Skip to main content

The day Kent upset the Australians

Wednesday 24th June 2015

On Saturday, 27th June 2015, the third day of Kent’s game against the Australians, we celebrate the fortieth anniversary of our last victory over the tourists, writes Kent Cricket honorary curator David Robertson.

Can we repeat this great victory, achieved against Ian Chappell’s team of stars that stayed on following the World Cup hosted by England, to retain the Ashes won back earlier in the year against the side led Down Under by Mike Denness?

As this year, the 1975 game was the visitors' opening first-class match of a shortened tour that embraced just fifteen first-class games including four Test Matches and ten games against the counties.

With a side that included Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, Greg and Ian Chappell, Rodney Marsh and Doug Walters, large crowds, captivated by the inaugural cricket World Cup, flocked to see them.

They were a young side, whose oldest member was just twenty-eight years of age with six under twenty-five. Nine of the sixteen had not previously toured England.

Twelve of them averaged over thirty with the two leading batsmen, “Rick” McCosker and Doug Walters both scoring more than 1000 runs in eleven games. With a group of formidable pace bowlers, backed up by outstanding fielding, a victory by any of their county opponents would be seen as something special.

By the mid-1970s Kent had grown into a formidable force. They had no trophies to show at the season’s end but this was more because of international demands than a loss of form.

Nevertheless, they rose from tenth to fifth place in the Championship and finished third in the John Player League, with just one win less than the champions, Hampshire.

During the Prudential Cup (as it was known in 1975) they lost Mike Denness, Alan Knott, Derek Underwood, Bob Woolmer, Asif Iqbal (Pakistan) and Bernard Julien (who was in the winning West Indies team) to their countries whilst Knott, Underwood and Woolmer missed a substantial number of Championship games due to Test calls.

All of the county’s representatives in both competitions had performed well.

The hosts were not quite at full strength, with Asif, Denness and Knott, who finished first, second and third respectively in the batting averages, missing from the team as were also Norman Graham and Kevin Jarvis, but with their reserve strength, optimism that they might present a serious challenge, was high.

Having won the toss and despite this being the Australians first three day game of their tour they carried their one-day scoring rate into this game.

On a warm and sunny day they won the toss and did not hesitate in batting on what was a good wicket. Rick McCosker, whose Test batting average in the four match series was 82.80 scored a quick fifty which included eight fours.

He and Alan Turner put on 121 for the first wicket before McCosker was caught behind the wicket off John Shepherd for 58. Turner went on the make 156, his highest score of the tour, an innings that was sprinkled with full-blooded square cuts and powerful leg-side pulls and sweeps.

He hit fourteen boundaries and his innings lasted twenty minutes short of three hours. The popular Doug Walters was the only other batsman to reach fifty. Nevertheless the tourists were able to declare their first innings closed on 415-8, scored at almost four runs an over.

Most economical of the Kent bowlers was Derek Underwood whose twenty-four overs cost sixty-seven runs. And he took the valuable wickets of Bruce Laird, just as he was looking dangerous, Doug Walters and Dennis Lillee.

As on the first day, the Australians dominated day two, dismissing the hosts for just 202 in fifty-six overs before tea. Alan Ealham and Bernard Julien, both attacking batsmen, were joint top scorers with forty-one runs apiece.

Pick of the bowlers was Gary Gilmour, who followed his World Cup success during which he took 6-14 in twelve overs against England in the semi-final and 5-48 against the West Indies in the final with a fine display of left-arm fast-medium bowling with a return of 3-40.

He dismissed numbers one, two and three on the Kent scorecard: Brian Luckhurst for just two, Graham Johnson (19) and Colin Cowdrey (22).

James Higgs, regarded as the best Australian leg-spinner since Richie Benaud, had the best return, dismissing David Nicholls, bowled for sixteen, John Shepherd, caught by Walters after hitting seven fours and a six, for 38 followed by Charles Rowe and Richard Elms, both brilliantly stumped by wicket-keeper Richard Robinson, who toured as reserve wicket –keeper to Rodney Marsh.

Robinson starred in Kent’s first innings, taking three good catches and stumping three. Lillee, who topped the tour bowling averages, had a barren first innings, conceding twenty-eight runs in eight overs, without a wicket.

