Almanac Cricket: A Pair of Aces – The Caribbean Bromance of 1973

 

 

The 1973 Caribbean bromance between Max Walker and Jeff Hammond included long walks on the beach, shared meals of goat curry and a two-nil series victory to Australia.

 

It was so beautiful to watch that lothario Keith Miller pushed his way through the crowded grandstand at Bourda in full flush and grabbed Ian Chappell by the arm as he led his players off for the lunch break on day four of the fourth Test.

 

‘Well done! Great Morning! I feel very proud of Jeff Hammond and Max Walker. Pass on my congratulations to them.’

 

It was supposed to be Dennis Lillee and Bob Massie leading the new ball attack as they had in England the previous year. Massie got crook soon after arriving in the West Indies and his style never was in sync with the conditions. Lillee bowled in the first Test and then his back collapsed.

 

That left Chappell with an inexperienced attack spearheaded by ‘Tangles’ and ‘Bomber’ – a large grinning Tasmanian and thinking South Australian. Both were green. Walker had played two Tests and Hammond none.

 

Their bowling actions were opposites. Hammond was raw pace, a great short ball and an ability to swing it away late from the right-handers. He was self-taught and had come into the South Australian Shield side as a teenager where his 34 wickets helped his state win the title in 1970-71.

 

Walker ran in like a circus bear late for a show. At the popping crease, he crossed his legs and threw his right arm over his head to hoop the ball back into the batsman. Greg Chappell watched ball after ball wondering how Walker managed to untangle himself after his delivery stride and not land face down on the pitch.

 

The West Indies (even omitting Garry Sobers) were favourites and picked a side based around spin bowling – Inshan Ali, Lance Gibbs and Elquemedo Willett. The pitches were flat and abrasive.

 

‘I think the idea was to produce two roads for the first Test matches at Jamaica and Barbados. These would be pure batting strips and then they would play three spin options at Trinidad where the wicket broke up badly,’ said Hammond.

 

He had seen this sort of a deck before. At his club Prospect and on Adelaide Oval he knew all about graveyard pitches where bowlers had to get their wickets quickly before batsmen settled in for the day.

 

On the third day of the opening Test at Sabina Park he came to Ian Chappell with an idea that sounded outrageous – so his captain listened.

 

Lawrence Rowe and Alvin Kallicharran were both set, and the crowd was loving watching the total go beyond 150 with only two wickets down. Hammond said he could bounce Kallicharran out.

 

Chappell noted that the pitch was pretty flat and that ‘Kalli is a good hooker’ but after a short discussion agreed that Hammond could have two bouncers and if they didn’t work then they would return to the original plan.

 

Hammond’s first short ball found the batsman’s glove and was acrobatically caught by Rod Marsh. It was Hammond’s first Test wicket. He finished the innings with three more while Walker picked up six. The match ended in a draw, but it felt like a victory for the two young bowlers.

 

A newspaper photographer Ron ‘Bazza’ McKenzie was in the sheds and wanted a picture. He borrowed some cards from Doug Walters and got the bowling pair to hold up the cards matching their wicket hauls. Walters liked card action and vowed to get involved.

 

 

Photo: Ron McKenzie

 

 

The bond – like their workload – grew. Ashley Mallett wasn’t on tour and the selectors had sent three leg-spinners (Kerry O’Keefe, Terry Jenner and John Watkins) and so the pace belonged to ‘Tangles’ and ‘Bomber’.

 

They took long walks on the beach at night talking tactics and discussing how they would approach each day’s play.

 

‘We got along so well,’ remembered Hammond.

 

Their eating competitions became legend within the team.

 

‘Both men could have eaten for Australia and the all-you-could-eat buffets at our hotel came in for a terrible hammering,’ recalled Greg Chappell in the Guardian.

 

One started with half a chicken each followed by goat curry and then a steak. Walker suggested the next course would be half a dozen bowls of jelly at which point Hammond baulked. Walker later admitted it was a bluff. One more mouthful might have seen an early version of Monty Python’s Mr Creosote.

 

The bowlers were gutsy and smart. Greg Chappell saw for the first-time reverse swing in action while Ian Chappell called on Hammond’s accuracy to exploit a chink in Clive Lloyd’s armour.

