Almanac Cricket: ‘The Summer of Barry’ – celebrating the golden season of 1970-71

 

 

Prospect 1970-71. Barry Richards on the far left

 

 

Some people have suggested that the 1960s didn’t arrive in Australia until the 1970s – that it wasn’t until Gough was elected that the Woodstock soundtrack was turned up and a hundred varieties of paisley allowed to bloom.

 

For Australian cricket, the Age of Aquarius kicked off in the summer of 1970-71. That season the Ashes tour was as long and tedious as a Grateful Dead concert. Seven Test matches for five draws. Geoff Boycott was best with the blade for England and his conservative style was virtually swashbuckling when compared to Bill Lawry.

 

Brian Chapman covering the series for The Guardian wrote that even ‘Lawry’s unmasterly inactivity possessed a sort of gruesome fascination. Was it humanly possible that a Test batsman could remain so long at the wicket and score so few so seldom? It was.’

 

Eventually, the Australian selectors booted out Lawry and told Ian Chappell to take the reins. They selected nine debutants that year including Rod Marsh, Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee.

 

The counterculture was underway.

 

While all this was taking place at the top of the ladder, two rungs down Prospect District Cricket Club was preparing to defend its Adelaide Grade Premiership. The powerhouse club boasted a number of first-class players including Graham ‘Clacker’ Clarke, Terry Jenner, Ashley Mallett, Jeff Hammond and Barrie Robran.

 

They were all there at the early practice session at Prospect Oval when their new opening batsman announced his arrival by belting a delivery from Mallett out of the nets and over the Lewis stand.

 

“Senseless slogging out of the nets was discouraged at the time,” says Peter Crossing, “but I don’t think anyone took issue with him.”

 

The new boy was Barry Richards. He had been lured to South Australia that summer with an offer of $100 per week plus $10 a wicket and $1 per run. Prospect arranged accommodation, Coca-Cola paid the bills and cricket lovers sat back and watched the man Don Bradman called the ‘best right-handed opener in the world’ take the game apart.

 

His anticipated debut was stalled by an overzealous groundsman who top-dressed Prospect Oval at the end of the footy season so heavily, that it was unplayable on the first Saturday of the cricket season. The following week University won the toss and decided the best way to get Richards out was to never let him in. The students batted until 4:43 in the afternoon. That gave the South African only a short time at the crease during which he blasted 27 in 28 minutes to give something to the thousand or so people who had ringed the fence, sitting patiently in folding chairs.

 

The moments Richards provided remain vivid in the memory of those club cricketers who shared them with him.

 

 

 

 

Mark ‘Moth’ Eaton was in his first A Grade season. At training, he was padding up behind the nets when Richards went into bat in an open net. Eaton overheard Richards say to the practice captain Ray Sutton that he was going to hit every ball on the leg side. Eaton’s recollection is that he did just that.

 

‘If the ball was pitched outside off, he would move right across the pitch and turn it on the leg side. If the ball was pitched short, he would hook or pull it into the sightscreen ten metres away. The bowlers became bemused and then a little upset by the treatment so much that when I came in for a net, they were breathing fire and I copped balls around my ears.’

 

Richards modestly wrote in his biography that he signed on for the season with Prospect and ‘if good enough’ would be available for South Australia. He was good enough. With the Chappell brothers, Ashley Woodcock, Jenner, Mallett, Eric Freeman, Kevin McCarthy and Ken Cunningham, South Australia won the Sheffield Shield. Richards became the first player since Don Bradman to score a century against every state and he added a double hundred against the MCC. His 356 against Western Australia at the WACA broke the spirit of Lillee and Graham McKenzie and at one stage reduced Tony Lock to bowling underarm.

 

In between state heroics, Richards returned to the suburbs. Against Glenelg, he plundered an unbeaten 151 out of 2/234 declared that included a 178-run partnership with Robran.

 

‘Kevin McCarthy took the new ball and on the third or fourth ball of the over, Barry advanced threateningly down the wicket,’ explains Robran. ‘The bowler, seeing this, then delivered the ball quite full and wide of the leg stump. By this time Barry had advanced down the wicket by some three or four side steps. He picked up the line and length of the wide delivery as quick as a flash and in an instant the ball sailed over the wide mid-wicket boundary. Even as time passes, I do not embellish this incident. Barry Richards was by far the best batsman that I had ever seen, and it was a privilege to have him play at our club.’

 

The players recall a man who played the game with a breezy confidence. He was a master craftsman but fitted in with the tradies. A Prospect supporter Mirko Petkovic was in the club after play one day when Richards came in from the field – the South African asked him if he wanted a beer and then plonked a ten-dollar note down and shouted the bar. Richards would later say how much he loved Adelaide and still retains friendships from the time. His commitment to the club was shown in the final weeks.

