Almanac Cricket: Remembering Ashley Mallett and Alan Davidson.





Last night the news came of the passing of Ashley Mallett.  As I was about to ‘put pen to paper’ my phone flashes with the news of the passing of Alan Davidson.  A deflating last 16 hours!


I was lucky to be coached by Ashley as part of the ‘Spin Australia’ programme in the late 80’s, whilst I met Alan Davidson at a number of events.


The first time meeting Davo was at the NSW Junior Cricket Union presentation night in Sydney as Nepean (now Penrith) had just won a Junior Union competition for the first time ever, the under 12’s Arch Cawsey Shield in 1984/5.  We had a good team, lead by Jason Arnberger (who would play for NSW and Victoria), Michael House (a talented  athlete who played a handful of rugby league games for St George as a fullback) and Carl MacNamara (who had a lengthy career as a front rower for the Penrith Panthers).  Sadly, I don’t think anyone took any photos from that night.


A big and well groomed man, he spoke with everyone who approached him and always had a smile on his face, which held the large frame of his glasses.  My father knew him through administration and Davo asked what happened in our Final against Bankstown, as he’d heard “there was some controversy.”


It started before a ball was bowled as an umpire demanded we didn’t have any colours on our whites.  He insisted that we  couldn’t play in our Adidas three-stripe shoes.  A bunch of dads rushed to the local hardware stores to buy up white spray paint and all of us were standing in a line while our shoes were sprayed to old mate’s satisfaction.  We batted first and finished with about 180 from memory.


The game came down to Bankstown being 9 down and needing 3 to win from the last 2 balls.  On the penultimate ball the batter skies it straight up and mid on stands under it next to the bowlers stumps waiting to take the catch, but the batter has run down the pitch, gets in the face of our fielder and screams “run” to the non striker just as the  all comes down.  The catch is dropped and we appeal as the batsman has clearly obstructed the field, but the umpire refuses the appeal and the single is scored.  Two off the last ball.


That batter is now the non striker and on the last ball he has taken off running before our bowler, Shawn Borger, gets into his delivery stride. Shawn whips off the bails and the non striker is given out, run out.  Suddenly the Bankstown entourage claim we’re the bad sports and appeals are made to have the result reversed.


After hearing the story Davo shook his head and said it was a shame the umpires tried to enforce laws that didn’t matter but didn’t know the laws when it did.  Umpires shouldn’t get in the way of the players enjoyment of the game and if they made the right call on the obstruction appeal, nobody would be talking about the dreaded mankad. He was happy the right result was achieved in the end.


Whenever I had the chance to meet Davo after that, he’d ask me if I’d ever seen any mankads since.  A man of great character, you could only imagine what his all round abilities would have achieved in the time of limited overs cricket.


In the late 80’s every grade club was invited to send 3 young spinners to come to the SCG and receive specialist coaching from Ashley Mallett and Peter Philpott.  Peter took the wrist spinners under his wing while the off spinners and left arm orthodox went with Ashley.  He taught us that while drift, dip and control of line and length were all essential tools of our trade, it all meant nothing if you don’t spin the ball bloody hard.  We spent hours just getting our spin rates increased.  We had special red and white balls to see how the ball was spinning.


Forefingers started to callous, split and bleed.  We were introduced to concoctions designed to toughen the skin up so it wouldn’t split so much.  He taught us how to set our fields, how he hated the deep point position as it was only used to field a bad ball, better to have the fielder in the place to bring wickets with the good balls.


A number of NSW Shield batsmen took the opportunity to use our sessions as extra batting practice.  Most were very good to us kids and would play their shots into the nets.  Except for one, who would go on to play Test and one dayers for Australia, who thought it was his sole job to bash us into the construction site of the Sydney Football Stadium.  Rowdy wasn’t happy and after telling this bloke to stop losing the balls, the batsman ignored him and continued with his slogging of 14 and 15 year old kids.  Never mind a few of us beat him and had him stumped or caught a few times.


Ashley went down the net and stood over this bloke, right over him and told him to get out of our training session.  The prolific batsman said “you can’t tell me what to do.”  This gentle giant of a man, called Rowdy as he was so softly spoken and introverted, verbally unleashed on this bloke and suddenly more senior NSW players have had to intervene and forced this bloke to do as he was told.


Great coaching, and it all seemed a little wasted on my limited abilities.


These two wonderful men, both giving of their time and knowledge to the benefit of cricket.  May they knock over all the batters in heaven who have had it all too easy until now.




