Almanac Cricket: UQCC – Interview with the Keepers (Part 2)

Earlier we brought you Part 1 of this interview between Ian Elks and three Uni of Queensland Cricket Club wicketkeepers to play for Queensland: Lew Cooper, Wade Seccombe and Chris Hartley.

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In part 1, we celebrated the early part of the careers of Lew Cooper, Wade Seccombe and Chris Hartley, including their formative years, cricketing heroes and influences, memories of great characters such as Wep Harris and Thommo, and what playing cricket for UQCC meant to them.

We noted at the time Chris’ great achievement in taking the most dismissals for Queensland, overtaking Wade to reach this landmark.

Never one to rest on his laurels, in the recent match against Tasmania at the Gabba, Chris took his 500th Sheffield Shield catch, the most by any wicket keeper in the history of the Shield competition.

Congratulations, Chris, from all the Uni Old Boys on this great achievement!

 

Now on to Part 2 of our interview with The Keepers, where Lew, Wade and Chris discuss training and playing routines, changes they’ve witnessed in cricket, triumphs and disasters, and memories of the Gabba.

3keepers

 

During the height of your playing days, what were the routines or training drills you used to keep your skills sharp? What were the drills passed down from Marsh to Healy to Seccombe to Hartley?  As a father reading this who is coaching his budding wicket keeping son – what should he do??

Lew – Well, Wally Grout never passed anything on to me.  The only thing he said to me was, ‘Don’t go out on to the field before a match to catch balls for the blokes — all they want to do is show off their arm in front of the public, and you’ll do a thumb — so don’t do that’.

One of the best practices — and I was pleased to see someone doing it the other day — Jack McLaughlin, at state training, used to bat with one stump, and he’d hit them in the guts all the time, but he’d miss some deliberately, and it was good practice keeping to that.

Lew Cooper

Lew Cooper

But apart from that, all I did was bounce a tennis ball up against the wall then went out and played, that was my training.  Basically, we didn’t do warmups or anything before the game, in fact I used to teach school the morning of a match, so I could get paid for a half day, and then turn up to play for Qld by 11.00 am.  Wally never even used to bring his gloves to practice. He use to play cards in the Cricketers’ Club, come down and have a bat, and go back and play some more cards or pool. I’d do all the catching at training for fielding practice.

If I did anything for myself, it would be privately at home. I’d get one of my mates to throw to my left hand because that was my weakest. Then balls landing in front of me on the half volley, because you tend to move your head away and you have to practise to keep watching them. Practise with my hands going forward to the ball so when I was stumping, my hands were catching the ball and taking the bails off at the same time. I read a book by Godfrey Evans on how to keep wickets, and this was my training to be a keeper for Qld.

I also use to keep to off spinners all the time, and they were difficult to keep to — Kev Duffy, Tom Veivers, Bobby Crane and Brian Rubb, all from Uni. It was a lot of fun keeping to the different bowlers, but it was sometimes difficult when a new bowler came along that you hadn’t seen before.

I remember I wasn’t the first person they picked to keep for Qld when Wally was away. A bloke called Alan Reed played one game, and they let him go because he was too nervous, and then they picked a guy called Dick Tovey, from Souths. He only played one game and they let him go.

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Grout remained too competitive to ever satisfy himself.
In Karachi in 1964, on the last ball of a long
first day, he dived down the leg-side to catch
Khalid Ibadulla off McKenzie for 166. Teammates
thought it the best wicket keeping effort they
had ever seen. Grout grizzled, ‘Yeah, but
you shoulda’ seen Don Tallon.
=====

 

Then they picked a guy called Lindsay Thorpe, from Toowoomba. He was the same age as Wally and was left-handed. You don’t see many left-handed wicket keepers. So anyway, his first game for Qld, and the first time he ever saw Ray Lindwall, was at the MCG. Lindwall came running in for the first ball of the match, and it was a big inswinger, and Thorpey, who had never seen him before, was moving towards first slip and it sailed down the leg side — four byes. So next ball, Lindwall came running in and bowled an outswinger and Thorpey went to the legside because of the previous inswinger — another four byes. Two balls and the Vics were none for eight! Lindwall was asking a few questions, but apparently, after that, he kept OK for the remainder of that Southern Tour.  Anyhow, after the next season’s Southern Tour, they dropped Thorpie and that’s when I got in (February 1959).

