Friday, February 8, 2013

Excerpts from Indra Vikram Singh's book 'Don's Century' ..... 6 - Chapter 7 : PEERLESS RUNGETTER AND OTHER MASTERS OF THE WILLOW (6. Charles Macartney)


The diminutive Charles Macartney was a slow left-arm bowler before he developed into an awesome strokeplayer. Jack Fingleton explained that Macartney was known as ‘Governor General’ because of the “manner in which he lorded the cricket field, entering it like one about to inspect the ranks, throwing challenges and exuding domination, dismissing bowlers from the crease as an official G.G. would dismiss footmen from his presence when their duty was done.”

In his first tour of England in 1909, Macartney bagged eleven wickets for 85, including seven for 58 in the first innings at Leeds, a venue he came to revel in, as did Bradman later, helping Australia win the Test. When he returned to England in 1912 for the Triangular Test tournament, with South Africa as the third side, his batting prowess had already come to the fore. He rattled up six first-class hundreds, including a double century against Essex.

After the War Macartney came into his own as a batsman. Neville Cardus observed, “He was less courtly in his stroke-play than Trumper, whose masterful innings had a certain effortless charm. Macartney, perfect of technique, none the less used his bat with an unmistakable pugnacity. Sir Donald Bradman annihilated all bowlers as though he was just performing the day’s work with a deadly efficiency. Macartney slaughtered bowling quite rapaciously. If he was obliged to bat through a maiden over he looked annoyed with himself at the end of it; and he would gnaw his glove. His forearms were formidably strong, his chin was aggressive and his eyes perpetually alive. They looked you in the face; they looked the best bowlers in the world in the face. Macartney employed a defensive stroke as a last resort. Nothing could daunt him. Before the start of a Lord’s Test match he came down to breakfast in a London hotel, looking through the window at the June sunshine and said:- ‘Lovely day, Cripes, I feel sorry for any poor cove who’s got to bowl at me today’.”

It was at Sydney that Macartney made his highest Test score of 170 against England in 1920-21, when a young boy named Don Bradman was an avid spectator. Soon thereafter in the English summer of 1921, his 115 helped Warwick Armstrong’s famous side win the Leeds Test. But his most enthralling, and highest, innings came against Nottinghamshire during that tour when he crashed 345 in less than four hours with 47 fours and 4 sixes. It was the highest score for any Australian batsman touring England, and the maximum runs scored in a day anywhere until Brian Lara scored 390 on his way to a record-shattering 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham at Birmingham in 1994.

When Macartney visted Leeds again during his fourth tour of England in 1926, he scored another memorable century. Ken Piesse described that brilliant innings: “Although the wicket was damp from the heavy overnight rain, the sun had not come out, saving the Australians from the dreaded ‘sticky’. Without the sunshine, (Arthur) Carr’s bowlers were not able to make the ball jump or twist, making batting a not-so-difficult duty.” Nevertheless, Maurice Tate had Warren Bardsley, captain in the absence of Herbie Collins, caught by Herbert Sutcliffe with the scoreboard still blank. Macartney walked in, and being the kind of player he was, tended to offer an early chance. And so it turned out. When he was on 2, Macartney flashed at Maurice Tate’s out-swinger, but Carr dropped him at third slip.

From then on there was no stopping Macartney. He wrote in his book My Cricketing Days: “I made up my mind to attack and kept on attacking. I felt like it and as a result I went for everything.” He reached his century before lunch, emulating the singular feat of Trumper, which was replicated by Bradman! At the interval Macartney was on 112, his partner Bill Woodfull 40, and Australia had 153 on the board. Macartney ultimately holed out to deep mid-off for 151, having cracked 21 boundaries in just 172 minutes. His second-wicket stand of 235 with Woodfull was a record.

That was his last Test series, in which he scored 3 hundreds, the others being 133 not out at Lord’s and 109 at Manchester. He passed on the baton to a lad named Donald George Bradman, who was to make his appearance in the very next rubber that Australia played. In 35 Tests Macartney aggregated 2131 runs at an average of 41.78. Peter Hartland noted, “For Macartney dominating the bowler was just as important as making a big score, and he loved to whip straight balls through the leg side. In many ways he was the nearest of old-timers to Vivian Richards.”

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

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