All Our Yesterdays

Over recent months I've been watching a lot of cricket on ESPN Classic (it's on Sky 442 for anyone who hasn't heard about it yet). During the summer they showed highlights of most of the England-West Indies Tests from the 1973, 1976, 1984 and 1995 series in England, and, as the 2006-07 Ashes series approaches, they're currently showing England-Australia matches of a similar vintage.

One of the best things about watching the ancient BBC highlights packages (apart, of course, from laughing at what Richie Benaud was wearing in the 1970s) is that the images and voices, especially the sublimely evocative tones of Jim Laker, take me back to (and sometimes beyond) the very edge of my cricketing consciousness. While I can remember bits of the 1972 series between England and Australia (for years I had a hazy memory in my head of a bowler with a ridiculously curved run-up and had no idea who it was until, during an eighties rain break, the BBC showed the highlights of Lord's '72 and I realised it was John Price) my memories of the 1973 series against the West Indies are more limited (trying to impersonate Gary Sobers in the garden after my father and elder brother had told me I was watching the best all-rounder of all time). So it was pretty shocking and more than a bit amusing to see Geoff Boycott repeatedly trying to commit suicide at Lord's before finally hooking the ball down Rohan Kanhai's throat with the sort of ill-judgement which would make him apoplectic today. And then there was the unbelievable hostility of the West Indies attack and the coolness and stoicism of Edrich and Close at Old Trafford in 1976, Richards at The Oval in the same year, the peerless Greg Chappell at Old Trafford in 1977, the pace, rhythm and class of John Snow and the young Dennis Lillee. The one and only Malcolm Marshall at Headingley and The Oval in 1984 and Botham (not the best commentator but hell what a player) trying his best to fight fire with fire.

It's been great.

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