 

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Did you know?

Since 1877, the Australian Test cricket team has
had 45 captains, but only 33 wicket keepers (some
for only a match or two). The 33 drummers in the
band are Australia’s most exclusive club. Of those 33,
11 have appeared in 622 out of the 773 tests Australia
have played (86%).

For Queensland, there have been only
14 wicketkeepers since it entered the
Sheffield Shield in 1926.
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Chris – These days you’ve probably played youth tours with them, and if you haven’t, there’s video analysis, so we have a bit more of an idea. Sometimes with a new bowler, you might be a little more flat-footed and you might not cover as far, but I just want to make sure I know what’s actually going on.

 

Lew – When I first kept to Slasher (Ken Mackay), he bowled medium pace — curved them around a bit. He bowled one ball and I thought to myself, ‘Shit, he’s not too quick, I’ll go up and take him over the stumps.’ At the end of the over Slasher came up to me and said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m seeing them alright.’ He said to me, ‘I don’t want you over the stumps, it doesn’t look good for me if you’re standing up. Wally takes me standing back.’ I took Slasher standing back after that!

 

Chris – Most times when you stand up to the medium pacer, the first ball is a yard quicker and sometimes a bouncer.

 

Lew – Yes, I remember that happened to me one day when Ross Duncan was bowling. It was a very hot day and it was late in the afternoon. He wasn’t bowling his quickest, so I went up to the stumps. Well, when he saw me, he stopped his run up, turned around, started again and came charging in. He bowled it down the legside to a left-hander, who we were having trouble getting out. Anyway I grabbed it and stumped the bloke. After that, I stood back and we went on to win the game. When we came off, he said he was only trying to bowl four byes to embarrass me! Some lady came up and said, ‘Oh, you’re wonderful you two, what a combination you have, you couldn’t get that bloke out.’ Ross was as shitty as shit. Same thing happened keeping to Sandy Morgan at the MCG. He came charging when he saw me standing up to him. It went straight through my gloves and hit me in my box. He thought it was a real big joke — no sympathy — it was the one and only time that I stood up for Sandy.

 

Ian – Very good — one way to get the bowler going. Wade, any particular skills or training techniques?

Wade Cooper

Wade – Standing up over the stumps in the nets is as realistic as it can be. Not a lot was passed down, I saw Ando (Peter Anderson) training with a ball through the chair, Heals had drills with a golf ball against the wall — it’s a great way of getting your feet moving. Just catching really. What I tell kids is that keeping is easy, you’ve just got to catch every ball. But you’ve got to work really hard to get to that point. Who cares how you catch, as long as you catch it — it’s the work you put in.

 

Chris – I agree with that — lots of catching. It’s a very repetitive skill anyway. Important to get the basics down and not to get too complicated or funky with your drills. Heals and most keepers will work on catches off the face of the bat, working the keeper one way and then the next. The older I’ve got, the best practice is in the nets to the spinners.

 

Ian – It’s interesting no one has mentioned footwork.

 

Lew – The only thing that Don Tallon ever told me, and it took him half an hour to tell me because he’d had a lot to drink at the time, he said, ‘99% of catches are on the outside edge of the bat, and so you have to catch the ball on the inside of your body.’ That’s when you are standing back. When you keep up to the stumps, the main thing you have to do is keep down and come up with the bounce of the ball. When I kept standing back, I kept on my toes. When I kept standing up, I was on my heels. The second thing, and it was most important, was concentration on every ball. You can’t be thinking of the fairies or watching the batsman — terribly important — concentrate and put your hands where the ball would have gone, no matter whether the batsman hits it or not.

 

Chris – If keepers try and get their head to the line of the ball, then this will generally mean you have moved your feet to get there. Rod Marsh was an advocate of the crossover step, Heals the side step. When I’m asked by someone I say it doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re there, whatever comes naturally.

