The Beer Match: GTV v the ABC 1958
Ian Johnson was the former captain of the Australian cricket team. He had retired in 1956 and worked as a commentator on the Olympic Games. He fronted a sports programme for GTV in 1957 and 1958. He came up with a good idea. Well, he said it was.
He wanted to arrange a “beer match” between us at GTV and the staff and friends of the ABV2, a cricket match that is. The A.B.C. people agreed and it was set for a Sunday at a place called Eltham, pronounced as El-tham, not Elt-ham. There were, of course, insufficient numbers that were genuinely attached to each television station, but, we were allowed to bring in outsiders.
We were all given directions and drove off early in the morning. When we arrived at the ground, it was a great surprise. It was on a bend in the road, there were no facilities, like toilets, and the ground was quite small. The outfield was slightly overgrown, but there was a cricket table in the middle. It was a warm sunny day and there was a sizeable crowd of supporters.
The big surprise, for me, was the appearance of so many famous players. Ian Johnson, of course, captained our side and we had Keith Miller, Sam Loxton and Ian McDonald. The other side was captained by Bill Johnston, former medium-paced test bowler, with Lindsay Hassett, former Australian Captain, Sid Barnes and others whose names I cannot recall. There were certainly enough former test players between the two sides to make a team.
The game ranged from quite serious to complete farce. Of course most of the former test players were well past it, but the bowlers could still send a ball down at a great pace.
My batting performance was like a blur, I know I wasn’t at the crease very long, but I did face Bill Johnston and I didn’t score any runs. I don’t think anyone cared who scored what, I am not even sure that anyone was keeping score. At least, not on paper.
Everyone had a wonderful time and after the game, we all sat at picnic tables to consume the large supply of beer and picnic foods. It was during this drinking session that Lindsey Hassett told the story of Bert Ironmonger, who was a former Australian test bowler, but who could not bat.
Hassett said that one day, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, during a test match, Mrs. Ironmonger phoned and asked to speak to Bert. Hassett answered the phone. He said to Mrs. Ironmonger ”He’s just gone in to bat, would you like to hold on?”.
I have heard that story since referring to other players, but I reckon I had heard the original story from the originator, true or false.
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