 

‘Even in his earliest days playing for South Australia, I noticed one thing about Jeff Hammond – tell him where to bowl a ball and he will put it very close to the mark,’ wrote Chappell after the series. ‘On this occasion, he scored a perfect bullseye.’

 

The ball pitched and lifted straight towards Lloyd’s armpit and the resulting cut shot was feathered through to Marsh.

 

It was in the heavy heat at Bourda in the fourth Test that the duo had its finest hour. Actually, it was two hours. Walker and Hammond bowled unchanged through the entire first session. Hammond’s job was added to by a boil on his thigh that chaffed with every stride. He took four wickets and then followed his team shouldering its way through the crowd towards lunch when Miller acknowledged the moment.

 

Walker picked up the next three wickets and then bowled Gibbs to clean up the West Indies for 109 – Keith Stackpole and Ian Redpath made the needed runs and Australia took a 2-0 series lead. McKenzie pulled out his camera to capture another moment and Walters made sure he shared it. He had picked up five wickets in the first innings and two in the second. O’Keefe and Jenner were forced to hold blank cards.

 

Photo: Ron McKenzie

 

 

The tour was a triumph for Chappell’s captaincy. Walker finished with 26 wickets and Hammond 15. Tangles played another 27 Test matches but usually as a change bowler behind Lillee and Jeff Thomson. Hammond returned to Adelaide ‘unable to scratch himself’ after playing virtually every match in the Caribbean. His back went and he eventually had his spine fused. He reinvented himself as a batsman and played for South Australia again.

 

Both parlayed their Caribbean bromance from 1973 for the rest of their lives. Walker used the episodes including the eating competitions as part of his repertoire as a raconteur and author while Hammond collated the learning to teach others while coaching South Australia to the Shield title in 1995-96 and later in South Africa and England.

 

 

Scorecards from Cricinfo HERE

 

 

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About Michael Sexton

Michael Sexton is a journo working for the ABC in SA. His scribblings include "1964", "Fos Wiliams on Football" and the biography of Neil Sachse.

Comments

  1. Richard Brown says

    Enjoyed the article thanks Michael. I recall listening to this series on ABC RADIO as an 11 year old in the early hours of each morning. And I still have ian chappell’s book “Passing Tests” somewhere here at home. This series was during a very formative time of my cricketing education.

  2. An improbable dynamic duo if ever there was one, and in an away series at that! MHN Walker will always be one of my favourite cricketers, a big-hearted (and big-stomached!), jovial and modest character who never gave anything less than his all, yet ‘forced’ to play second or third fiddle behind the likes of Dennis Keith and Jeffrey Robert. This Caribbean series allowed him to be ‘king pin’ and he reigned superbly. Hammond went beyond the call of duty – you could say that his effort in that series was ‘back breaking’.

    On a light hearted note, could these two have teamed up with Harms to be the ultimate ‘Lunch for Australia’ team?

  3. JASON ANDREW TOPPIN says

    ENJOYED THE ARTICLE MICHAEL
    TO HAVE READ THIS ARTICLE ALLOWS ME TO GO BACK TO THAT GAME THOUGH NIT HAVRNG BEEN BORN IN THAT YEAR

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Fantastic story Michael. Some parallels to the 1995 Windies tour when the inexperienced attack of McGrath, Reiffel and Julian stepped up after the injuries to McDermott and Fleming.

    What a loss Max Walker was, such a fun, entertaining performer and writer.