 

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Only those who have kept wicket or have tried
to really know what a thankless task it is.
  Were the difficulties of the position thoroughly
understood, I think many of the unkind critics
would be left unsaid.’
– Australia’s second test wicketkeeper Billy Murdoch
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Wade – Heals once said, ‘When I wasn’t keeping well, I could generally address it or fix it up within an over or two.’ I was the same towards the end of my career. If I was watching the ball really well, I could see the seam and the ball went in really well. So the days when they’re clanging a bit, I’d say to say myself, ‘Watch the seam.’ As soon as I did that, my feet moved, everything took care of itself. So I could correct myself by seeing that seam movement before I caught the ball.

 

Greatest cricketing triumph? Most devastating cricketing disaster?

 

Lew – Winning my first ever QCA club premiership in 1959. When I first came to Uni, we didn’t win a game for two seasons, lost everything. Then under Bobby Mihell, we turned it around and won the premiership. Admittedly we had some good players.

 

My greatest devastation was in Adelaide. I was captain as Sam Trimble was sick (mumps). We’d lost a day and half to rain and I eventually had to toss with Les Favell — it was wet. I could hardly talk, I was so nervous.

 

Anyway, I won the toss and said very clearly, ‘We will field.’ I didn’t want to make any mistake. As we were walking off, Les had the coin in his hand and he threw it into the crowd and said something like ‘Lost the game on the toss of the coin,’ and he stormed off into the dressing room.

They batted and declared at 7 or 8 for 49. We proceeded to get the runs and pass them, I can’t remember how many. At the end of the day, I was getting telegrams saying I was the greatest captain Qld had ever had, we hadn’t won a game in two seasons. I was the hero of the moment, Sandy organised a big party in my room, because we used to have Sundays off in those days.

 

So when play resumed, we batted on for a while, and much to my devastation we lost outright! I went from hero straight into the shithouse. I was shattered, very upset. I only captained the side a couple of times, but I took us to another inglorious defeat when Peter Allan took 10 for and Paul Sheahan got a 150 or more, and we lost the game outright!!

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Sweltering behind the stumps as Pakistan ran up
another huge total in Abu Dhabi last year,
Australia’s injured wicketkeeper, Brad Haddin,
mused on how the Australian team would cope
without him. ‘‘I looked at Davey Warner, who would
have done the job, and I thought, I can’t do this
to Davey. He’ll have fun for 10 minutes, but then
he won’t be able to move … Everyone thinks they
can wicket keep, until they do it.’
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Wade – Pretty easy ones — winning the Shield first time in 1996–97 — it’s hard to beat that. Worst devastation, I dropped a fairly straightforward catch that would have won us the shield in 2004–05.

 

Lew – It wasn’t straightforward.

 

Wade – Relatively. NSW nine down, they needed ten runs, and it came right down to the wire and I dropped MacGill off Bic.

 

Lew – People say to you, ‘What’s the best catch you caught, and I would say, ‘I can’t remember a particular one, but I can remember every one that I dropped!’ I knew how you felt and I felt so sorry for you.

 

Chris – Probably my second Sheffield win. The first one was brilliant in 2005, and I played my part, but I was a younger member of the team. The second time around I was a senior player in 2011, and it had more of an impact personally and within the group as a senior player.

 

Lew – You got a 100 and did well behind the stumps.

 

Chris – Another, on the club front, was the Centenary year of the club where our First Grade team went undefeated for the season in all formats. We won all four trophies. It can get a bit lost in all the games you play, but that is an unbelievable thing, and it’s something that I hold really high. It was such a season, no one could come near us, and it’s pretty astonishing to look back on.

Chris Hartley

Chris Hartley

 

Ian – You said four formats?

 

Chris – Yes, well, three formats — two-day, one-day, T20 — and then a trophy for the overall winner.

 

Devastation — I can’t really pick out anything specifically. You have disappointments when you lose games, but I don’t think there is anything that I wish had gone differently so much that I remember it. I guess the only thing would be — it really annoys me when I miss a stumping.

 

Lew – Matthew Wade would need a diary to keep track of all his. I reckon Haddin missed four stumpings in one game that I saw on TV. He also wasn’t going for the catches. Just watching them go between him and the first slip. I generally don’t rate byes as a big tick or a plus. But, for him, he let go 30 odd byes in one innings in England?! I call Haddin and Wade ‘imposters’, ‘pretend keepers’.

