Anyone who tuned into Sky's coverage of the first day of the second Test between New Zealand and England at the Basin Reserve, Wellington, may well have noticed something unusual on the outfield during the start of England's innings. A paradise shelduck was patrolling the midwicket/cover region, obviously oblivious to the fact that there was a Test match going off out there, and unaware that within hours he would become a international superstar. Perhaps it is a reflection of this mad, and some may say sad world in which we live, that this bird now has a Twitter account with over a thousand followers (I'm not jealous, honest).
An intruder on the cricketing field of play is not a new phenomenon though; the 1980s alone has numerous examples of pitch invasions, some funny, some not so. This week we take a look back at some of the notable encroachments or plain trespassing on to cricket grounds in the eighties, starting with another animal destined for his five minutes of fame.
The Brisbane piglet
The vast majority of readers who have been to any kind of sporting event in recent years will have most probably been subject to a jolly good frisking at some point and, if carrying a bag, had the contents of their lunch analysed in minute detail, before being finally allowed entry to the ground. I have no problem with this, although having a stranger stick his nose into my drink bottles isn't particularly pleasant, neither is being forced to down a can of Red Bull outside Edgbaston at 10am (whilst my friend grinned inanely at me from behind the security line, having successfully smuggled in a hip flask). This is simply the price we have to pay nowadays to ensure we watch sport in a safe environment, along with the financial cost of being forced to spend a vast amount on over priced food and drinks inside the ground too. It does make me wonder what the security arrangements were like at Brisbane in January 1983 though.
Getting anything slightly dodgy into a ground is hard in the modern era, yet in Australia in the 1980s it was evidently quite easy to get a pig into the Gabba. The anaesthetised piglet was apparently smuggled into the ground in a cooler, the stewards involved told a few porkies (sorry) that the animal was about to be consumed as lunch. In reality, the pig was all part of a witty Aussie pop at the slightly rounder figures of England's Ian Botham and Eddie Hemmings. After Botham's dismissal in a World Series match against Australia, the pig was released on to the outfield, with 'Botham' scrawled on one side, and 'Hemmings' on the other. As Australians in the ground chuckled at such a ruse, a policeman eventually managed to grab hold of @BrisbanePig, as he would undoubtedly be called today. What became of the little fella is unknown.
Beefy refused to comment on the incident, although Hemmings did a good line in self-depreciation: "After my gallant 95 the Sydney Test, I'm practically a skeleton now." The following winter, Botham trained with Scunthorpe in an attempt to get himself into shape for the forthcoming tours of New Zealand and Pakistan, so at least the great all-rounder was not being completely pig-headed about the situation (is that one too many now?).
Some players enjoy a marvellous debut; Graham Thorpe, Hamish Rutherford, Francois du Plessis, Narendra Hirwani, Tim Southee and Tanvir Ahmed are all examples of men in the last twenty years who have excelled in their very first match. Some are less successful, Gavin Hamilton a prime example, and others fall somewhere in between these two extremes. England's Jonathan Agnew was lucky enough to be handed his first cap in August 1984, less so that his first experience of Test cricket would be against the all-conquering West Indies side, who came to the Oval 4-0 up and on the brink of history. Agnew's debut was reasonable; he took 2/97 in the match, not the greatest return, but by no means the worst, and he did dismiss Viv Richards. His debut would be memorable for another reason though.
It was bad enough bowling to Greenidge, Haynes, Richards and Lloyd, and then facing Marshall, Garner and Holding, but to take on a number of jubilant West Indian fans just after they had completed their 5-0 'blackwash' must have been equally as daunting. Poor Aggers didn't stand a chance as he tried to weave his way through the celebrating throng of bodies, losing his bat, helmet and gloves to souvenir hunters before reaching the safety of the dressing room. "It was terrifying. I've never experienced anything like it. They even tried to get my sweater off," said the future BBC Cricket Correspondent, although luckily the police did manage to retrieve his bat and helmet. West Indies' skipper Clive Lloyd admitted that "Our Brixtonian friends were a little bit over enthusiastic," which was probably the equivalent of saying that his bowlers were a tiny bit quick.
Aggers of course would enjoy a much happier time at the Oval nearly seven years to the day after his equipment issues, something I'm sure he looks back on with a lot more affection than the conclusion to the final Test of the West Indies series in 1984.
