Episode 107: Another thrilling spell from fast bowling legend Wes Hall

Cricket authors (and obsessives) Peter Oborne and Richard Heller launched a podcast early in 2020 to help deprived listeners endure a world without cricket. They’re no longer deprived of cricket, but still chat regularly about cricket topics with different guests each week – cricket writers, players, administrators and fans – hoping to keep a good line and length but with occasional wides into other subjects.

Few sights in cricket’s history have been more thrilling than the great West Indian fast bowler Wes Hall in the 1960s bounding in from his long run. He is now Sir Wesley Hall and the subject of a fine new biography Answering The Call by Paul Akeroyd. He creates the same thrill in his spell as the guest in the latest cricket-themed podcast by Peter Oborne and Richard Heller. In Peter’s absence, Roger Alton again faces the bowling.

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Sir Wesley speaks of his boyhood determination to get into Combermere High School in Barbados, a great nursery of cricket talent from Frank Worrell onwards (and of other talents, including Rihanna). 1-4 minutes Amazingly, he played all his early cricket as a wicketkeeper-batsman: one expert judge said that he did not run well enough to be a fast bowler. He reveals how “Lady Luck” turned him into one in his late teens. His later career, which earned 192 Test wickets, mostly top-order ones, is almost entirely self-taught. 4-8 minutes

He took encouragement from an early encounter with Tom Graveney (one of the few batsmen to hook him off the front foot) and the mentorship of the great Everton Weekes, and was a surprise selection, aged 19, for the West Indies tour of England in 1957. It was a troubled tour and he was passed over for all the Tests (wrongly, said Fred Trueman). However, he made a big effort to go sightseeing – after learning more at school about the history of England than that of Barbados and the West Indies. 9-13 minutes

He describes the inspiration he received from his mother, on his return, to dedicate himself to achieve the physical and mental strength for a fast bowler. It paid off in a transformational tour with West Indies to India and Pakistan – where he lengthened his run-up to the 30 yards or so which would give him both his speed and his aura. 14-21 minutes

Sir Wesley had an especially strong bond with Frank Worrell. He gives new background to the campaign to make him captain of the West Indies, notably on the unselfish attitude of his predecessor, Gerry Alexander. He expresses Worrell’s philosophy and methods in the role, especially his openness to each one of his players. 22-26 minutes

Sir Wesley bowled two of the most epic overs in Test cricket history, in which all four results were possible at the start. He gives unique personal testimony about his experience in each one.

In the first one (of eight balls) at Brisbane in 1960, Australia needed six runs to win with three wickets in hand. He describes taking one of them with a delivery Frank Worrell told him not to bowl, his feelings at failing to achieve an easy run-out and causing a colleague to drop a regulation catch, the pointed humour of Worrell’s advice not to bowl a no-ball and the final two dramatic run-outs which produced the first tied Test match. 27-38 minutes

He shares other highlights of that Australia tour and then speaks of the second great over, at Lord’s in 1963,  the one in which Colin Cowdrey walked out to the non-striker’s end with a broken wrist as the last man in. Sir Wesley kept to his policy of not bowling bouncers at tailenders; Cowdrey’s often-overlooked partner, David Allen, took all the remainder of the strike and kept out his well-pitched up deliveries. He rates that match as his best performance – he bowled continuously at full pace for over three hours. 39-43 minutes

With deep feeling, Sir Wesley describes his happy time as a Lancashire League professional in Accrington in the early 1960s, where he befriended and mentored one boy astonished by his first sight of a black person and coached a talented 12-year-old slow left-arm bowler called David Lloyd. He describes a return to Accrington five years ago, and a moving re-encounter with his regular opening partner, then desperately ill. 46-54 minutes

He expresses his philosophy that cricket statistics always meant less to him than presenting himself through cricket as a good human being. The whole conversation shows why he was one of the most feared but also one of the best loved cricketers of his generation.

Peter, Richard and Roger are delighted to put out the appeal again for the MCC Foundation, the MCC’s charity, in the week in which all contributions are automatically doubled. They will be used in support of the wonderful Alsama project in Lebanon which has brought cricket to war-damaged children and to extend the Foundation’s efforts to bring cricket to children in deprived areas at home. To learn more about the appeal and contribute please use this link. https://donate.thebiggive.org.uk/campaign/a056900002MqZHKAA3?dm_i=50AG,O5TN,957ZD,2X7VO,1

Answering The Call The extraordinary life of Sir Wesley Hall is published by J W McKenzie  www.mckenzie-cricket.co.uk

Buy from McKenzie Books or Amazon

Get in touch with us by emailing obornehellercricket@outlook.com, we would love to hear from you!

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Previous Episode – Episode 106: Before D’Oliveira – the glories and the shame of England’s Tests against South Africa

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Peter Oborne, Richard Heller & Roger Alton

Roger Alton, guest host for this episode, was formerly editor of The Observer and The Independent, and is currently the Sports Columnist for The Spectator. 

Peter Oborne has been the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, a maker of several documentaries and written and broadcast for many different media. He is the author of a biography of Basil D’Oliveira and of Wounded Tiger, a history of Pakistan cricket, both of which won major awards.

Richard Heller was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail on Sunday and more briefly, on The Times. He worked in the movie business in the United States and the UK, including a brief engagement on a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He is the author of two cricket-themed novels A Tale of Ten Wickets and The Network. He appeared in two Mastermind finals: in the first his special subject was the life of Sir Gary Sobers.

Oborne & Heller cricketing partnership

Jointly, he and Peter produced White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, including the true story of the team which lost a first-class match by an innings and 851 runs.

Peter and Richard have played cricket with and against each other for a variety of social sides, including Parliament’s team, the Lords and Commons, and in over twenty countries including India, Pakistan, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Morocco.

The Podcast is produced by Bridget Osborne and James Willcocks at The Chiswick Calendar.

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