 

Ian – (to Chris) So has a selector ever come up to you and said, ‘You’re the next cab off the rank’?

 

Chris – Not really. I’ve had some comments along the line of, ‘You’re on the radar, keep performing, we’re watching.’ Wicket keeping — there’s an upside and a downside to it. There’s only one spot, so when you’ve got it, you enjoy it, but there are also limited opportunities — that’s just the lot of the keeper.

 

Lew – You played one game for Australia on an English tour — how did you go?

 

Chris – Yes, 2009 — tour match in Kent. Kept alright with four catches and didn’t miss anything. Batting, I missed out — I got bumped, hit me in the head, and I got given out caught behind — that was a bit disappointing.

 

Lew – Who was the captain? How’d you get on with him?

 

Chris – Ponting, at the time — we got along well.

 

What has resulted in the biggest changes to cricket —- covered wickets, helmets/protective gear, front foot rule, bat technology, fitness, nutrition, DRS, other?

 

Lew – Kerry Packer’s one-day business. Shake up of the game, but it was also the huge improvement in fielding and running between the wickets. Money, professionalism. I used to go to school before play, otherwise I didn’t make any money, and I had a wife and two kids. The only time I used to make any money was on the Southern Tour and I made 100 pounds.

Lew Cooper

Lew Cooper

Ian – They would have been fun times?

 

Lew – Yes, they were a lot of fun — many stories.

 

Ian – Anything we can publish?

 

Lew – I remember one, to give you an idea of how the attitude was. We were over in Perth and I was rounding up the players to get into the cabs to go to the ground. I walked pass the bar and saw Des Bull, our opening bat, in the bar having a brandy on the morning of the match. I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘I’m having a heart starter, I’m crook, I’ve got blisters on my feet.’ I looked down and he had no shoes on. I said, ‘What do you mean you got blisters on your feet?’ He said, ‘Ahhh, I took a sheila out last night, and she was a squash player. So to impress her, I played squash with her in my bare feet!’ Anyway, he ended up with blisters on his feet and he could hardly walk — I can’t remember how he went, opening the batting that morning at the WACA!

So money made a difference, as you had to try and hold down a job while playing. I remember Ray Reynolds going back onto the cane farm when Ian Redpath was picked in front him to go to England. Tommy Veivers just announced, in the dressing room one night, that he was retiring at age 29 because 4BC had offered him a job, so yes, it was different.

 

Wade – TV and the money that came in on the back of it. Covered wickets would have been massive.

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‘While a brilliant piece of fielding is usually praised when
it occurs in the outfield, it simply is expected behind
the wickets.

While it may be the most gruelling job on the cricket
field, wicket keeping is a thankless job. You could
be at your best behind the stumps the whole day,
but the big gloves will take half the credit, and if,
god forbid, you drop a catch, you can almost see your world
coming down. A keeper’s span of concentration —
the amount of time he needs to stay in the present — has
to be longer than that for other players. It starts
with the bowler’s run-up (when the keeper looks
for cues with regards to the shine, or for any other
indication that might help him move better), and ends
when the ball is dead. To this mental effort, add
540 squats, 90 trots of about 50 metres each, and
about 200 short sprints every day.

Unless you have been a keeper, it’s difficult to
understand the keeper’s lot. In your entire career,
you might speak to 10 people who fully understand the job.’
– Ian Healy
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Lew – When I first started playing club cricket, they used to cover the bowlers run ups but not the pitch. Some grounds just didn’t have covers.

 

Ian – Souths never had any unless they were batting.

 

Lew – I can’t get over how so many of the fast bowlers get crook nowadays. It must be the amount of cricket they play, as it never seemed to be a problem when we were playing.

 

Chris – I don’t think it’s the biggest thing that’s changed the game, but the biggest thing in the current generation is the sports science and technology. Now you’ve got a coach, a physio, a doctor, a dietician and a whole crew of support staff. It’s someone’s job to make sure that someone doesn’t get injured, so how do you do that? You have sports scientists counting how many balls they’re bowling. There are a lot of touch points now, and it’s all on the back of sports science. It’s taken away or changed the conventional bat and ball contest.

