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Speed Isn’t Everything

Whilst the well known double act known as Lilian Thomson were laying waste to England’s batting in 1974/75 a young Western Australian made his First Class debut. Terry Alderman was twelfth man for the first two Shield matches of the summer before making a debut in the third, against New South Wales. There must have been some trepidation felt by the 18 year old whose only previous first team appearance had been a steep learning curve. Against South Australia in a Gillette Cup match three weeks beforehand he had taken 0-47 in his eight overs, and Ian Chappell had been particularly harsh on him.

Against New South Wales however Alderman had a much more satisfying time as he ended up with 5-63, including three in a single over. The role call of his victims was impressive too; Alan Turner, Rick McCosker, Ian Davis, Gary Gilmour and David Colley. All had or would go on to play for Australia, and all ended their careers with at least one First Class century. The only fly in the ointment for Alderman was that he picked up a leg strain in the second innings and missed the next few matches and was therefore unable to sustain his momentum.

From then until the end of the decade it is difficult to see why the Australian selectors ignored Alderman as his figures remained good and in 1978/79, the year Mike Brearley’s side humbled what amounted to Australia’s second eleven 5-1, it is surprising that a seasons’s work that brought him 26 scalps at 18.89, did not earn him an opportunity in the Tests.

In his early days Alderman was a youngster who, like many others, simply tried to bowl as quickly as could. He was never consistently successful however and despite his successes was occasionally dropped from the Western Australian side. He soon learnt that it was more profitable for him to cut down his pace and use the ‘Fremantle Doctor’ to assist him to swing the ball and whatever doubts the selectors might have had in the past his, on the face of things, modest 32 wickets at 26.09 in 1980/81 earned him a place in the party that toured England in 1981.

In its preview of the tour The Cricketer described Alderman as; a tall right arm fast medium bowler who swings and cuts the ball with disconcerting ease in helpful conditions, and expressed surprise at his not having previously been capped. It was probably a case of his being selected for English conditions as much as anything, although a stint as a pro in Edinburgh in 1980 had reaped steady rather than spectacular rewards. His competition for a place in the Test team were Dennis Lillee, Geoff Lawson and the main Australian success of the 1978/79 disappointment, Rod Hogg.

Alongside the magical summer of 2005 that 1981 series is one of the most famous of them all, Ian Botham’s heroics being etched in the minds of all Englishmen who witnessed them. In light of that it is perhaps surprising to relate how low key the opening salvos in the series were. The first Test was a comfortable Australian victory at Trent Bridge. Both sides packed their sides with seamers and, the pitch producing uneven bounce and plenty of lateral movement under cloudy skies, Alderman could not have picked a better surface on which to make his Test debut. England were dismissed for 185 and 125 and the Australians chased down a fourth innings target of 132 with four wickets standing. In England’s first innings Alderman took 4-68 in England’s first innings before bowling unchanged through their second effort for 5-62.

At Lord’s the rain intervened and the match was drawn. It was the one game in the series in which Alderman had no real success, taking just a single English wicket in each innings. The big news was a pair for England skipper Ian Botham, who resigned in anticipation of his dismissal. The teams met again at Headingley a fortnight later, Botham back in the ranks and England led once more by Brearley. The story is one of the best known in the game. England were forced to follow on and, seemingly hopelessly placed, checked out of their hotel. Cue Botham’s remarkable unbeaten 149 with the tail. Even then Australia had a smaller target than the one they had reached at Trent Bridge, but of course they failed, courtesy in the main of a spell of bowling from Bob Willis that was every bit as remarkable as Botham’s innings. No one remembers Alderman’s 3-59 and 6-135.

The fourth Test at Edgbaston was another Botham inspired England win, this time with the ball. Australia, after their Headingly nightmare were, if not exactly cruising towards a target of 151 at 114-5, were surely not going to make the same errors again? Cue Botham and a spell of five wickets for no runs and Australia were all out for 121. Once again Alderman’s contributions were forgotten; 5-42 and 3-65.