  5. steve todorovic says

    Thank you Michael for reviving fond teenage teenage memories. I had fallen in love with the west Indians on their 68/69 tour…the best all round cricketer of all time in Garfield Sobers,.a young Clive Lloyd on his first tour, the weary old fast bowling demons Hall and Griffiths on their last. The under rated Seymour Nurse was a favourite. I was 11 and it was the first series I took an interest in. Then followed the wonderful 4 test series v the South Africans in South Africa. The last before Apartheid closed the doors on the South Africans. Going to bed listening to Barry Richards, Dennis Lindsay ( surely the first and possibly best ever batsman/wicketkeeper) and Graeme Pollock tearing our attack to pieces. Waking the next morning to hear on the radio that one , two or all three of them had scored double tons! Then the 70/71 series v the Poms back home and the sheer drudgery of listening to Boycott and Edrich batting through session after session, lucky to make 60 runs in the session. But it was worth it to see that incredible 108 runs on debut by the majestic Greg Chappell at the WACA. His 171 run partnership with the ever reliable Ian Redpath is still etched on my mind. Onto that magical ’72 Ashes series in England….Bob Massie’s 16 wickets at Lords and filling in the ABC cricket book religiously..when all along Mum thought I was doing Maths homework.
    That 73 series is vivid in my memory. I was starting year 12 and the time difference meant we would listen in the mornings when getting ready to go to school. I do remember the disbelief that these two young quicks could do what they did. We knew Maxxie in Victoria. He was already a hero…Shield wickets and games wit the demons in the VFL. But Jeff Hammond was a new revelation. And he could bat also. It was a great shame he became so badly affected by his back woes.

    Thank you for rekindling wonderful memories in a time when it really matters.

    Cheers

    Steve

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks for this Mike. You’ve caused my to drag out my ABC Cricket Book for this tour.

    Hammond’s pen-pic said the following

    “Bowls with great heart and purpose on even the most sympathetic pitches and never ceases to try. Although he bats toward the end of an innings Hammond reveals tenacity and purpose when the situation demands.

    A good fieldsman.”

  7. Rulebook says

    Mike absolutely awesome! Lots of fantastic memories ( have sent to Ashley son of to send to Bomber )

  8. Thanks for this, Mike.
    I reckon the brevity of tours these days has been a factor in the decline of Caribbean long-form cricket.
    Bring back the good old days of long tours!

  9. Daryl Schramm says

    Enjoyed reading this. Thanks Michael. A lot of stories eminated from this tour (queue Johnny Watkins changing into his pjs on the flight over). Also enjoyed Steve’s comments. 68/69 was the first series I really got my teeth into. 67/68 v India and ’68 in England I had an awareness of but we moved to Adelaide from the country in Dec ’68 and dad took me to the Aust day test in 69 when I was 13. Many days of shield cricket at the oval followed where I discovered the lovely action of Jeff Hammond. I loved watching and trying to copy bowling actions and still have a fascination with them. Very fortunate to have got to know ‘Bomber’ in later years when he came to Kensington. Great fun.

  10. Great stuff. Loved Jeff Hammond when he was a young tearaway quick for SA. He was very slight and generated pace from a long parabolic quick run up. Really bent his back. Had a beautiful away swinger. Remember him bowling to the classic umbrella field of 4 slips and 2 gullies. Dig a couple in short to get the batsman on the back foot and then fully pitched up out swingers to get the batsman forward to nick it. Poor man’s Richard Hadlee.

  11. Will Scott-Young says

    I was too young to see any live coverage of the 1972 Ashes tour or ’73 tour if the West Indies. But I know enough of the stats particularly the amazing figures of R.A.L. Massie at Lord’s and Ra Maxwell Henry Norman Walkers heroic 26 wickets in a 2 nil series win vs The Windies after Dennis Lillee succumbed to stress fractures in his back. Yes that 1985 test series was memorable. The bowling attack and Steve Waughs brilliant double ton was epic. Long live test match cricket.

  12. Good stuff Michael.

    We could have easily been 1-0 down after the third test. I remember the image of Keith Stackpole’s bloody face after he’d received a sweep shot in it whilst fielding at short leg. A Windie’s second innings collapse when victory was in the bag.

    Then the fourth test when after both sides had good first innings, scores being very close, the home side again collapsed. We won by 10 wickets as the Victorian’s Stackpole and Redpath took us home.

    Like Luke said there were parallels with the 1995 victory, as injuries impacted our bowling attack. As well as Walker and Hammond bowling superbly the spinners Terry Jenner and Kerry O’Keefe both had their best ever series .

    Of course Dougie Walters was a presence with bat and ball during that tour.

    Glen!

  13. G’day Mike,

    Really enjoyed the piece – a real reminder. Jeff Hammond is somewhat forgotten outside SA.