Ian Chappell did not enforce the follow-on, and by close of play the tourists had reached 112-3 with Turner and Laird being the not out batsmen.

All-rounder Graham Johnson, playing a stand-in role due to injuries to Elms and Julien, had McCosker caught by Ealham for twenty-six. He immediately followed that success by dismissing Ian Chappell for a duck. Derek Underwood had Walters, bemused by the spin, lbw for twenty-one which left the Australians on 88-3. But Turner and Laird steadied things, batting sensibly until the close.

Unlike day one, the final day dawned cloudy and cool, deterring a potential large crowd. Or maybe the faithful were not confident that Kent could mount a challenge. How often do supporters miss out on what can be the most exciting, concluding sessions of a game!

After adding a further twenty-eight runs in thirty minutes to their overnight score without further loss, Chappell declared, with Laird on sixty-three and Turner on twenty-five.

In the days when games were governed by time and not a minimum number of overs, the declaration required Kent to score 351 runs in five hours and fifteen minutes.

Julien would be unable to bat and Elms could only do so with the aid of a runner. So prospects did not look good for the hosts. The following day the tourists were due to play Hampshire at Southampton and the story is told that their coach was ordered for a 3pm departure from Canterbury.

Maybe that added something to the determination of Kent’s batsmen. However, prospects for a Kent victory looked even bleaker when Johnson, opening the innings with Luckhurst, was bowled by Gilmour for just eleven.

That brought the legendry Cowdrey, in the twilight of his distinguished career, to the wicket. Apart from just one first-class game for the County in 1976 this was his final season.

He arrived with the score on thirty-nine with the Australian bowlers, Lillee in particular, showing considerable hostility on a wicket that was giving encouragement to both pace and spin.

With the score on seventy-seven Luckhurst departed, the victim of pace from the young Victorian, Alan Hurst. By lunch, Kent has progressed to 102-2 off twenty overs, well up with the required scoring rate.

But further injury was to hit the hosts, Woolmer, having batted with confidence was hit on the left arm and had to retire hurt. Further disaster followed immediately when Ealham received a brute of a ball from Lillee which he could not avoid.

It flew to slip where it was well taken by McClosker. At 116-3 Kent were struggling and with doubts as to Woolmer’s chances of resuming following on the injuries to Julien and Elms, prospects were becoming even bleaker.

But the always reliable David Nicholls had other ideas. His hooking and cutting showed great confidence and with Cowdrey he added 126 in two hours before becoming a second Lillee victim who had him caught by wicket-keeper Robinson shortly after tea. At that point a further 112 were needed at well over a run a minute.

Much of the afternoon session had been occupied by the Australian spinners, a situation much to the liking of Cowdrey who was in complete command.

But after tea, speed returned and Lillee had a further success with the dismissal of John Shepherd who fell lbw for just two. Charles Rowe joined his captain and proved a reliable partner, scoring 30 out of49 for the sixth wicket.

When the final twenty overs began a further 107 were needed with both batsmen going well. But when Rowe went, caught behind off Gilmour, a further fifty-nine were needed off thirteen. With the injured Woolmer returning and only a fit Underwood of the remaining batsmen, it had to be down to Cowdrey and Woomer if Kent were to achieve the near impossible.

The final overs probably witnessed an unforgettable duel between bat and ball with two of the world’s finest cricketers, Cowdrey and Lillee, symbolising what is best about the Game. It was the final hour that won the match. Off the first ten overs Kent scored seven-nine and the final twenty-eight came in the next five overs.

Woolmer finished undefeated on 71 and Cowdrey on 151. The late Brian Luckhurst, who played much of his cricket with Colin Cowdrey, summed up the part played by his captain in the historic victory,

“I never saw Colin bat better. It is important to remember Dennis Lillee never gave it away. He had a great professional pride and kept charging in.

2The faster and shorter he bowled the more Kipper smashed him. When he was in this sort of form he had so much time he seemed to look to the boundary, pick his spot and then place the ball exactly where he wanted. It was just one of those days when the bowlers simply didn’t know where to bowl. A great innings."

Can we celebrate this fortieth birthday with another great win?

During the fixture there will be a collection of items related to the shared history of Kent and Australia. Any non-member is most welcome to view the display and may do so by requesting special access from the Pavilion steward.

Click here to order tickets for the Kent v Australia tour match