At Old Trafford England won again thanks to a Botham tour de force with the bat, an aggressive two hour 118 re-establishing England’s ascendancy and once more putting an impressive performance by Alderman in the shade. This time the Western Australian took 4-88 and 5-109. In the final Test at the Oval England, not without a few alarms along the way, managed to bat out the final day for a draw. Alderman took 3-84 and 2-60 to end the series with 42 wickets at 21.26; only Sydney Barnes and Clarrie Grimmett, both in South Africa in 1913/14 and 1935/36 respectively, and Jim Laker in the 1956 Ashes have ever taken more wickets in a series.

Interestingly the Alderman who bowled from Headingley onwards in 1981 was not quite the same bowler he had been in the first two Tests. At Trent Bridge conditions were so favourable for swing bowling that Alderman did not need to depart from his usual methods but, at Lord’s, the absence of any help to get the ball swinging drew his sting. It was Lillee who suggested that Alderman should up his pace a notch or two and try and get some seam movement as well. The veteran pace bowler was right, and it was the new quicker Alderman who appeared at Headingley.

After his success in England Alderman’s next series was in Australia against Pakistan and, at home on his familiar WACA, he took 4-36 and 2-43. After that however his career stuttered and he was unable to impose himself in Tests played in Australia, New Zealand or Pakistan. The next Ashes series was 1982/83 and at that stage Alderman’s place in the Australian side was far from a given, but he erased any doubts when, on the eve of the first Test on his home ground at the WACA, he took ten wickets in the state match. He must have been looking forward to re-establishing himself.

In the event there was little success for the Australian attack after Greg Chappell won the toss and invited England to bat. The Englishmen spent the first day accumulating 242-4 with Chris Tavare, who had recorded a pair in the state match, spending the entire day compiling a characteristically painstaking 66. He did not score a single run in the final hour of the day.

On the second day England and Tavare ground on, but Australia took wickets regularly, eventually reducing England to 357-8. With Bob Willis and Bob Taylor at the wicket an imminent closure seemed likely as the players began to notice the presence of a group of young England supporters who were chanting in the manner of soccer fans and getting more and more intoxicated.

England’s ninth wicket pair proved to be no pushover however and from the final delivery of his forty third over Alderman saw Willis edge the boundary that brought up the England 400. At this stage he had figures of 1-84, his sole success having been David Gower shortly after lunch on the first day. He, no doubt less than happy, walked backwards towards his fielding position at square leg, eventually turning round when he saw members of the group of unruly England fans running on to the ground. They, so Alderman assumed, just wanting to celebrate England passing four hundred.

One of the mob approached Alderman who, at this point sensing trouble, gestured him to keep back and then pushed him when he came into his personal space. As Alderman watched that individual move away another of the invaders ran past him. The contemporary pictures show this man with his arm extended and striking the back of Alderman’s neck. Alderman said later that he made a conscious decision to apprehend the miscreant when he realised there were no police on the ground. The footage rather suggests that giving chase was simply a knee jerk reaction from the victim of an assault, but either way Alderman quickly caught up with his target and took him to the ground with a head high rugby tackle. The manoeuvre succeeded in bringing down his man although it was as well that Lillee and Allan Border were on hand to detain the offender as Alderman had fallen awkwardly on his right shoulder, dislocating it and also suffering some nerve damage.

Rod Marsh signalled the dressing room for a stretcher. One was quickly found and Alderman’s teammates carried him off aided by England physic Bernard Thomas who supported the damaged right arm. Alderman was taken straight to the Royal Perth Hospital.

England skipper Willis, out in the middle at the time of the incident, saw it rather differently to Alderman, concluding; I sympathise with him, of course; he was on a short fuse and when a bloke appeared to have a go at him he exploded. But for all that it can never be the players’ job to deal with crowd invasions.

