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Ashes anniversaries: Chappelli’s Aussies and 16 wickets on debut

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Roar Guru
2nd June, 2022

Next week will mark the 50th anniversary of a memorable Ashes series. A soon-to-be-great Australian team was led by one their best ever captains, while a bowler made a record-breaking debut.

The side also boasted unquestionably the greatest collection of sideburns and handlebar moustaches ever to take the field. To top it all off, they released a single.

A half-century later, this is their story.

The background 
During the decade that preceded 1972, Ashes contests were generally dull. Just nine of 26 matches ended in a result, with no more than two games decided in any of the five series played.

Demands on players had risen. Senior stars such as Richie Benaud, Alan Davidson and Bob Simpson retired young to pursue genuine careers. It was increasingly difficult for athletes like Eric Freeman, Graeme Watson and Max Walker to play both cricket and football. Compounding the issue was the one-day international format’s arrival in 1971, as well as a desire to play Tests more often.

The Australian team had been defeated 4-0 in South Africa in 1969-70. A rebuilding side then lost an Ashes series 2-0 in 1970-71, during which they debuted nine players, three of whom were never picked again.

During a 12-month period the team had played ten Tests for six losses, four draws and no wins, and surrendered the Ashes that they had held since 1959. They then played an unofficial series against a World XI in 1971-72, which they lost 2-1 while trying a further three players with no previous Test experience.

Baggy green

(Photo by Daniel Pockett – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images )


The team 
While Ian Chappell had led the team in the 1970-71 summer’s final Ashes match, and then against the World XI, this would be his first full Test series in charge. His experienced team-mates Bill Lawry, Graham McKenzie and Ian Redpath were not selected.

The selectors instead rewarded players who had performed well during the 1971-72 first-class season. They included all six batsmen who had amassed 700 runs, and six of the seven bowlers who had claimed 31 wickets. The 17 players chosen included an unprecedented six Western Australians, but not a single Queenslander.

The squad was a very young and raw one. Five members were uncapped, while another five had each played fewer than ten Tests. Only three players were aged over 30 years. Dennis Lillee was the sole paceman to have played a Test, and his tally stood at a mere two caps.

Bob Massie was one of three fast-bowling rookies. Although yet to play an official Test, he had participated in three games against the World XI, in which his performances included 7-76 in an innings at the SCG.

Massie’s style was expected to be well suited to English conditions, notwithstanding an unsuccessful trial for Northamptonshire in 1970. He gained selection ahead of the capped but now-discarded McKenzie, Alan Connolly, Ross Duncan, Tony Dell, Eric Freeman and Alan ‘Froggy’ Thomson.

The tour
The tour program was long and demanding. It included 11 first-class games before the first Test, and eight games after the last Test.

For 21 weeks away from Australia, each player received a fee of $2650. While a modest figure, it still represented a $500 raise from the preceding tour. The contrast with current programming and pay levels is stark.


Another feature of the program was the first-ever one-day international series. England won it by a 2-1 margin and would subsequently host the very first men’s World Cup in 1975.

The team also recorded ‘Here Come the Aussies’ with a B-side ‘Bowl a ball, swing a bat’. Unsurprisingly the song hasn’t stood the test of time as well as the very same year’s ‘American Pie’, ‘Imagine’, ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘Most People I Know Think That I’m Crazy.’

The highlight 
In the lead-up to the second Test, Bob Massie had played very little cricket. He broke down in his first over when the Australians played the Marylebone Cricket Club at Lord’s, and was unfit for the next five games including the first Test. But after proving his fitness, he duly made his debut ahead of fellow rookie Jeff Hammond. Coincidentally, it occurred at Lord’s.

Home skipper Ray Illingworth elected to bat, and his side was soon in trouble against the Australian underdogs. Massie quickly claimed his first Test wicket by bowling Geoff Boycott, and then Dennis Lillee removed Brian Luckhurst and John Edrich to reduce the hosts to 3-28.

England went to stumps on 7-249, with Massie’s figures being 5-75. On the following morning he took the three remaining wickets as well, to end the innings at 272.

Massie’s final figures were 8-84 from 32.5 overs. Testament to his accuracy, he clean-bowled three batsmen, trapped two leg-before-wicket, and removed another two caught by wicketkeeper Rod Marsh.


Late on the match’s third day, England commenced their second innings. Lillee and Massie set themselves to take at least one wicket before the home side erased their 36-run first-innings deficit. They achieved far greater success than they could possibly have hoped for.

Lillee dismissed Boycott and Luckhurst cheaply to trigger a collapse to 2-16, and Massie picked up where he had left off the previous day. By stumps his own figures were 7-38, and the hosts’ score was an incredible 9-86.

Massie then took the tenth and final wicket to fall the next morning, to claim figures of 8-53 in a total score of just 116. Behind-the-wicket fieldsmen again enjoyed success. Marsh took two catches, while Greg Chappell claimed three in the slips cordon.

The key to Massie’s performance was prodigious swing, in both directions and extremely late. During England’s second innings he gained so much movement that he bowled mostly around the wicket. His relentless line then forced each batsman to play many deliveries that he would rather have left. It helped that the pitch was hard and fast, and the atmosphere heavy.

