Every so often, a cricket book passes us by that makes us sit up and take notice and if you want a bit of intrigue, mystery, shenanigans and chicanery over the festive period, then there is no need to spend lunch with Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi. Instead grab a copy of Howzat? The Six Sixes Ball Mystery by Grahame Lloyd and you won’t go far wrong.
Lloyd’s journey starts in Swansea in 1968 when Sir Garfield Sobers slapped Malcolm Nash for six sixes filmed for Sunday Grandstand, where many of you I am sure, have seen it on grainy black and white television footage. The immortal words that the ball was “way down to Swansea” will be live in the memory bank and that famous ball has caused ructions ever since being sold. The ball disappeared in someone’s make up draw for years before turning up at an auction in 2006 for £26,400 and ended up in India. Except there was one problem. It wasn’t the real ball. The ball was spurious. Or as the Middle Stump readership would say, a load of bollocks.
How do we know? Only one ball was used in the over and not the three that Christie’s have mentioned at auction. Malcolm Nash the bowler says so, whilst John Parkin the non striker on that famous day is adamant that only one ball was used. Glamorgan at the time used Stuart Surridge balls, yet the one that turned up at auction was a Dukes. Who used Dukes balls at the time? Funnily enough, Nottinghamshire CCC amongst many other counties, but crucially not Glamorgan.
|St Helen's, Swansea...the scene of Sobers' amazing feat|
Lloyd’s painstaking research includes interviews with Garfield Sobers and his agent, the ex Notts batsman Basher Hassan, neither of whom come out of this saga in a particularly great light. Even worse are some of the characters who inhabit the world of cricket collectables including Ashish Singhal, the Indian current owner of the ball who has basically paid way over the odds for something he could get for £12.99, albeit not as much as the initial bloke who shelled out £26,400 on a cricket ball. Ashish, sounds like he has been smoking hashish! Certainly Bonhams agree with Lloyd, as they pulled the sale of the ball when Singhal, or one of his mysterious cohorts tried to re sell it last year.
With a foreword by Matthew Engel, Lloyd is well connected in the cricketing world, even trying to use Wisden editor Lawrence Booth to courier the cherry back from India, without success due to the stalling nature of the Indian owners of it. The book has many twists and turns, and feels in a way like batting in India on a turning track. It is intriguing and requires concentration with close fielders circling around Lloyd’s bat trying to stop him, but you feel you are richer for the experience of reading it.
|Sir Garfield Sobers|
I have no doubts that this book will do well, and we highly recommend our readership to have a look at it. I initially had my doubts when first looking at it, potentially thinking it was ‘heavy going’ but Lloyd’s excellent style of writing and determination to get to the truth keeps you gripped right through, and it is an intriguing tale.