Celebrating Massie's Match at Lord's in 1972

It is rare that players have cricket matches named after them, least of all those making their debut. One of the most celebrated debuts was that of Bob Massie back in 1972 at Lord's. What a place to do it. Massie did not go on to a long career playing in only a further five Tests. Over half of his career haul of 31 Test wickets came in the mentioned Lord's Test. This Test on 22 June 1972, fifty years ago in six days time as I write this.

Bob Massie made his Sheffield Shield debut for Western Australia in 1965-66 but went wicketless and his next such appearance was in 1969-70. During this period, he went to Scotland and played club cricket for Kilmarnock. In a prelude to his stunning Test debut, his rather lower-key debut in Scotland saw him make the headlines by taking all ten Poloc wickets for 34 runs.

Although his subsequent Western Australia performances showed promise rather than great productivity, he was selected for the last three of five matches in a re-arranged tour by a Rest of the World XI in 1971 after the proposed South African visit had been cancelled. Massie gave notice of his swing-bowling talents in the fourth match of the series (his second) in taking 7-76 in 20.6 eight-ball overs which included the scalps of Sunil Gavaskar, Zaheer Abbas, Graeme Pollock and Garfield Sobers, all pretty decent players... Indeed, in one of the other matches, he dismissed Sobers again.

Picked for the England tour of 1972, Massie had innings figures of 6-31 against Worcestershire and ten in the match against Leicestershire including 6-30 in the first innings. During the tour, he also played in the game against Northamptonshire, a team he had trialled for but been subsequently overlooked. He might have made his debut at Old Trafford in the First Test but for injury.

A much-written about event occurred whilst he was bowling in the Old Trafford nets to compatriot, Ross Edwards. With the run-ups wet bowling over the wicket, both players suggested that he should bowl around the wicket. During the at times ideal bowling conditions at Lord's during the next Test, he would take wickets from around the wicket.

Videos of the Test show a famous yet grainy coverage. Dennis Lillee, hair flopping, arms pumping running in menacingly from one end whilst Massie, from the other end, ambled in more gently and caused regular mayhem. Three other bowlers were used during the Test by Australia and neither took a wicket between them. There were no run outs. Lillee took four wickets, Massie the other sixteen for a formidable return of 16-137 (8-84 in the first innings, 8-53 in the second). Looking at the video, I wonder if there was a more joyful performance. There seemed to be genuine enjoyment from his team-mates and Massie's modest appreciation made it a pleasure to watch for me. Geoffrey Boycott was his first Test victim: indeed the Yorkshireman was the first victim of seven bowlers on debut but Massie is the only one to have bowled the champion player.

He took four wickets in the first innings of the Trent Bridge Test but did not continue in quite the same vein in the rest of the series. He played in a further two Tests in Australia against Pakistan where his 42 at number 10 retrieved Australia from a dire position and enabled them to snatch an unlikely victory.

Massie would tour West Indies soon afterwards but was not selected in a Test. He still managed to take 7-52 against Guyana but his Test days were sadly behind him and it was his 42, his highest First-class score, at Sydney which was his final notable performance. Although he continued to play until 1974 with Western Australia, his swansong, like his first State appearance, was against South Australia. Bob became later a successful and respected commentator.


It may sound odd but I have a lot to thank Bob Massie for. In addition to being interested in lesser-known players who made an impact on the game, the research I managed to do on Bob Massie in the early 1990s - before the internet, remember - had a funny twist and led to a much more exciting life for me.

In 1991, a wandering and famous cricket club, Incogniti (whose motto translates as unknown only to the unknown), invited me to join them on a tour to Australia and for me to make their travel arrangements. The tour took in Perth and Sydney but I could only go to Perth, Bob Massie's home city and birthplace. It was my ambition to meet him.

Oddly, in a bar after the third (and pretty much final) day's play of the Fifth Test, I recognised Bob from his walk. There was something about his walk from the grainy video mentioned earlier when he had trudged off after a duck so I tried for a chat. Perfectly amicably, he said he would have a chat by the commentary box after the Rest Day. It was only later that I wondered if I might have been fobbed off but, on the last day of the Test, I took on as plausibly as possible a sentinel guarding the commentary box and said that Bob Massie was expecting me.

Bob came too and spent fifteen minutes chatting, signing my book and allowing photos. A delightful chap, he had given me the highlight of my tour within three days of arrival. (Let's forget that I was the first person on the tour to be fined, my indiscretion being "forcing myself on Bob Massie". I would also be fined later after meeting Bob's friend and former Australian Test cricketer, Tony Mann, the first nightwatchman to score a Test century, at Margaret River. Another charming man, Tony enjoyed having me fined for knowing the full list of Bob's given names, Robert Arnold Lockyer. Another dollar lighter...)

The research continued after attending a Westbury Cricket Club dinner in 1992 when the speaker was the celebrated scorer and statistician, Bill Frindall. After buying one of Bill's scorebooks from him, it was only later that I saw a flyer advertising his scoring sheets of all the Tests he scored for the B.B.C. I chose Massie's Match, was given it as a stocking filler type of present by my mother and quickly consigned it to my cricket collection as it made not one bit of sense to me.

Four years later, I heard from the Frindalls who had kept my address and were looking for a scorer for Bill's Maltamaniacs team. I had bought his scoresheets and therefore may know the system? Err, not exactly: a bit of practice with my own rudimentary and hastily-made sheets took place, and I accepted the offer. From that point on, I became Bill's scorer whilst he commentated at events and my life changed immeasurably because of Bill and Debbie keeping my address, and Bob Massie for taking all those wickets at Lord's in 1972. Thank you to all of them.


The said Massie's Match scoresheets now sit next to me as I write this. And, yes, I understand them now (and actually have done since first scoring for Bill in 1996).

Bob's figures were overtaken by Indian spinner, Narendra Hirwani, in the 1987-88 Test against West Indies at Madras (now Chennai). Hirwani's figures remain the best by a bowler on debut. He took his sixteen wickets for 136 runs, one run fewer than Bob Massie. I am a great fan of Indian cricket but something in me is disappointed that Bob's record was surpassed. Records are there to be broken, though.

Returning to Lord's in 1972, England's last-wicket pair of John Price and Norman Gifford took England's desperate second innings total from 81 to 116. Of that 35-run stand, seventeen runs were taken from Massie's bowling after his fifteenth match dismissal, that of Mike Smith. Hey ho, it still strikes me as one of the most enjoyable performances I can remember seeing (not live, mind you) and, well, it may just miss out as being the greatest performance by a debutant but it is the best by a bowler in their first Test in the Ashes as well as the best for Australia against England in any Test.

A couple of statistical oddities about Lord's 1972, and Bob Massie's career. The only England batsman who was not dismissed by Massie in the famous Test was Brian Luckhurst (although it should be added that he faced just one ball from him over the two innings, scoring a single). Of Massie's career, I can find two eight-wicket hauls in an innings (of course); two of seven; two of six; ten of four, and absolutely none of five.