    I remember the series well. Like Swish, I have the ABC Cricket Book. But I don’t remember listening. Maybe I was too disappointed. After 1972 and the coverage of the Pommy Tests (half an hour of Benaud-hosted highlihgts before the ABC News and listening on the radio in bed), I was so disappointed there was no Lillee and Massie. Little did I realise.

    I will add the link to the cricinfo match scoreboards in the piece now.

    Thanks for the piece.
    JTH

  14. Peter Crossing says

    Excellent snapshot Mike.
    Two unsung heroes in many respects.
    Max – defied the coaching manual and found his unique way. Funny man too.
    Bomber – an interesting character. Always had a theory to discuss. A pity that the back injury curtailed his bowling career. He could bowl fast and swing the ball.

  15. Paul Quilty says

    Love reading this. I remember listening to the last session on the radio when on my way to school. So many brave performances on that tour. And live the line about Max Walker – ‘Walker ran in like a circus bear late for a show’. Fabulous.

  16. matt watson says

    I love reading historical articles like this.
    I was too young to remember this series and I never saw Hammond play.
    But I remember Tangles and I’ve read his first book which mentions this tour.
    And I Chappell’s books too
    History is fascinating…
    Thank you for the read!

  17. Keiran Croker says

    Thanks Michael, a very enjoyable read. I remember the series quite well though not the details. I was in high school at the time. It was a shame that Hammond did not get a chance to play Tests at home given his back injury.

  18. Andrew Bishop says

    Great article Michael. The district cricket A grade final in 1972-73, won by Kensington in a low scoring match, was played — because they were away on tour in the West Indies — without Bomber (for Prospect) and TJ (for Kensington). TJ was replete with stories on his return. It’s important to recognise that apart from Bomber and Tangles’ principal heroics in that series, TJ and Kerry O’Keeffe were instrumental in the winning of one of the tests. Wokka Watkins did little bowling on tour but apparently could be relied on at team gatherings to readily sing his one song … “What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor …”. And a dead alligator apparently toured with the group, being planted in the beds of one or other of the tourists. It was known as the Inshan (after the West Indies spinner Inshan Ali … Ali … get it?

  19. Raj Singh says

    Great Article Michael seems like Bomber could have played a lot more for Australia.

    Remember bumping into him in London and reliving the great shield win.

  20. Love it Michael, great piece. Like Paul’s comment, it’s a brilliant description of Maxy’s bowling action and run up. Big fan of his work, massively under rated especially his work in 74/5

    Sean

  21. Bernard Whimpress says

    Excellent piece, Michael
    I have just downloaded on the new Australian Society for Sports History SA Facebook page I established yesterday.

  22. Gary Cosier says

    I think the two blokes were terrific bowlers and I played with and against both. In that tour of the West Indies, I believe the track’s didn’t quite have the hardness of what they had when Andy and Michael arrived. There was a bit of seam which suited Bomber and Tangles. No swing for Bob, but great for the other two but not easy and they gave everything they had and a bit more.

  23. greg perkins says

    good article with great memories of a fab result under extreme pressure for Aussie Cricket Team. Well played!

  24. Mark Branagan says

    Thanks Michael – brilliant. I’m still trying to find my copy of Keith Stackpole’s seminal autobiography, ‘Not Just for Openers’ one of the great cricket book titles of all time. i recall he told a story of a West Indian spinner in that series named Uton Dowe who was flogged mercilessly by Stacky and others in one of Dowe’s few (only?) Test appearances. This led the local crowd to erect a sign, “Dowe Shalt Not Bowl”. Never forgot it.. Mark B

  25. Andrew Bartley says

    Uton Dowe was an opening bowler so erratic they invented Andy Roberts and look how that turned out.
    Stacky should have patted a few back.

  26. Rabid Dog says

    Thanks. A great read. I remember reading the summaries in the News and/or the Advertiser. Too young to stay awake and listen in. It was Jeff being selected for the 72 Ashes tour that really got me interested in cricket. I told him all about it once, and when he moved to Cairns he presented me with his signed minibat of the 73 Windies tour. It’s in my hand right now as I type. A real treasure.

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