The rest of the players left the field with Alderman and, the police having now arrived in force, there was a lengthy delay whilst they brought an unseemly brawl to a close. Two officers needed medical treatment and as many as twenty five England supporters were ejected from the ground. The way sporting events were policed in Australia changed for ever as a result of the incident.

Initially it was thought that Alderman would just miss a single Test, but in the end it was a year before he was fit to bowl again. Whilst Pakistan were touring Australia he had a reasonable domestic season and was selected to tour the Caribbean in March and April of 1984. He played in the first three Tests but just four wickets at 92 runs each saw him lose his place for the last two matches in a series where the home side were never really extended. Alderman decided to return to England for the 1984 summer and agreed to join Kent, where 76 wickets at 22.69 doubtless helped restore his confidence.

Arriving home after his summer in Kent Alderman met the West Indies again, this time at home in Australia. For the first Test at the WACA Alderman was recalled, and briefly his stock rose again. A spell of 4-5 reduced West Indies to 104-5 and they briefly looked vulnerable before Larry Gomes and Jeff Dujon rebuilt the innings so successfully that the visitors won by an innings. Alderman ended up with 6-128, but in the second Test he took just two wickets, and none at all in the third and for the second series running was left out of the side for the final two Tests.

Despite dropping Alderman against West Indies the selectors recognised his track record in England and he was duly chosen for the 1985 Ashes tour. At the same time Alderman, along with seven others from the official touring party, had signed a contract to go to South Africa as part of an Australian side led by Kim Hughes. When this news broke Kerry Packer, now a part of the establishment, wielded his power by making an offer which persuaded five of the eight to abandon the rebels and stick with the Board. Alderman was one of the three who was not persuaded, and a three year ban followed.

Injury blighted Alderman’s trip to South Africa but he was back with Kent the following summer and 98 wickets at 19.20 demonstrated that he remained a class act. Had an arm injury not ruled him out of the county’s last two matches he would undoubtedly have achieved the by then rare feat of reaching one hundred for the season. It was then back to South Africa for the second rebel tour. Alderman played in just one of the four ‘Tests’, the last, and took only a single wicket.

Why did Alderman go to South Africa, particularly as, apparently, he was less than enthusiastic when first approached as he had just started a new job? At this stage there was a good deal of dissatisfaction generally amongst Australian players and it is tempting to wonder whether, on reflection, the events at the WACA in 1982/83 had some bearing.

No legal action was ever taken by Alderman in respect of the losses he sustained from his injury. The law was tricky, in that whilst there must surely have been some negligence on the part of those organising the Test because of their failure to arrange anything like adequate policing, at the same time at the point at which he sustained his injury Alderman was very much engaged on a frolic of his own. He did make a claim to the Board’s insurers for the maximum sum available, $20,000, as against the $60,000 he believed he had actually lost. At the time Alderman signed for the rebels it had not been paid, and indeed according to a note in a collection of the writings of Chris Harte that was published in 1991 it had still not been paid then and presumably therefore never was.

There was much disappointment in Kent in early 1987 when it was reported that Alderman did not feel fit enough to play a full English summer, and that indeed after his disappointment in South Africa he was considering retiring from the game altogether. If he was then within a year he had changed his mind as, Craig McDermott having had to withdraw from an agreement to sign for Gloucestershire, Alderman was quite happy to step into his shoes. He was not quite so successful as he had been in Kent but 75 wickets at 22.81 was still a return that his new employers were happy with.

The following winter Alderman became the first of the rebel tourists to be picked for Test cricket again. Only two others ever would be, leg spinner Trevor Hohns and paceman Carl Rackemann. On his return Alderman could not prevent a crushing West Indian victory, but he was certainly the pick of the Australian bowlers. His second Test back however saw him fail to take a wicket having pulled a hamstring, though he wasn’t missed too much as a match haul of 11-96 from Allan Border of all people took Australia to victory.

