it to sound a lot like this cry of instant, sharp pain. Still, Gower, ever the professional, kept composed: “Excuse me, there – that was someone putting a chair on my foot.” Nasser, in his chair, couldn’t subdue the laughter.
1. LAWRY AND GREIG
Antagonism and admiration, in equal measure. An off-screen partnership as entertaining a listen for three decades as anything we could have watched on-screen. The first time the two met on Channel Nine duty, they were at each other’s throats. Fresh from two years as captain of the World XI during World Series Cricket, Tony Greig, upon seeing Bill Lawry, said, “You’re the Australian captain that lost 4-0 in South Africa, aren’t you?” Lawry replied: “Yeah, and you’re the guy who gave up the captaincy of England for money!” Lawry’s nose was a constant source of material, and it was turned up whenever Greig would linger too long on a female crowd member. One particular brunette drew a familiar “Oh boy” from the burly former England captain, who then implored “Bull” to admire the female form. “You dig a hole, you fill it mate,” came Lawry’s refusal.