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England' Over 70s batsmen face the Aussie bowling attack (photo: Peter Betteley).

England’ Over 70s batsmen face the Aussie bowling attack (photo: Peter Betteley).

St Leonards man in seniors’ Ashes series

It’s not often you get an opportunity to play for your country, especially when you’re getting on a bit, but when the chance to tour Australia with the England Over 70s cricket team came Graham Corke’s way, he jumped at it. Nick Terdre talked to his fellow member of Westfield Cricket Club, and to the tour manager, Nigel Ling.

Graham, who lives in St Leonards-on-Sea and also turns out for the Sussex Seniors, is recently back from Australia, where he played for the England Over-70s in an old-timers’ Ashes series. Like their professional counterparts on their recent tour down under, the England team were convincingly beaten, losing 3-0 with two games washed out or restricted by rain.

Agility and strength may have waned somewhat in the older players, but they can still put in a decent performance. The Aussies proved to be tough opponents, Graham says. The England players thought it unlikely that they would be facing bowling of more than 60 mph (leading professionals can manage 85-90 mph), but the Aussies had a trump card in a certain Caspitis who in the estimation of tour manager Nigel Ling was sending the ball down at well over 70 mph.

Graham padded up and ready to go and do battle.

Graham padded up, ready to go and do battle (photo: Stuart Spalding).

It made a big  difference – England’s top six batsmen had a difficult time, and by the time Graham, an all-rounder, came in to bat at no. 8, it was often a question of trying to bolster a modest score.

Over the course of the series Australia’s superiority told. After winning the first game by just 14 runs, they thrashed England by 175 runs in the last.

The Aussies were a very competent and professional outfit, Nigel told HOT. Seniors’ cricket down under is very well organised so that the best players come to the top. They hold inter-state competitions, which might involve a six-hour plane trip for away matches.

By contrast, seniors’ county cricket in England is divided into regions, with the result that Nigel, who comes from Yorkshire, knew only three of the 16 players in the squad on departure.

In the course of the tour the players became painfully aware of the competence gap. “We learned a lot,” Nigel says. “But we have a long way to go – I hope this will be an awakening.”

There will be a chance to find out in August when the Aussies will be coming here. “We need to pull our fingers out or we’ll get stuffed again,” Nigel warns.

The England Over 70s squad photographed at Geelong. Graham Corke is on the far left of the front row and Nigel Ling fourth from left in the back row (photo: Peter Betteley).

The England Over 70s squad photographed at Geelong. Graham Corke is on the far left of the front row (as viewed) and Nigel Ling fourth from left in the back row (photo: Peter Betteley).

Testing conditions but good spirit

The trip down under – only the second by an England Over 70s team – was, in Nigel’s opinion, far too intensive, with 10 games of 45 or 50 overs an innings played in just 20 days in 30C heat.

But at a time when cricket’s reputation has been besmirched by the recent ill-tempered series between Australia and South Africa, capped by revelations of ball tampering, Graham reports that the seniors’ series was contested in a good spirit. There was no sledging by the Australians: “They were so on top, they didn’t need to!” he says phlegmatically.

When one of the international matches was restricted by rain to 30 overs a side, thus no longer counting as an international, it was agreed to play it as a friendly, Nigel says. But with 10 or so overs to go, with England closing in on a score of 143, both sides started playing to win.

Graham was one of those at the crease as the tension mounted – he and his fellow batsman hit out and rode their luck, and with one ball to go three were needed to win. He managed to hit the ball for two, and with the scores tied, England considered themselves winners by dint of having lost fewer wickets.

“The tour was a wonderful experience,” Nigel sums up. “We were made very  welcome, we made a lot of friends and we acted as good ambassadors.”

All in all Graham had a good tour, scoring 78 runs at an average of 19.5 and taking four wickets (the best only took six) at the most economical rate (3.33). Now he’s hoping to be called up for this summer’s return series.


Posted 18:01 Wednesday, Apr 18, 2018 In: Sport

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