Recent history between the game’s traditional rivals ensured there was optimism in England ahead of the 1989 Ashes contest in England. In addition Australia had just suffered a 3-1 home reverse to West Indies and, once the tour began, a three match ODI series was, with one match tied, shared. The outcome of the Test series came as a shock to England supporters as Australia won four of the six Tests convincingly, and were always on top in the two draws. Many of the Australians performed well but as big a part as any was that played by Alderman, who became and remains the only man in the history of the game to twice achieve a forty wicket series haul. His final tally was 41 wickets at 17.36.

By now Alderman was the perfect example of the canny seamer. Despite a relatively long run there was no great pace and he simply bowled straight and made the ball move late both in the air and off the pitch. As many as nineteen of his victims were lbw leading to some complaints from England about the umpires favouring Alderman, even Wisden lending some credence to that theory. This writer’s recollection is that this was more a reflection of good bowling and poor batting than anything else. Whilst there can be no doubt that the number of lbw decisions was statistically disproportionate there could be no real complaint.

A further factor is that before the summer was over the English batsmen were certainly lacking in confidence, opener Graham Gooch even asking to be left out of the side for the fifth Test. The, as far as I am aware apocryphal, story took hold that during the series Gooch changed his answering machine message to ‘I’m out right now, probably lbw to Terry Alderman’.

In the following southern hemisphere summer Alderman enjoyed a series of consistent performances against a variety of opponents and ended up with 26 Test wickets at 23.27. That led on to what proved to be his final season of Test cricket, against his favourite opponents, England. He was 34, very much a veteran by Australian standards, although by those of Jimmy Anderson still a mere whippersnapper.

The series turned out to be almost as one-sided as its predecessor, but had it not been for Alderman it may not have been. At the ‘Gabba England began the series by being dismissed for 194, so no obvious change there, until Australia replied and fell 42 runs short of England. As the visitors doubled that lead for the loss of Wayne Larkins all England began to wonder if 1989 had just been a bad dream after all. At that point however Alderman pitched a ball on middle and leg that snaked away from Mike Atherton and took the top of his off stump. He ended up with the best figures of his career, 6-47 and Australia’s target was only 157, which they achieved without losing a wicket.

In fact the ‘Gabba turned out to be a last hurrah for Alderman. By the fourth Test he was out of the side, the Australian pace attack by then comprising Bruce Reid, Craig McDermott and Merv Hughes, although one of Reid’s many injuries meant that Alderman was back for the final Test at the WACA. He did little in England first innings as McDermott took 8-97, but did at least sign off with three wickets in England’s second innings. Alderman was a member of the party that, a few weeks later, travelled to the Caribbean but by then Mike Whitney was in front of him in the pecking order as well and Alderman played only in the fifth Test. Australia went in to the match 2-0 down but did manage a comfortable consolation victory, although there was just a single scalp for Alderman, that of Gus Logie in the second innings, perhaps appropriately lbw. Alderman was therefore left with a career haul of 170 Test wickets at 27.15. The one hundred Englishmen in that tally were rather more inexpensive, 21.17, and in England 83 of them cost Alderman just 19.31 runs each.

In fact Alderman, understandably, had not given up hope of making one last trip to England in 1993. He took wickets regularly in  the Sheffield Shield in 1991/92 and, at the end of that season, was appointed Western Australian player/coach for the following season to replace the long serving Daryl Foster who had been lured to England by Kent. It wasn’t however to be a good year for Alderman. He was fined at the start of the season for showing dissent at umpiring decisions and generally matters did not go well for either Alderman himself, who struggled with injury, nor his side, who made no progress and he had the dual disappointment of missing out on the 1993 tour and losing his position as coach to a returning Foster. It was not surprising when he then announced his retirement from the First Class game. Having left the game Alderman moved into the media and has become an accomplished after dinner speaker, radio commentator and tour and match host.

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