Statto and the stool
How can it be that someone as unspectacular a batsman as Chris Tavaré can create such discussion, and still be talked about to this day? I've probably answered my own question there; Tavare's unique style of grinding out scores is the stuff of legend. His strike-rate was frowned upon even in the eighties, so you can only begin to imagine how people would react to someone of his ilk in the modern era. He once went scoreless for over an hour during a marathon innings in Perth; batted close to five hours for 42 against the West Indies in his second Test match; took 332 minutes over just 35 runs in Madras; and during the Lord's Test against Pakistan in 1982, he scored the second slowest half-century in Test history, taking a mind-numbing 350 minutes to reach his landmark.
Whisper it quietly though, but Tavaré did have his admirers. The fine cricket-writer Gideon Haigh nominated the Kent man as one of his favourite cricketers in this piece. Ian Botham in his 'Don't tell Kath' autobiography backed his team-mate: "But he stuck to his task brilliantly, and no matter what his critics said there were never any complaints from inside the dressing room." In short (or long in Tavaré's case), he was a captain's dream but a spectator's nightmare. And for one particular viewer at the Oval Test against India in 1982, the chance to earn a bit of money out of a protest against Tavaré's scoring rate was too good an opportunity to miss.
England came into the final match of the series 1-0 up, and with a first innings lead of 184 and an overall lead of 214 going into the fifth day, the few spectators in the ground were hoping that England would attempt to up the rate, working their way towards a declaration. Skipper Bob Willis was having none of this however, admitting afterwards that at no point did he even contemplate setting any kind of target: "This was a Test match, not a bun fight," were his exact words, giving Tavaré the ideal situation to demonstrate the defensive side of his game.
The crowd of just 1,444 showed their disgust, crying "boring, boring, boring" repeatedly as Tavaré and England continued to bat on and on. Before too long, a 15-year-old boy appeared at the wicket holding a stool, apparently indicating to the batsman that he must need a rest after batting for such a long time. The boy in question was in fact a young Angus Loughran, or Fantasy Football's Statto as he would later become known. The interruption entertained the agitated fans, and even amused officials so much that Loughran was in fact offered life membership to the Oval. And he also made a profit during his one-man protest.
His friends, thinking reasonably that he wouldn't be able to pull off such a stunt, invested in Loughran's bet, meaning that there was £300 riding on the wager. "I figured I'd probably be arrested but the fine would only be £100, so I'd still be £200 up," Loughran later revealed, showing a nose for a money-making scheme even from an early age. Before you get any ideas, anyone contemplating a similar action today would need a lot more money to cover his or her £1000 fine, and probably need to be a lot quicker than Statto in doing so. Or perhaps if they're easily bored, go to a T20 match instead.
Remember the good old days when at the conclusion of a big match, fans used to run on to the playing area just to get the chance to, at best, place their hand on to the sweaty back of one of their heroes? For this section, I could have pretty much chosen any Gillette/NatWest or Benson and Hedges final at Lord's from a decade that always seemed to provide the most thrilling drama in the gloaming of HQ. But for me, the first Ashes Test at Headingley in 1985 will always hold a special place in my heart.
England were limping to victory, trying their very best to give Australia their very own Headingley '81, until finally it looked as if Ian Botham and Allan Lamb would put the hosts 1-0 up. Although Botham departed, Lamb nudged England to the winning line, yet with just one run required he top-edged a pull shot to long-leg and held his breath. Fortunately for Lamb, it was not an easy chance for Geoff Lawson to take, an opportunity made a great deal harder by the onrushing England supporters charging towards the Australian. Of course we will never know if Lawson would have dropped the ball anyway; but it didn't look good either way.
Admittedly it did not alter the outcome of the match, but both teams were quick to voice their disapproval on the event. "I thought the scenes at the end of the game were disgraceful. We don't associate them with cricket," stated David Gower, with Australian skipper Allan Border adding: "Geoff could have been hurt with-so many people hurtling towards him." The Daily Express headline "'Mad dogs' spoil England's glory" detailed Gower's description of the supporters at the conclusion of the match. Such a shame that it appeared to deflect a great deal of attention away from England winning the opening Ashes Test.
