It was 50 years ago this month that Kent were on the wrong end of an astonishing performance by legendary West Indies captain and all-rounder Sir Garfield Sobers.
Playing in a County Championship match for Nottinghamshire against Kent at Dover, Sobers smashed an unbeaten 105 in Notts’ second innings and also took 11 wickets to lead his side to a seven-wicket victory, writes Kevin Redsull.
And one man who vividly remembers Sobers’ incredible display is his former West Indies team-mate John Shepherd, who was in the Kent team for the three-day match at the old Crabble cricket ground where first-class matches were played up until 1976.
Shepherd, one of Kent’s favourite cricketing sons and the county president seven years ago, recalled: “Sir G got five wickets in our first Innings bowling quick and then six more in the second innings, this time bowling spin, and his century was the fastest hundred of the 1968 season.”
Notts had been set a victory target of 186 in poor light and with just a couple of hours’ play remaining, and Shepherd added: “If I remember correctly Sir G was very annoyed that we hadn’t declared sooner so he promoted himself up the order and proceeded to smash us all around the ground. He hit three straight sixes off Derek Underwood and another massive one off Alan Dixon into the pavilion.”
Kent’s surprise defeat effectively ended their chances of pipping Yorkshire for the County Championship that year and Sobers, who had signed for Nottinghamshire as their overseas player at the end of 1967, went on to spend six years with the county and he wasted little time in making his mark.
In that same 1968 season he became the first player to hit six sixes in a single over, with Glamorgan spinner Malcolm Nash the unfortunate victim in a game at Swansea.
Sobers made 93 Test appearances for the West Indies and Shepherd added: “In my five Tests, I stood at first slip and Sir G was at second slip. He was always ahead of the game and my only criticism would be that he was too modest and gracious as a captain. If that sounds like hero worship, then so be it, because Sir G is the most modest man you’ll ever meet.
“Nowadays we always play golf together whenever I’m back in Barbados and a few weeks ago we also met up at St Edmund’s School in Canterbury, where he was promoting the Sir Garfield Sobers Schools Cricket Tournament in Barbados.
“I would certainly endorse Sir Richie Benaud’s opinion that Sir G is the greatest all-rounder that the game has known, and I don’t think we will ever see his like again.”