Sunday, June 23, 2013

Michael Walker’s new Richard Hadlee poem

When I put together A Tingling Catch, the name that recurred most frequently in New Zealand cricket poems was none other than Sir Richard Hadlee.
Hadlee himself often included some of the poems written for him in his collections of cricketing humour and anecdotes, a nice touch. One of the poems I didn’t seem to have in my collection though was a poem on Hadlee at the Gabba.
Just recently, the Auckland poet Michael Walker, who wrote a poem on the NZ-England Eden Park Test in March this year, sent me a new sonnet on Hadlee at the Gabba.
The poem gives a good record of one of the most remarkable bowling feats in our Test history during that famous win over Australia, which I saw on TV highlights.
I saw Hadlee bowl mainly with his shortened run in in the '80s. He started as a tearaway fast bowler in the '70s, with a long run-up. Walker asserts in the last line “the greatest fast bowling” based on statistics re: Test wickets taken in one innings. The few above Sir Richard on the list were either spinners or medium-pacers. Jim Laker’s all-ten against Australia remains the benchmark. Walker recalls Bill Lawry referring to Hadlee as “the great fast bowler” at the end of Australia’s first innings.
I’ll share the poem with you here:


At The Gabba
I was at The Gabba while on holiday in Brisbane in July, 1996,
reflecting on New Zealand’s win here in the First Test in November, 1985
by an innings and 41 runs – the prelude to a 2-1 series win:
a loss in Sydney by four wickets; a win in Perth by six wickets.

I saw Richard Hadlee, bowling off his smooth, shortened run-up,
getting close to the stumps, swinging the ball both ways in the
humid, cloudy conditions, take all four wickets on the shortened
first day, then five more the next morning – figures of nine for 52.

In reply, New Zealand amassed 553 for 7 declared, a lead of 374,
Martin Crowe scoring a luminous 188; J.F. Reid an invaluable 108;
I saw most of the Australian batsmen succumb to Hadlee again (6-71)
and Chatfield (3-75), except Matthews’s century and Border’s 152 not out.

It was all over early on the fifth day, New Zealand’s first test win in Australia,
and the greatest Test fast bowling, by a tall man who ran in like a
June 2013

Poem © Michael Walker 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Anonymous 1928 NZ cricket poem

Over the weekend, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading Ron Palenski’s recently published anthology of rugby poetry, Touchlines (NZ Sports Hall of Fame, 2013).
The book is well worth having on your bookshelf. It contains poems from the 19th century up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, from Samuel Sleigh to John Bryan, a Dunedin rugby follower at the 2011 World Cup.
I’m a contributor to the book, and helped with its compilation.
Other poets include: Harry Tillman, Max Boyce, William Pember Reeves, John Carrad, Banjo Paterson, Brian Turner, Allen Curnow, Ernest L Eyre, Bill Sutton, Seaforth Mackenzie, N A Fenwick, Leo Fanning, Sir Richard Wild, William Robert Wills, Robert J Pope, C A Marris, Claude Olsen and Andrew Paterson. Some of these are unknown in the poetry world but all were rugby enthusiasts with a genuine love of the game.
Cricket, another of its compiler Palenski’s enthusiasms, is included in a few poems and bio notes on the poets.
19th century poet and writer Samuel Sleigh includes cricket in his rugby poem (‘Glorious is the forward drive / From the wickets where you stand, / When the bat is all alive, / When it tingles in your hand’), Wellington lawyer John Carrad was a collector of cricket scorecards, Wisdens and memorabilia and N A Fenwick once wrote advice for Don Bradman in the New Zealand Sportsman magazine.
One of the rugby poems found by its compiler Ron Palenski may well pass for a cricket poem too as it combines both cricket and rugby. I’ll include it here. Some of the cricketers named are batsman Roger Blunt, bowler Bill Merritt, Aussie wicketkeeper Bert Oldfield (of Bodyline series fame), Dicky (tail-ender and bowler George Dickinson?), wicketkeeper Ken James and bowler Reg Read.
The poem is anonymous and written in 1928 (from a University of Otago capping magazine):


The Open Road

The Aussie cricket team was here;
  They kept their nose in front;
Our bowling had no Merritt,
  The attack was mostly Blunt.