"The Board are examining, very carefully, ways of stopping these pitch invasions," noted TCCB spokesman Peter Lush. Yet it would only take another 16 years or so before the situation was finally resolved, and as a result we no longer witness a mass stampede at the denouement of major cricket matches any more. Part of me is sad at this development: at the end of a one-day victory over Zimbabwe at Edgbaston in 2000, I walked to the square only to find Marcus Trescothick in the middle with his parents. In my slightly merry state, I warmly shook him by the hand and wished him the best, with the wise words: "Good luck for your Test debut....if you're picked." Yes, I do still shudder at this moment, although my kind message obviously worked; Trescothick scored 66* and 38* against the West Indies at Old Trafford on debut. Such great advice by a nobody in the middle of a cricket arena couldn't happen now though.
It is probably for the best. Picture Edgbaston 2005: Geraint Jones takes that catch and immediately dashes towards the dressing room in fear for his life, as beer and adrenaline fuelled Englishmen charge towards Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz to "offer" their commiserations. No Michael Vaughan leaping into Freddie's arms and using his ears as trophy handles, no iconic image of Lee and Flintoff, no visible displays of affection and respect between two teams as they shook hands afterwards. It was a lot different twenty years previous. Just ask Geoff Lawson.
A painful mistake
Mention the name Terry Alderman to an English cricket fan of a certain age and the chances are that you may wish you had never done so. Put simply, Alderman was a pain in the backside for lovers of the English game, a constant source of suffering during a decade of disappointment. In 1981 Alderman played six Tests, taking 42 wickets at an average of 21.26, and was only denied an Ashes win due to the combined inspiration of Messrs Botham and Willis. After missing the 1985 tour due to his involvement in the rebel Australian tours to South Africa, Alderman returned in 1989 to prise 41 English wickets at a frightening 17.36, helping Australia to win the Ashes 4-0 (which flattered England), and turning Graham Gooch's life into such a misery that the current England batting coach asked to be stood down from Test cricket. Disillusion and discontentment filled England in 1989 in both politics and sport, resulting in the infamous graffiti: 'Thatcher Out lbw b Alderman'. And they say sport and politics don't mix.
Alderman's only Ashes Test in Australia during the eighties was not so successful however. Mention the name Gary Donnison to the Australian bowler and the chances are that you may wish you had never done so. In fact, Alderman may wince just as Englishmen up and down the country (and in the middle unfortunately) used to when the smiling assassin started his run-up.
Perth, November 1982: the first Test between Australia and England is being played out in temperatures of over 100 degrees, and thirsty English supporters in the crowd are beginning to get a little raucous, or plain bladdered if you like. Batting first, England's 400 is greeted with much fervour, and the heady combination of an impressive total of runs and alcoholic units was a little too much for some; cue pitch invasion.
Alderman quickly became embroiled in a shoving match with one English supporter, when 19-year-old Donnison entered the scene, acting like a flaming galah (© Alf Stewart). Clipping an already angry and no doubt tired Alderman around the head was akin to throwing a brick at a beehive, the Australian reacting instantly to the provocation, chasing Donnison across the outfield and rugby tackling the invader. Alderman wrestled Donnison to the ground, with Dennis Lillee and Allan Border helping to restrain him until the youngster was led away by police. It soon became apparent that not all was well though; Alderman had severely injured himself in making his citizen’s arrest and was stretchered from the ground. After a delay of 14 minutes play resumed, and although Alderman would play no further part in the Test, it was initially thought that he would only be out for a couple of weeks. In fact Alderman dislocated his shoulder and damaged nerves so badly, that he had just played his last cricket for eight months.
As ever with this kind of incident, the fallout was messy. Donnison, who received death threats, pleaded his innocence, claiming only to have patted Alderman on the side of the head. Alderman rubbished this view, stating that he had been thumped. 26 people appeared in court, after the pitch invasion and fighting in the stands that had followed. Donnison was eventually fined $500 and given 200 hours of community service, and Alderman faced the lonely task of regaining fitness with the none too enticing prospect of swimming a mile a day for eight months. If Alderman ever felt any anger towards the Yorkshire-born Donnison, or England as a whole, then he certainly gained his revenge in spades during 1989. No wonder he used to grin so manically during that approach to the wicket.