Cricket landmarks on a day of mourning and reflection

image-l7uzclh8Queen Elizabeth II (PC: Twitter)

Rain or no rain (probably rain), I was due be at the Oval today. Alas the sad passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has meant that play has rightly been suspended. Perhaps horses were the Queen’s first sporting love, but let’s not forget that both the she and Prince Philip were Patrons and honorary life members of the MCC, and showed their support by attending games as often as they could over a 50-year period stretching from the early 1960s through to the first day of the second Ashes Test in 2013.

The time now afforded for reflection, is also a good opportunity to recall a few milestones in the Queen’s seventy-year reign and how they have coincided with events in cricket. India should certainly have cause to fondly remember Her Majesty’s accession to the throne. The announcement of King George VI’s death on 6th February 1952 heralded not just the start of the Queen’s reign, but also India's first ever Test victory, twenty years after their first match.

When the win finally came, however, it was a thumping of England’s tourists by an innings and eight runs in Madras (Chennai) to square the five-match series. India’s hero was Vinoo Mankad, who’s left arm wizardry tied England in knots in both innings, particularly the first where his 8 for 55 cut through England’s middle and lower order. Richard Spooner, Tom Graveney and John Robertson had set up what could have been a promising score until Robertson was superbly caught and bowled by the rampant Mankad who went on to take all England wickets from Graveney at three downwards, including the last four for just 22, three stumped, lured by Mankad’s deceptive flight. It was on the first day that news of the King George VI’s death was announced and thus the second day became a rest day. Following the Queen’s accession, Polly Umrigar and Pankaj Roy both made hundreds to leave England with no way back. Four more for Mankad in England’s second innings left the tourists eight short of forcing India to bat a second time. In his thirteen-year career, Vinoo Mankad proved himself to be a great all-rounder and one who deserves to remembered for far more than the method of dismissal that bears his name.

The Coronation of Her Majesty took place on June 2nd 1953, well over a year since she became Queen. Harold Gimblett, although at the tail end of his illustrious Somerset career, was able to strike one of the last of his 265 sixes in her honour.  

Dennis Lillee’s meeting with Her Majesty

In 1977, Australia and England played the Centenary Test in Melbourne, attended by Queen Elizabeth. Remarkably, the result was a win for Australia by 45 runs, identical to the win in the first ever Test match from 1877, also at the MCG. The match will also be warmly remembered though for Dennis Lillee’s meeting with Her Majesty. As the teams were presented, the fearsome quick broke protocol to request an autograph from the Queen, to be politely but firmly rebuffed. 

“It happened during the Melbourne Centenary Test and her reply was to the effect that she couldn't do it in front of all the people at the ground and watching on television because she would be stopped and asked wherever she went,” Lillee said in his autobiography. 

“I asked because she was the ultimate hero to me, she was 'our' Queen. I had thought about it and took something out for her to sign. I understood her explanation and forgot all about it until a week or so later when an aide-de-camp from the Palace got in touch and asked me for my address as the Queen wanted to send me a signed photograph.

“You could have picked me up off the floor and the picture takes pride of place in my house, the only memorabilia displayed apart from a few things in my office. It's a picture of me being introduced to the Queen at the very moment I was asking for her autograph, and it's signed 'Elizabeth R, 1977’."

The matches making up that year’s men’s Ashes Series were named the Jubilee Tests to commemorate The Queen’s 25th year as monarch. In a series that England won comfortably 3 – 0 and that is often remembered for Geoff Boycott’s hundredth first class hundred, the first Test at Lords was the centre piece of cricket’s celebrations and attended by the Queen herself. 

Her first official visit to Lords had been in 1947, in the company of her parents and her sister, HRH The Princess Margaret, to watch the Test match between England and South Africa. The Queen made a total of 33 official visits the Home of Cricket, accompanied on many occasions by HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. On each occasion meeting various captains and teams, all of whom have fond memories to recount. 

Queen Elizabeth II and the 2019 ODI World Cup 

image-l7uzgk5oQueen Elizabeth II with the captains of every team competing in the World Cup 2019 (PC: Twitter)

Before the 2019 Men’s ICC Cricket World Cup, the Queen hosted all 10 competing captains at Buckingham Palace to wish them good luck. She later sent a warm message of congratulations to the victorious England team after its final victory over New Zealand.  

The Final Test match against South Africa (now reduced to just three days) will resume at The Oval on Saturday and the ECB has advised that:

 "Before the match, a minute's silence will be observed followed by the national anthem. All players and coaches will wear black armbands. Branded inventory will be replaced with messaging paying cricket's respects to the Queen”

Other sports have suspended all activity over the weekend, but I am happy for the Test match to resume. Today spent remembering Her Majesty and putting into words some recollections on her association with the game I love is perhaps the best personal tribute I could have made.  

Also Read: ENG vs SA 2022 | Series all set to resume with a three-day finale