The Cricketer
Huw Turbervill Huw Turbervill

THE GOOGLY: GOOCH AND KNOTTY’S WEEKEND IN BRIGHTON

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For one of the most curious examples of televised cricket you could wish to see, this week’s Googly urges, nay, implores you to watch the video below: ‘Kent v Essex – Wadham Stringer Trophy Final 1982’ at the earliest opportunity possible. To see stars like Graham Gooch, Alan Knott, Graham Dilley, Derek Underwood and Chris Tavaré battle it out in an indoor arena on the south coast in April of that year. It is weirdly compulsive, hilarious and intriguing, and Gooch’s spiky, irreverent interview at the end is the icing on the cake. It is clear what the Essex boys got up to the night before. Pints of the stuff.

 

Fred Dinenage, of ‘How’ fame, is the TVS host for the Friday Sports Show at the Brighton Centre, for the final of a prestigious tournament that sadly seemed to have lasted just the one season; sponsored by a company specialising in coach building and distribution of cars.

Everyone knows that there is nothing like a good game of cricket, and indoor cricket is nothing like it. It tries to be the real thing, but it’s a lame substitute. The best things that can be said about it are that it keeps you fit, is something to do in the winter, and helps with hangovers.

This tournament was seven a side, 12 overs per innings with three maximum per bowler. There is only one boundary (straight). If it is hit on the full, it is four, along the ground, six. When you run it counts double, so if you take a single and hit the side wall it is three.

The commentator is Neil Durden-Smith, and expert summariser is Bob Willis, taking the first tentative steps on the road to becoming cricket’s ultimate Marmite commentator.

Essex bat first, and opening the bowling is Tavaré. No, really. The back wall has a painting of trees and the Lord’s pavilion. Also in the field is Chris Cowdrey, Richard Ellison, Asif Iqbal and the aforementioned Knott, Dilley and Underwood. Essex have Gooch, Brian ‘Lager’ Hardie, Ken McEwan, Stuart Turner, Alan Lilley, John Lever and David East. Ray East is off camera (more of him later).

Tav’s bowling is as slow as his batting was at times for England, but he ensnares Gooch, who dabs to Cowdrey at point. “A very half-hearted effort,” deadpans Willis. 

The action then cuts to the seventh over, and it’s 69 for 1. Ellison is swinging it so much he is struggling to land it on the mat. Knott catches McEwan off the back net, but sadly the cameraman misses it.

Willis gives the kind of frank assessment that viewers of Sky’s The Verdict are accustomed to. “Dilley needs to learn to bowl the ball where he wants to, not where the batsman wants him to…” Ouch.

Hardie bats well, until he is brilliantly caught by Cowdrey; who then runs out Lilley magnificently. Essex end on 96.

“This Essex side really are a bunch of comedians,” says Willis, as he watches Gooch the bowler exact revenge on Tavaré. It’s a wonder anybody made any runs, to be fair, with so many prodigious swingers of a cricket ball in action – Gooch, Lever, Turner, Ellison and Dilley are deadly in indoor conditions.

Although we missed Knott’s catch earlier, it is great to see him bat. Eagle-eyed, he is looking for every possible gap, nook or cranny in the hall. “You can see the tension on Knott’s face…” They all seem to be taking it very seriously. The umpires are very generous about wides and – SPOILER ALERT – runs are at a premium. Kent fall well short on 70.

Then it’s Gooch priceless interview, full of the characteristic facial expression that we have all come to love. “We owe a lot to our manager Ray East. He gave us a tremendous team talk… in the bar at 3 o'clock in the morning…” The interviewer then asks Gooch if he can reveal any secrets of the team-talk. "Yeah, Ray bought 15 pints every round..."

Turner then reveals what he is going to do with his share of the three-grand prize money. “Give a lot to the taxman and a buy a lot of lager.”

I emailed Tavaré and Ellison to see what they recalled of it all. There were four teams, apparently, and it was played in one day. The former cannot recall the final but does remember facing Malcolm Marshall in the semi. Well, you would, wouldn’t you? He pitied Bobby Parks, who kept to him six yards back. Ellison’s most vivid memory came off the field:  “We stayed in the Grand Hotel and I woke up on the roof with no clothes on, having sleepwalked!” It sounds a lively tournament and surely one worth repeating.