The debutant’s statistics were remarkable. His match tally was 16-137, while new-ball partner Lillee also bowled superbly to take the remaining four wickets. David Colley, Johnny Gleeson and Greg Chappell went wicketless. The only batsman that Massie did not dismiss across both innings was Luckhurst, who instead fell twice to Lillee.

His figures had been bettered in a Test only by Jim Laker’s 19-90 at Old Trafford in 1956, and SF Barnes’ 17-179 in Johannesburg in 1913-14. Fred Martin’s 12-102 for England against Australia at the Oval in 1890 were the previous best figures by a debutant.

Massie’s stunning performance has been preserved for posterity on YouTube. The recording also reveals his side’s outstanding collection of facial hair.


First Test, Old Trafford
England drew first blood in a low-scoring encounter in Manchester that began on captain Ray Illingworth’s 40th birthday. Tony Greig’s 57 and 62 were his team’s only half-centuries. He also claimed 1-21 and 4-53 and took two catches. John Snow spearheaded his side’s attack with 4-41 and 4-87.

Keith Stackpole matched Greig with scores of 53 and 67. Skipper Ian Chappell fell twice when playing a hook shot. Rod Marsh’s last-day 91 from 111 deliveries, including four sixes from Norman Gifford’s bowling, brought the visitors a brief possibility of victory. Their total of 252 was ultimately 89 runs short. It was Australia’s 11th consecutive match without a win.

Second Test, Lord’s
In keeping with tradition, the home of cricket hosted the second Test, and Australia won by a comfortable margin. Bob Massie’s sensational debut aside, Dennis Lillee deserved far better match figures than 4-140. His bowling was fast and intimidating, and in each innings he dismissed a pair of top-three batsmen cheaply.

The other outstanding performer was Greg Chappell. After the visitors had slumped to 2-7 in response to the hosts’ 272, he stroked 131 runs from 303 deliveries. While it took him three hours to score his first boundary, he ultimately amassed 14 of them. Chappell credited a previous county stint with Somerset for giving him invaluable experience of conditions friendly to seam and swing bowlers.

Half-centuries by Marsh and skipper Ian Chappell enabled a 36-run lead despite Snow’s five wickets. Stackpole then smashed an undefeated 57 as Australia reached their 81-run victory target with eight wickets in hand.

Generic Ashes urn

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)


Third Test, Trent Bridge
The teams arrived in Nottingham with the series level. The match was drawn with the home side showing little aggression.

Stackpole continued his fine form with 114 at the top of the order, and David Colley’s 54 enabled a total of 315. Snow claimed yet another five-wicket haul. England could only reply with 189, thanks to four wickets apiece to Massie and Lillee.

Australia built on their 126-run lead, eventually closing at 4-324 from just 92 overs. Makeshift opening batsman Ross Edwards scored an undefeated 170 in his second game, while each of the Chappell brothers stroked a half-century. Set 451 to win, the home side successfully navigated 148 overs to end the match on 4-290.

Fourth Test, Headingley 
The home side retained the Ashes in Leeds with a comprehensive three-day victory on a fusarium-infested pitch.

“It was uncanny that it only attacked a strip 22 yards by eight feet and the rest of the ground was perfectly healthy,” Greg Chappell wrote. “Quite a coincidence, too, that England had selected two spinners for the match.”

Wisden reported that the pitch “was obviously damp on the first morning and quite grassless” and “was without pace, took spin from the first day and grew progressively helpful”.

Stackpole’s 52 was the visitors’ only highlight in a total of 146 from 86.5 overs. Derek Underwood proved almost unplayable with 4-37 from 31 overs.


England eked out a 117-run lead thanks to skipper Ray Illingworth’s dogged 57 from 252 deliveries. Ashley Mallett’s 5-114 and John Inverarity’s 3-26 from 52 and 33 overs respectively showed the pitch’s responsiveness to finger spin.

Underwood was even more deadly when Australia batted again. He claimed 6-45 from 21 overs, for match figures of 10-82. England required just 20 runs for victory, which they achieved for the loss of one wicket.

Derek Underwood

Derek Underwood (Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

Fifth Test, the Oval
In the series’ conclusion, the visitors had only pride to play for. They duly squared the series with a morale-boosting five-wicket win.

Lillee claimed his first ten-wicket match haul, with figures of 5-58 and 5-123. Both of the Chappell brothers scored a century, and they shared a 201-run partnership. Edwards contributed a fine 79 from his more customary middle-order position.

Despite those individual performances the tourists still required 242 runs for victory as play was extended into a sixth day. Stackpole set the team’s platform with an innings of 79, and Marsh and Paul Sheahan completed the game with an unbroken 71-run partnership after coming together at 5-171.

Rod Marsh would later describe it as his favourite match and add further that “There were six West Australian players in that side, and it was the first team in Australia history not to include a New South Welshman. No wonder we won!”