We’ll do our best to publish two books in the lead-up to Christmas 2021. The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020  and the 2021 edition to celebrate the Dees’ magnificent premiership season(title is up for discussion at the moment!). These books will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers and Demons season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from these two Covid winters. Enquiries HERE


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About Wayne Ball

Tragic fan of the Australian and NSW cricket teams (for those of you outside NSW, there is a difference, despite what David Hookes said). Not a fan of T20. Penrith Panthers are the only club of decency and all which is good in Rugby League, the Waratah's were once the national team of Rugby Union, the first non Victorian team in the VFL/AFL is the Sydney Swans, and they all enjoy my passionate support. Sings for Wanderers. Internationally, I have been to see the Oakland Athletics and Green Bay Packers play. One day, I'll see Norwich City play for the FA Cup at Wembley.


  1. Great yarns Wayne. They really personalise and give character to the on-field performances. Davidson was just before my time watching cricket, but Dad (90 not out this week) had his “13 Paces” book. I devoured it and particularly his 1961 Ashes Tour heroics, when under Benaud’s captaincy Australia turned the tide against the poms who had dominated the 50’s.
    The scarcity of Test series then gave them meaning and context. Now everything merges into another meaningless series and nothing is memorable.
    Mallett was a personal hero – as he played most of his senior cricket for SA – and he gave hope to nerdy, skinny awkward kids like me. His gully fielding was extraordinary. Wonder if that came naturally or if he had to work at it to get that great?
    Thanks for memorialising 2 wonderful men and cricketers.

  2. Ta Wayne.

    Alan Davidson was before my time. His last test was around the time I was born. Ashley Mallett I have fond memories of.

    His legendary clumsiness, amazing gully catches, throwing his bat at fast bowlers when bounced in Sheffield Shield matches ( D K Lillee, Alan Hurst), 8-59 against Pakistan in Adelaide during the 1972-73 season, getting the wicket clinching the 1974-75 Ashes series: wonderful memories of my younger days.

    To cap it off Bert Newton died last night.

    Not a few good days for Australians who were so much part of our lives.


  3. Ian Hauser says

    Wayne, thanks for this deserved tribute to two classy men.

    ‘Davo’ and 1961 are among my first cricket memories that have stood the test of time. Being a fellow ‘leftie’ was a point of connection. I looked again at his performance in the Tied Test – 44 and 80 with the bat, 5/135 and 6/87 with the ball – outstanding! Even more so, the crucial 80 in Australia’s second innings was compiled under such pressure.

    ‘Rowdy’, as PB said, gave hope to spindly, awkward kids as he developed his craft, made it to the top and took some amazing catches along the way. An understated and underrated cog in a machine filled with far bigger ‘names’. And that 8/59 against Pakistan!

    Wayne, the stories of your personal interactions with them clinched any doubts about the personal qualities of these two giants of days gone by.

  4. Wayne Ball says

    And now Peter Philpott. This is just too cruel.

    Rowdy has tied up one end, and created a bit of rough on the follow through. Wickets are waiting for you.

  5. Such sad 48 hours in Australia Cricket

    Would have loved to seen Alan Davidson play, did Richie Benaud say he was the best player he captained or favourite player.
    Was a player described I think as always prepared to give another over.

    I picked a test team of players that never saw but would love to have seen player with Luke
    I did have Davidson in the middle order with Keith Miller and then Miller, Davidson and Lindwall as the quicks (I saw Lillee)

  6. Good stuff Wayne I have done quite a few coaching clinics with,Rowdy and smiled re the red and white balls have had the pleasure of observing him do the drill on a number of occasions – great man,Rowdy RIP

  7. Daryl Schramm says

    A lovely story Wayne. A bit spooky with Peter Philpott passing as well as Ashley Mallett. Which spinning group were you in? Are you able to reveal the name of the batsman Rowdy dressed down? I’m also with PB regarding Mr Davidson. Before my time but dad, at 89, recalls him well.

  8. Wayne Ball says

    Daryl, I didn’t want to embarrass the batsman, as tempting as it is. Just think of a very talented up and comer in the lay 80’s who was more successful in one dayers than Tests in the 90’s. Would actually have been a phenomenon in T20.

    I was a left arm orthodox bowler. I gave the game away in my early 20’s.

  9. Are the initials MGB? Without identifying the batsman, of course, who was a prodigious scorer at State level.

  10. Daryl Schramm says

    and had some success at test level bowling . . . .?

  11. Wayne Ball says

    Ironic, huh?

  12. Luke Reynolds says

    Lovely tribute Wayne, very sad losses.

    Did the concoctions help with the finger spinner callouses?

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