 

Lew – I picked up a pair of keeping gloves the other day and I couldn’t believe how flimsy they were. I had three pair of gloves in my career (50 years), you used to keep them until they had literally fallen apart.

 

Wade – When I gave up ten years ago, I would go through two pairs in a season and have one pair preparing.

 

Chris – I wore a pair a few weeks ago where I took them straight out of the pack straight onto the ground and didn’t even have a catch with them. I go through three pairs a year. No one repairs the rubber on gloves anymore.

Chris Hartley

Chris Hartley

 

The biggest change to cricket is the commercialisation of it, as well as the sports science side of it — that encompasses professionalism, preparation, fitness programs, and I think it’s fair to say the cricketers are looked at more as athletes nowadays.

 

Wade – How can a team not get through 90 overs in the day? I can’t believe that.

 

Lew – It’s like in tennis, they have penalty points. They should have the same in cricket. For every over not bowled, the opposition gets five or ten runs. I’ll bet you the 90 overs get bowled then. It’s a major topic that’s discussed frequently on radio and TV. At least, if we do something about it, we won’t have to listen to them go on and on about it!!

 

Wade – Whatever the current run rate is, double it as the penalty.

 

The Gabba – given Lew’s experience at the Cricketers’ Club and the number  of games for each of you, you three guys would know the Gabba better than most. Greatest memory of the Gabba? How do you rate the new Gabba vs the old?

 

Lew – I have spent most of my life at the Gabba. I’m lucky I’m a member of the Trust and I find it great. Air-conditioned, drink out of glass, functions etc. The ground and wicket are great.

 

Wade – It’s lost its traits.

 

Lew – Actually, yes, it’s a real shame to have lost the hill and the old scoreboard. In the old days, all the drunks were on the hill, so the constabulary only had to concentrate on that part of the ground. Nowadays, they have to police all of the grandstands! In the old days, you didn’t have to worry about them. They were in their own little world on the hill.

We did 150 kegs in the bar on the hill one day. We had thirteen staff up there on that day. The girls worked in their bare feet because there was so much spillage! I got called over there one day because there was some idiot who had climbed up a light pole located on the hill. He was up the top, but the weird thing was that he had goggles and flippers on! It was Rupert (McCall).

Gabba scoreboard

Gabba scoreboard

So they got him down from that and chucked him out of the ground. Then there was someone climbing the scoreboard, going in and out of the holes like a human fly! Of course, it was Rupert. Somehow he found his way back in! So the new ground is good, but it has lost something.

 

Chris – The wicket at the Gabba is the best in Australia by a mile, if not the world. From a cricket perspective, it’s as good a place to play, and that flows on to the spectator. It’s a modern ground that suits the modern game.

 

Wade – You used to get a breeze through the Gabba prior to the construction — it’s a very hot place now from a playing and a spectating perspective — stifling some times. However, with that breeze at the old Gabba, you used to get aromas from the BBQ at the Cricketers’ Club at around 11.00 o’clock. The smell of steak burgers wafting across the ground wasn’t helpful when you were playing.

 

Lew – I used to organise the BBQ on Sunday nights, and both teams would come along. It used to be a great atmosphere. I used to ensure that the staff were appropriate (my most attractive and attentive help …). Every Sunday night. After I left there they cut it out.

 

Ian – I hear you on the great wicket, I hope they never resort to drop-ins, but from a spectating point of view, it’s a footy stadium. It’s hot, it’s lost its character, and you could be anywhere in the world. Very unsatisfying. They’d be better off putting a couple of grandstands around Allan Border Oval and moving there.

 

OK guys we are in the home straight, I have a series of questions that I will put to the three of you — I need one word or brief answers.