Their batting in the latest test was
  A Dicky show indeed;
New Zealand’s bowling average looked
  A decent thing to Read.

Their keeper Oldfield was a beaut;
  He saved them many games;
New Zealand’s not downhearted –
  Not a bit of it, by James!

New Zealand’s best have donned their boots
  And pants and jerseys black;
We hope their belts are lined with scalps
  When they come sailing back.

O’er scorching veldt and hill they go,
  Though many a hefty Alley;
And one thing to SA they’ll show –
  A half must never Dalley.

We trust their cherished hope to bring
  A dull and sickening thud
And neck and crop their best to sling,
  Our best crop is our Spud.

Our boys will Lucas well next year.
  All fit and Brownlie tanned;
Their Nicholls will be spent, I fear,
  And Carleton will be Grand.

The All Blacks named include Geoff Alley, Bill Dalley, Syd Carleton, Mark Nicholls, Fred Lucas and captain Maurice Brownlie. One of the interesting things about this poem is that it notes the comparison between cricket and rugby.
Rugby was our national game then and particularly successful following the Invincibles tour of 1924/25, cricket on the other hand (our foremost game early on) was still looking for international status.
The same kind of national sentiment continues now in the public’s mind. So when New Zealand’s cricketers fair poorly: ‘New Zealand’s not downhearted – / Not a bit of it, by James!’ For they at least have All Black tests to savour, in this case the 1928 South Africa tour after a cricket series loss to Australia.
This was again noticeable in 2013 with the recent May test series loss to England followed by the All Blacks securing good victories in their June test series with France.

Article © Mark Pirie 2013
Touchlines compiled by Ron Palenski
(NZ Sports Hall of Fame, 2013)
Copies of Ron Palenski’s Touchlines: An Anthology of Rugby Poetry can be purchased direct from the NZ Sports Hall of Fame, Dunedin. Price $22.00NZ. Email: Tel: 64 03 477 7775 (for purchases by credit card).

Monday, June 3, 2013

Anonymous 1938 Ashes poem

The big event on this year’s cricket calendar is the 2013 Ashes series between England and Australia.
Kevin Pietersen is back from injury for England, which is good news for their Ashes chances. With Joe Root, Cook and Trott, they have a good batting order in store for the upcoming Tests.
A cricket poem I found recently is incidentally an Ashes poem from 1938. It was an advertisement for “Minties” confectionery in the Auckland, New Zealand paper, The Weekly News.
Minties’ hilarious ads became well known in New Zealand for their ad campaigns based around the idea that when things go wrong, one can always reach for a Mintie. Some of the TV commercials in New Zealand during the ’80s featured bad moments from New Zealand cricketers such as when John Bracewell during an ODI (4 March 1990 v Australia) ducked a full toss and was clean bowled when the ball from Simon O’Donnell dipped in flight. O’Donnell took 5-13 that day. New Zealand, featuring most of their future 1992 World Cup squad, were all out for 94 after being 79-2 at one stage. 8 wickets lost for 15 runs. How does that compare to recent batting disasters? Other Minties ads often had catches embarrassingly put down.
I haven't seen Minties around for a while. Maybe they've stopped making them?
This particular Minties ad refers to a dropped catch by New South Welshman Arthur Chipperfield. Chipperfield split his finger in the 1938 Lord’s Test trying to catch Wally Hammond who went on to make 240.
I once tried to catch a scorching drive myself and split the webbing around my middle finger in a club match. I still had to bat No. 11 with my arm in a sling but I wasn’t needed as we won the match. The team had put my pads on for better or worse...
Here is the poem or ad:


Hush, hush! Mourn for the match!
The Aussie bowler dropped a catch;
Hammond’s drive was full of ginger,
And poor old Chipperfield split his finger.
Does Stan McCabe or Bradman swear,
Or Chipperfield mumble in dumb despair?
Not they! With hearty acclamation
They turn to MINTIES for consolation.

(From The Weekly News (Auckland), 2 July 1938)

It’s universal. You could change the names for any international, provincial or club team worldwide on a bad day, and amuse your mates.

Article © Mark Pirie 2013

(Sources: The Weekly News, Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, ESPN cricinfo)

"Minties" advertisement 1938