The Test of the Century

Published: 2016
Pages: 252
Author: Nicholls, Barry
Publisher: New Holland
Rating: 4 stars

Author Barry Nicholls writes that the Centenary Test asks the question of cricket fans what the moon landing or the death of Princess Dianna asks of most others. As in where were you when it happened?

I remember it well. Aged ten, I watched it home alone. 45 years later and I can still name both teams including the 12th men. Canberra in 1977 only had two channels, so my only choice was to watch the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission), led by Norman May (my dad would always unkindly quip that May was a one eyed supporter) and featuring Keith Miller, Frank Tyson and while I didn’t remember him – Jim Laker was also a part of the commentary team.

Nicholls, informs that there was also coverage through a commercial channel which, pre Packer, featured Richie Benaud and Bill Lawry. I remember that at the end of day one I had a tear in my eye as Australia had been dismissed for 138 and England were contemplating a healthy first innings lead.

It actually takes Nicholls 137 pages and 14 chapters before he covers the first day of the Test. I actually didn’t notice this fact while reading the book as there is plenty to keep readers entertained.

We start with a recap of the first Test in 1877, and some of the Ashes highlights throughout the proceeding 100 years. Special attention is dedicated to the cricket in the 1970s, especially the poor remuneration given to cricketers at the time. Nicholls manages the conflicting priorities well. The nostalgia of every living Ashes cricketer being invited to the match balanced with the unrest of the current players with their inadequate pay. 

It transpires at the time that many of the Australian players had World Series Cricket (WSC) Contracts in their bags during the celebrations and actual match. These included the Australian captain Greg Chappell, but not surprisingly his English counterpart Tony Greig, who later would become an integral member of WSC.

The author interviewed a number of players from both teams, although especially from Australia, including Chappell. It was interesting to hear that a couple of those interviewed regretted their decision to join WSC, despite the money on offer. The book finishes with a where are they now? And also a quick recap of the 1977 Ashes tour to England and the 1980 Centenary Test.

The Test of The Century certainly took me back to all the drama of the Centenary Test. Rick McCosker (who writes the forward), batting, swaved in bandages after having his jaw broken by Bob Willis; a baby faced David Hookes hitting Greig for five consecutive boundaries; Derek Randall doffing his cap to Dennis Lillee after being struck on the head by a bouncer; Rod Marsh scoring Australia’s first Test century for an Aussie ‘keeper and finally Australia winning by the same exact amount as they did in 1877.

While on the whole I enjoyed The Test of The Century, there were some bugbears. No index, or illustrations, plus some typos and minor factual errors went through to the ‘keeper. Apart from those minor criticisms, this is a fine read and clearly a labour of love for the author.

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