In one corner of the Hilton, Don Bradman broke bread with England's Bodyline attack. In another, 84-year-old Percy Fender, when reminded that in 1930 he had doubted Bradman's ability to succeed in the lushness of England, ruefully replied: "An indiscretion of youth."
On the concourses of the MCG, scoreboard nameplates of old greats hung, exuding history. On match morning, 18 past captains were paraded on the ground, Ian Chappell in a green safari suit. Well, it was the '70s.40 years ago tonight, the Centenary Test began in Melbourne. Australia and England came together for a one-off game to mark the 100th anniversary of the first Ashes test.
It was a great occasion and the cricket lived up to it. Australia won by 45 runs, just as they had done a century before.
But for a long time it looked as though they were going to make the 463 runs needed to win in the last innings.
Derek Randall scored a wonderful 174, interspersing his clowning with ravishing strokes. I remember, listening in the small hours, hearing John Arlott quoting Shakespeare:
And gentlemen in England now a-bedBut though Mike Brearley, Dennis Amiss, Tony Greig and Alan Knott all passed 40, no one was able to give him enough support for England to win. The scorecard is on Cricinfo.
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here.
Randall won Man of the Match, but an account of the test by Greg Baum suggests Dennis Lillee's performance in defying illness and injury to take 11 wickets in the match was greater:
[Rodney] Marsh protests to this day that though Randall made the match, Lillee won it.Lillee did not tour England in the summer of 1977 and England, by then captained by Brearley because Greig's involvement with Kerry Packer had been revealed, won back the Ashes.
And Derek Randall never quite had the career that that innings in Melbourne promised. A few years later Matthew Engel was to suggest that there were three rules for new selectors:
Don't have more than two glasses of port after dinner, don't interrupt the Chairman of Selectors and if in doubt drop Randall.