Tuesday, October 25, 2022

St Crispin's Day and why John Arlott was the greatest commentator

Today, 25 October, is the feast day of the twin saints St Crispin and St Crispinian. Jacob Rees-Mogg couldn't resist dating his resignation letter "St Crispin's Day" - Crispin's twin never gets the same coverage.

The two were martyred in 285 or 286 in Northern France, and a local tradition holds that they lived for a time at Faversham in Kent.

St Crispin's Day (his twin doesn't get the same coverage) is famous as the date of the Battle of Agincourt and for the king's speech in Shakespeare's Henry V.

My favourite piece of cricket commentary dates from March 1977 and the Centenary Test - a one-off test played between England and Australia at Melbourne to mark the centenary of test cricket and of Ashes cricket in particular.

Arriving from a victorious tour of India, the England captain Tony Greig won the toss and put Australia in. A good team bowling performance saw them dismissed for 138. Sadly, normal service was resumed as Dennis Lillee and Max Walker bowled England out for 95.

Australia declared their second innings at 419 for 9, setting England an improbable 463 to win. Yet for a while it looked as though they might get there. Good batting by Mike Brearley, Derek Randall and Dennis Amiss meant England reached 279-2.

But it was not to be. Dennis Lillee too five wickets and Australia won by 45 runs, which had been there margin of victory a hundred years before.

While things were going well in England's second innings and Derek Randall was batting out of his skin, I heard, listening in the night, John Arlott say:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here.

He really was the greatest cricket commentator of all.


Matt Pennell said...

Seems a bit ridiculous that you should even have to explain why Arlott was the greatest of all, though perhaps these days some primary school children might not have heard of him.

Nice to see that clip contains footage of Kerry O'Keeffe taking Randall's wicket, arguably Australia's greatest living commentator.

Jonathan Calder said...

At the end of next summer it will be 40 years since Arlott retired, and Jon Agnew, for one, has a different idea about who the greatest of all time might be...

Matt Pennell said...

I'm not even going to dignify Agnew's commentary claim with a response. However, to my knowledge Agnew has never stood for the Lib Dems even once in his life (Arlott stood for the Liberal Party in the '55 and '59 general elections) so that's -100 points for him as a human being.

I think that's fair

Anonymous said...

Was Mike Brearley not also sought as a Liberal Parliamentary candidate?

Jonathan Calder said...

I've not heard that story, but I would have welcomed it.

According to Mark Bonham-Carter, if Asquith had been forced to go ahead with his scheme to flood the Lords with Liberal peers, W.G. Grace would have been one of them.

tonyhill said...

When I was Liberal Agent for Winchester in February 1974 the candidate and myself went one afternoon to John Arlott's house and enjoyed a couple of glasses of a very good wine while he wrote a last minute leaflet exhorting the electors to support the Liberal cause.