It was a time of big hair, bad moustaches, massive crowds chanting “Lill-eeeeeee, Lill-eeeeeee, and the sight of a blond-haired bloke known as Thommo threatening to knock an opposition player’s head into the stands with one of his red, round ‘missiles’
Australian cricket in the ‘70s was going through a boom period, with players such as the Chappell brothers – Ian and Greg, Rod Marsh, Dennis Lillee, Max Walker, Doug Walters and Jeff Thomson thrilling audiences and becoming house names.
It was fortuitous that the careers of such players coincided with the playing of the Centenary Test, a game staged to commemorate 100 years since the first Test was played between England and Australia in 1977 at the MCG. The game is also the subject of a new book, The Test Of The Century, written by award-winning cricket journalist and broadcaster, Barry Nichols.
The Test Of The Century provides not only an extensive account of the Centenary Test, but also paces it in historic context by documenting both cricket and social issues of the day.
Nichols highlights how social change, which had begun in the ‘60s, had taken hold, affecting not only the way Australians lived but also how the game was played and administered. For example, cigarette sponsoring of sporting events was on the way out. Gone too was the traditional gentlemanly image of cricket players, as Australia fielded a team referred to the ‘Ugly Australians’.
Led by Ian Chappell, who is said to have introduced sledging into the game, players now sported long hair, wore casual clothes and behaved in a confronting manner.
The Centenary Test was played over five days in front of a packed stadium, which included 200 former players and the Queen of England. It was five days of heartbreak, controversy and eventually joy and Nichols captures the tension and drama brilliantly.
Nichols sets the scene recounting the first test in England in 1877 before providing a comprehensive account of the five day game. The author also explores the lead up to the big match, and reveals behind-the-scenes happenings and player interactions, including allegations that the score was rigged to mimic that of the 1877 test – extraordinarily, Australia won both by 45 runs.
There’s also a foreword by Australian opening batsman, Rick McCosker, whose jaw was broken by a sharply rising ball delivered by English fast bowler, Bob Willis, in the first innings but who courageously returned – his head bandaged from throat to scalp – to play his role in the second innings.
The Test Of The Century is a captivating, engaging and entertaining account of the match and is a must-read for any avid cricket enthusiast.
Author: Barry Nichols
Publisher: New Holland Publishers