I met Jim Fleming on the train to Tuggerah yesterday, on the NSW Central Coast.
The 34-year-old is a cricket tragic, bubbling at the Australians regaining the Ashes in straight sets.
But he was even more interested in what I thought about the Ashes stars after World War II, like Don Bradman, Arthur Morris, Neil Harvey, Sid Barnes, Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, Bill Johnston, Sam Loxton, Colin McCool and Don Tallon.
For England the likes Len Hutton, Cyril Washbrook, Norman Yardley, Alec Bedser, Godfrey Evans, Jim Laker, Tony Lock, Brian Statham, Freddie Trueman, Tom Graveney, Peter May, Colin Cowdrey, and Frank Tyson to name a few.
It was great recalling those early days for me, and the wonderful characters who made every series, the beauty of the chase for the coveted urn since 1877.
Then from left field Jim Fleming asked, “What is your most memorable Ashes moment?”.
“Bloody hell Jim, that’s the hardest question I’ve ever been asked, especially cold”.
So we covered a goodly few possibilities, and then I hit on two moments that have had a profound impact on Ashes folklore – and I couldn’t split them.
Two leggies, born 57 years apart – Eric Hollies, and Shane Warne.
Hollies bowling Bradman second ball in his last Test innings at The Oval in 1948 for the most famous duck in Test cricket history with The Don requiring just four runs to have a career average of 100.
With no television in Australia until 1956, I had to go to the black and white newsreel at the top of Wynyard ramp to see what everyone couldn’t believe could possibly happen.
The newsreel was 90 minutes long, and you left when it reached your entry point. But I stayed on for three revolutions, roughly 270 minutes, just to see if I’d missed something important.
I was nearly nine years of age.
Years later I asked Sir Donald was he too emotional after the rousing three cheers from the Englishmen as he reached the crease.
Steely-eyed, the Don replied “Of course not, but it was a nice gesture”.
I’ve asked Arthur Morris, who was batting with The Don whether he thought the great man was emotional.
“No, I was too far away to see that, but I scored 196 in that innings, one of my very best, and half the team total, but all everyone wants to talk about is the duck.
“So thanks for mentioning the 196, I really appreciate it”.
The other delivery – Warne bowling Mike Gatting in 1993 with his first Ashes delivery, at his first appearance of Old Trafford, and his first delivery ever to Gatting.
It has since been voted the ‘Ball of the Century’, and it was just that.
It pitched outside leg stump, Gatting threw his left pad at it, and held his bat in position if the ball turned sharply.
That it did, right across Gatting’s body to clip the off bail, it was a ‘jaffa’ – unplayable.
The look on Mike Gatting’s face told the whole story, he was gob-smacked, there was absolutely ‘no way’ he could have been bowled, he had taken all precautions.
Warne has subsequently called the delivery a fluke.
The hell it was, but it was a spectacular start to a spectacular Ashes career.
So to Eric Hollies, and Shane Warne, my salute for sharing the two most memorable Ashes moments I have ever seen.