 

In the last Sheffield Shield match against New South Wales, Richards took a short delivery that broke a knuckle on the right hand. Despite the injury, he turned out for Prospect in the semi-final against Adelaide the following week. Batting virtually with one hand, Richards was unbeaten on 59 out of a total of 168. Hammond, Jenner and Clarke cleaned up Adelaide for 98. The following week Student Teachers were no match and Prospect claimed the premiership.

 

The plan was that Barry Richards would return to Australia in 1971-72 with South Africa but the tour was cancelled in protest at the racist policy of Apartheid. Richards never played Test cricket again. He appeared in Australia during World Series Cricket but there was a sense that his best years were by then behind him.

 

 

 

 

Fifty seasons ago he was a 24-year-old at the height of his powers. His numbers tell a story: 1538 runs for South Australia at 109.80 and 558 runs for Prospect at 55.80. To celebrate the anniversary, almanacker Chris Rees has designed a brilliant cover for a book on the season. It captures the vision of South Australian cricket’s summer of love – The Summer of Barry.

 

The Summer of Barry is available at www.sportswords.com.au

 

 

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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. Kevin Densley says

    As a young kid, I remember hearing about Barry Richards’ exploits for South Australia – this sounds like a fine book. (Excellent cover, too!)

  2. John Butler says

    Mike, this sounds like another beauty.

    I loved Chappell’s Last Stand. One of the best books about leadership I have read.

    A great cover by Chris, as well.

    Cheers

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I don’t think I can wait until Xmas for this one. 2020, all is forgiven.

  4. A brilliant article Mike. Like Swish, I would love to read all about the great man. In Richards’ triple century in Perth, Ian Chappell’ century went hardly noticed. Barry had many fine opening stands with Ashley Woodcock for SA. In my opinion Barry helped Ash develop from a good batsman to a fine one. Incidentally, Ashley Woodcock worked with me ithe Reserve Bank in ’66. We became good friends and often attended the footy together in the winter. Naturally I folled his career with much interest. Back to Barry, it sure was a crying shame , due to South Africa’s disgraceful arphied system , he only played a handful of tests.I certainly agreed with Bradman’s assesment of this fine opening batsman.

  5. Colin Ritchie says

    Terrific read Mike, one of the best I saw play!

  6. A must buy. I remember Moth Eaton as he dropped down the grades – had a magnificent moustache a la Geoff Merrill or Merv. The halcyon days of district cricket.

  7. Friday October 30 1970 – damn England are batting first in their first tour match against SA. As a 15yo cricket obsessive in country SA this is my first chance to see the great Barry (not the great Barrie) on the Sunday – but the poms will likely be batting again by day 3.
    Saturday October 31 is cricket day in Yorketown. Colts for me in the morning then scoring for dad’s team in th afternoon. Boycott has batted all Friday and the poms eventually declare mid Saturday and Barry will be batting in the last session. Double damn.
    But he’s 100NO at stumps. Callooh callay. Frabjuous Sunday there are 7 of us – dad, his teammates and me – crammed into the pink and grey FC for the 3 hour drive to Adelaide. He adds another 124 on the Sunday for a casual 224. I vividly remember Ray Illingworth putting every fielder on the boundary to give Barry easy singles and him “pacing” shots to the outfield slow enough to run twos.
    Cricinfo says my hero Ian Chappell made 93. Unmemorably.
    SA cricket was privileged in that era with Sobers then Richards then Joel Garner.
    Sobers like Viv or Lara was raw athletic power.
    Richards had the calculating brain of Tendulkar with the casual grace of Gower.
    Thanks Mike. Ordering 2 copies for 89yo dad and I. Brilliant.

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Will there be a Younis Ahmed follow up?

  9. I am really looking forward to this, Mike.

    I recall a WSC game at the SCG, World XI v Australia. Barry Richards at first slip was engrossed in a fight or disturbance on the old SCG Hill. He turned back to get in position at slip but was startled to see the ball thud into keeper Alan Knott’s gloves.

  10. Daryl Schramm says

    Oh Swish. Very droll.
    Yes, did see BR at The Oval that season. Maybe didn’t appreciate it at the time.
    Mike has produced some great stuff.

  11. Mark ‘ Swish’ Schwerdt. Will there be another Younis Ahmed?. I hope not Yours Truly Kevin McCarthy

  12. Younis Ahmed ? There’s a name i’ve not heard for a long time.

    He turned up two seasons after Barry Richards stellar summer, didn’t make a ‘ton,’ scored less for the season than Richards made in one innings against Western Australia, as well as earning the disdain of Ian Chappell.

    Younis Ahmed was one import who did not enhance ‘his’ states prospects.

    Glen!

  13. Then there was Gladsone Small, you know, the chap with no neck as sent up on Hey, Hey, it’s Saturday’s Red Faces.

  14. Fisho, Gladstone Small was A K A, ‘The man they couldn’t hang’.

    He destroyed us @ the ‘G’ in 86-87.

    Glen!

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