 

Lew Wade Chris
Fastest bowler you have kept to I kept to two — Jeff Thomson and Wes Hall. Both very, very quick, I couldn’t believe anyone could bowl so quick. If Thommo didn’t bowl well in excess of 160, I’m not sitting here. He just skidded off. He was that much quicker than anyone else of the day. I reckon you’re full of it there. I reckon all through the eras, they’ve all got to be quick don’t they? I don’t agree with it, because we’re constantly getting stronger and fitter. I know he was a freak but that advancement has to be taken into account. I agree with that sling action, I see similar with Shaun Tait. For me, one spell of Greg Rowell, under lights in Perth. Mitchell Johnson. Actually in a spell he bowled in under 19. Also Shaun Tait.
Best spinner you’ve kept to It’s contentious at Uni, but I think Kev Duffy definitely was one, and he didn’t even play for Qld. He had all the ability. Like Jim Laker, he curved the ball and spun it. Warney Probably Hauritz
Favourite bowler to keep to Sandy Morgan for me or Ross Duncan. Peter Allan got for 10 for, I dropped one otherwise he would have got 11 for … Bic or Kasper. Fast outswingers, you always thought you were going to get a nick. None really
Favourite ground Gabba Gabba Gabba
Best dismissal Not really — I can tell you all the ones I’ve missed, you got a book? In a double-wicket match, I stumped Graham Pollock and then stumped his brother Peter Pollock down the leg side on the next ball. They had changed ends. I do remember playing against Sobers one day, and he let the ball go and then he started wandering around so I took the bails off. He went berserk!

 

A stumping off Hopesy (James Hopes) standing up down leg at the SACA. A really enjoyable one was a stumping off Hopesy, over the top, in my first one day game for Qld, which was a televised final.
Funniest team mate in the dressing room ‘Full Toss’ Freeman and ‘Long Hop’ McMahon. Dog (Andrew Courtice) — too smart for everyone else, too quick-witted.

The Jimmy Maher–Andrew Symonds combo was pretty good as well. When they got on a roll, it was outstanding, you just didn’t want to be in the firing line.

Agree with that, and also Clinton Perren, who did find himself in the firing line quite often. He was very good at limericks and paid out on a lot of people using them.
Best sledge We played SR one day against Ian Barsby, Trevor’s brother. He mucked around and played and missed, and eventually he was out for a patient 1, caught behind. I dunno what I was saying, but as he was leaving the field he came down to me and he said, ‘You fu.kin old c..t, you’re so fu.kin old, you shouldn’t be playing the fu.kin game,’ and proceeded to storm off the ground. I wasn’t even sure what I’d said. Two wives of players also gave it to me on different occasions, but that’s another story. The only two I have were more comments than sledges, and they were both from Dog. Playing Gold Coast, and Motty was slogging to cow so Dog put a man out there. Motty said to Dog, ‘How am I going to score my runs now?’ Dog said, ‘You’ve got another 359 degrees, Tiger.’

The other one was Tony O’Hara, who used to keep for Toombul. He was a grub of a person, and we must have had Hustler Carty bowling and he was batting in a cap. Dog goes, ‘Enough of this, Kasper you’re on.’ O’Hara goes, ‘Dog, do you mind if I go get my helmet?’ Dog said, ‘I don’t give a shit, you can bat in a telephone booth for all I care, just make it quick.’

(Ian) Yes, I remember playing in an IV with Dog against Sydney Uni, and the third Waugh brother was playing, Dean. Anyway, he played and missed a number of times and eventually got out. On his way past, Andrew says in earshot, ‘That prick must have been adopted!’

Best sledge I copped was from Greg Rowell. He was bowling at good pace on a pretty nasty wicket. He seamed it across me three balls in a row, and I played and missed. Then he brought a nice in-swinger back in. I was out LBW for a four ball duck and he’s run past me carrying on. He said, ‘Don’t worry Harts, that’s just great bowling!’ He was right and I had no comeback, I couldn’t do anything about it.

 

Ian – Thanks fellas, that’s it. I really appreciate your time and effort to come here today.

 

Wade – Very enjoyable. I enjoyed all the stories, but what I can’t believe, Lew, is your memory for names, situations, stats and cricket memories. You should write a book …

 

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Comments

  1. E.regnans says

    Love it.

  2. E.regnans says

    Congratulations Chris Hartley on being named wicket-keeper and vice-captain the player-voted Australian Cricketers Association Sheffield Shield team of the year.

    http://www.auscricket.com.au/news-media/news-articles/bailey-and-lanning-voted-captains-of-the-year

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