Oh, what a night and not an ego in sight!
- Credit: Sally Allen
Due to the amazing response to my last column on the wonderful Denis Compton, I thought I would tell you about an evening I organised for Godfrey Evans CBE’s 70th birthday, which obviously included Denis among other luminaries of cricket.
Godfrey 'Godders' to all who knew him, was an amazing character.
Full of life, always telling jokes with the air of a naughty schoolboy, he was also one of the all-time great wicket keepers and batsmen to play for England.
I propped up the bar at The Cricketers Club in London more times than I can count with him and Denis and I always tried to get work for Godders as he was always short of cash.
He got himself involved in so many business propositions which usually ended in tears because he was ever trusting and optimistic.
However, one of his great business successes was as a cricket expert for bookmakers Ladbrokes, famously offering odds of 500 to 1 on an England victory against Australia at Headingley in 1981, the match in which Ian Botham and Bob Willis fought back from following on at 227 runs behind to achieve an improbable victory.
So, for fun in 1991, I organised a 70th birthday party for him and invited several of his amazing cohorts – all living legends.
- 1 For our 'rock' as much as anybody, everything is crossed for promotion
- 2 Emotional day that revealed close-knit family behind monarchy
- 3 Spacious and flexible accommodation has been improved, updated, and extended
- 4 Plans unveiled to demolish Torquay Debenhams store
- 5 Dramatic bovine rescue from Torbay waters
- 6 Prince Philip's final resting place will be in tiny chapel
- 7 National League round-up
- 8 I hope formality is put aside and the Queen is able to grieve for Prince Philip
- 9 All aboard the Land train for lots of fun - and a history lesson or two!
- 10 Queues form at Trago for Re-Open Day
You will see from the photographs featured with this column who attended, and they were all inspirational figures of their sport and time and subsequently legends, so I felt I had to add a very brief synopsis for each one.
Denis Compton CBE - a right-handed batsman and left-arm unorthodox spin bowler, Compton is regularly credited as one of England's most remarkable batsmen. Indeed, Sir Don Bradman said he was one of the greatest cricket players he'd ever seen.
Sir Len Hutton - Wisden Cricketers' Almanack described him as one of the greatest batsmen in the history of cricket. He set a record in 1938 for the highest individual innings in a Test match in only his sixth Test appearance, scoring 364 runs against Australia, a milestone that stood for nearly 20 years. In 1952, he became the first professional cricketer of the 20th century to captain England in Tests; under his captaincy England won the Ashes the following year for the first time in 19 years.
Trevor Bailey CBE - he was nicknamed 'Barnacle' for his implacable defensive batting. In Neville Cardus's piece on him in Close of Play, he said: "Some cricketers are born to greatness. Bailey achieved it... He conquers by tremendous effort... Yet Bailey... loves to attack any bowler... He has made catches bordering on the marvellous.”
Fred Trueman OBE - generally acknowledged to have been one of the greatest bowlers in cricket's history, Trueman deployed a genuinely fast pace and was widely known as 'Fiery Fred'. He was the first bowler to take 300 wickets in a Test career.
Lord Cowdray CBE – Johnny Moyes said of this outstandingly modest man: “His cover-drive was his chief glory, but other shots were scarcely inferior: the glory of the moon and stars as opposed to the rich glory of the sun. There seemed to be no effort about his work. With a short a back-swing he persuaded the ball through the gaps, guiding it with an iron hand inside the velvet glove which disguised his power and purpose.”
Tom Graveney CBE - The Times described him as 'one of the finest English batsmen of the 1950s and 1960s, and arguably the most elegant of them all'.
Keith Miller AM MBE – Royal Australian Airforce flying ace and Australia’s greatest ever all-rounder. Miller had the best statistics of any all-rounder in cricket history. He often batted high in the order, sometimes as high as number three. He was a powerful striker of the ball, and one straight six that he hit at the Sydney Cricket Ground was still rising when it hit the upper deck of the grandstand. Miller was famous for varying his bowling to bemuse batsmen and he was also a fine fielder and an especially acrobatic catcher in the slips. Neville Cardus referred to Miller as 'the Australian in excelsis'; Ian Wooldridge's response was 'By God he was right'.
Sir Alec Bedser CBE -life-long Surrey supporter John Major, said of this Bedser twin: "Alec Bedser was one of the greatest medium-fast bowlers of all time. He was also one of the great thinkers about cricket and his wisdom was one of the great untapped resources of the modern game."
Tony Lewis CBE – an exceptional sportsman, intellectual, musician, journalist and broadcaster. Tony graduated from Cambridge with a BA and MA, achieved a double blue in rugby and cricket, played first class rugby, was selected for the National Youth Orchestra of Wales as first violin and became captain of the England cricket team on his Test debut. An outstanding number of achievements and followed by a high-profile career in broadcasting.
Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie OBE – one of the great swashbuckling characters of the game. Colin was fabulous fun and hugely entertaining and was captain of Hampshire for a number of years. He wrote his autobiography, Many a Slip, in 1962. John Arlott said the book 'reflects a considerable capacity for the enjoyment of most pleasures and presents a picture of a young man engagingly carefree in a way that seems to belong to a different age from ours'. He was reputedly one of the last people to see Lord Lucan alive!
Faroukh Engineer – outstanding wicketkeeper and talented batsman for Lancashire and India, followed by a broadcasting pundit career.
Brian Johnston CBE MC - nicknamed Johnners, was the legendary cricket commentator on Test Match Special, author, and television presenter. He was most prominently associated with the BBC during a career which lasted from 1946 until his death in January 1994.
As well as Johnners, there was the doyen of all sports journalists, the legendary Reg Hayter. It was hosted by Andy Peebles, former Radio 1 DJ and sports commentator and the main speaker was my old chum, Jeffrey Archer.
Next week: Don't miss part two.