The players
Australian captain Ian Chappell led by example with 334 runs at an average of 33.40. His best innings included 56 when his side won at Lord’s, and 118 in their victory at the Oval. Despite being dismissed hooking in each of his first three innings, he persisted with the stroke and his aggression was a key factor in the team’s success.

Keith Stackpole was the series’ leading run scorer, with 485 runs at an average of 53.88. He too contributed to his side’s wins, with an undefeated 57 at Lord’s and later 79 at the Oval. The team’s vice-captain also contributed 53 and 67 at Old Trafford, 114 at Trent Bridge, and 52 at Headingley.

Greg Chappell impressed with 437 runs at an average of 48.55. The clear highlights were his centuries in Australia’s wins: 131 at Lord’s and 113 at the Oval.

Ross Edwards contributed an undefeated 170 at Trent Bridge, and 79 in the win at the Oval. He also suffered the indignity of a pair at Headingley. Paul Sheahan contributed a pair of undefeated 40s when finally selected for the last two games.

Doug Walters endured a miserable tour, and his seven innings yielded just 54 runs. Fellow batsmen Bruce Francis and Graeme Watson were unsuccessful.

Rod Marsh scored 242 runs at an average of 34.57, and regularly played important innings from number seven in the order. His highest scores were 91 at Old Trafford, 50 in the Lord’s victory, 41 at Trent Bridge, and 43 not out in the win at the Oval. He also claimed 21 catches and two stumpings, and twice took five catches in an innings.

Rodney Marsh

(Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)


Dennis Lillee continued his meteoric rise by claiming 31 wickets at an average of just 17.67, a tally that stood as an Australian record until broken by Terry Alderman in 1981. Aside from his match-winning 10-181 at the Oval, he also took the only four wickets to not fall to Massie in the victory at Lord’s.

Bob Massie returned series figures of 23 wickets at an average of 17.78. He followed his heroics at Lord’s with a further seven victims in the subsequent three matches.

David Colley proved useful in support of his more vaunted team-mates. He took four wickets with the new ball on debut at Old Trafford and scored 54 at Trent Bridge.

Spin bowlers Johnny Gleeson, John Inverarity and Ashley Mallett enjoyed mixed success. Mallett did not gain selection until the series’ last two games. He then claimed ten wickets at an average of 26.90, including 3-80 and 2-66 in the win at the Oval.

Six tourists in Colley, Francis, Gleeson, Inverarity, Watson and reserve wicketkeeper Brian Taber would never play again for Australia. While medium-pacer Jeff Hammond was the only squad member to not gain selection in at least one Test, he did perform with distinction during Australia’s next tour, to the West Indies in 1972-73.

England’s retention of the Ashes owed much to three match-winning performances. In the low-scoring first Test, Sussex team-mates Tony Greig and John Snow collectively scored 122 runs, and claimed 13 wickets and three catches. And in the series-deciding fourth Test, Derek Underwood exploited a sub-standard pitch for match figures of 10-82.

Their highest run-scorer was Greig, with 288 runs at an average of 36.00. He was their only batsman to both play more than one match, and average higher than 30.00. No Englishman scored a century.


The host’s best bowlers were Snow and Underwood. The express bowler took 24 wickets at an average of 23.12. The Kentish left-arm orthodox spin bowler took 16 wickets at an average of 16.62, from two games.

The legacy
Under Ian Chappell’s leadership, Australia became a genuinely great team and did not lose a Test series. They won at home against Pakistan, New Zealand and England, and in the West Indies and England. They also drew in England and New Zealand. Chappell’s sides regained the Ashes in 1974-75, and then retained them in 1975.

Rod Marsh later told Cricinfo: “I’ve got no doubt the fact that we were not only team-mates but also mates made a hell of a lot of difference to the team that went on from that match to be successful. We would do anything for each other, and the one thing we didn’t want to do for each other was to be responsible for a loss. We’d do anything and everything in our power to prevent a loss, which tends to make good cricket teams. Some will say it was an arrogant unit, but the thing was, we were arrogant because we were winning, and that was the cricket we played. We were in-your-face players who really played the game hard, but fair.”

Marsh, Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee arrived as unproven players of great potential and were immediately successful. During the following decade they would prove themselves all-time greats, before retiring together in 1983-84.

Unfortunately Massie would appear just twice more for Australia. During the following summer he played against Pakistan in Adelaide and Sydney, taking four wickets in each game. He then struggled in the West Indies in 1972-73 in conditions not conducive to swing bowling, where Jeff Hammond and Max Walker were preferred. Within two years, he had been dropped from the Western Australia side as well.

Twelve of the home side’s 18 players were aged over 30. Of them both Basil D’Oliveira and captain Ray Illingworth were 40 years old. England debuted just one player during the series, and then only in the fifth Test once the Ashes had been retained. Two years later, with a less-experienced side from whom only three of those 12 veterans remained, England would meekly surrender the trophy by a 4-1 margin.

For any Roarers interested in other series that have had anniversaries recently, here’s a few more.


Ashes anniversaries: Armstrong’s Australians

75 years on: The historic Ashes series of 1946-47

Fifty years on: Australia versus the Rest of the World, 1971-72