SPORT was very much a part of growing up, particularly football and cricket.

I was a fanatical supporter of Gillingham, the local football team, the ground was a 20-minute walk from where we lived. My father often used to come with me to see them play. As a Methodist minister, he was treated with enormous respect. In some way it could be said, here was God's benison on Gillingham Football Club - they didn't have that many men of the cloth in the crowd.

Sometimes my mother would come too. She was a soccer fanatic. For someone who was the gentlest of women at home, she behaved quite differently in the stands. 'Clear that ball,' she would shout. 'Shoot, man shoot, why are you fiddling about?' Or, 'I don't know why they picked him, he's useless.'

While mother did this cheering, my father would say: 'Yes dear, that's enough now . . . everybody's looking, dear.' He was a strong, but quiet man. 'Yes dear, I'm sure they've heard.'

How he got the tickets on his salary I don't know, because Methodist ministers were paid practically nothing, but father took me to the Test between England and South Africa at Lord's, when Edrich and Compton put on 370, and Bill Edrich hit the South Africa spinner V I Smith for four successive fours.

Trips to London were a rarity, even though Gillingham was only 35 miles away. I bet I didn't go up to London more than six times before Cambridge. So these two tickets to go and watch England vs South Africa was an extraordinary event, a real treat. It's difficult to communicate how much of a thrill it was.

We took the train to Waterloo, father and I, and then the bus to the ground. It was a very sunny day: 1947 was a glorious, golden summer after a dreadful winter, when even the Thames had frozen over. And if you were fans of Edrich and Compton, it was a fantastic summer, it was the summer in which both Edrich and Compton scored more than 3,000 runs, which was extraordinary.

Edrich and Compton were known as 'the terrible twins'. Denis Compton was a tremendously elegant figure, handsome, debonair . . . he was the first cricketer to do an advertisement, which was for Brylcreem. He was the one with the matinee idol looks, he always had the crowd cheering for him.

But Bill Edrich was my hero. He was short, stockily built, gutsy when a fast bowler bowled a short ball; rather than ducking out of the way, he invariably stepped into it.

He was No 3 batsman and England's opening fast bowler, which would be considered physically impossible today, far too taxing. I don't think there's any example in the world of somebody who bats No 3 and opens the fast bowling.

I knew everything about him, in the way that children memorise statistics and facts: 'W J Edrich, born Lingwood, Norfolk, 1916 . . .' I knew his batting average, bowling average, each night I pored over the News Chronicle's cricket annual.

The great thing about this day was the partnership between Edrich and Compton - my hero, Bill Edrich, in partnership with Compton, trouncing the South Africans, which they went on to do throughout the summer.

Mother had packed some sandwiches, because to buy them would have been an additional expense, and we sat on the seats, my father and me, and ate them: egg sandwiches, and Marmite and cress - to this day I love Marmite and cress sandwiches - and the cricket was just everything that afternoon.

I can remember it as one of the happiest days of my childhood, and I can remember going home just full of it, and telling my friends about it.

In fact, there was about England that summer a sort of charmed atmosphere. The sun was always out, England were winning.

And the series went on to be a resounding victory for England. We knocked spots off the South Africans, something like three- or four-nil, may even have been five- nil.

I've watched a lot of cricket matches since then, many of them incredibly exciting, like when England played Pakistan, and 16 wickets fell in an afternoon, and this year's NatWest final when Warwickshire beat Sussex on the very last ball. But there was never one with this magic, and the slight disbelief that one was there at all.

'David Frost, An Autobiography' is published by HarperCollins, price pounds 20.

(Photograph omitted)

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