Brian Viner: Six of Sobers impossible without half a dozen of Nash

The Last Word
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Don Fox died last week, the former Wakefield Trinity scrum-half by all accounts rueing until practically his final breath the sliced kick from in front of the posts that, with seconds remaining, handed the 1968 Challenge Cup final to Leeds. But my colleague Dave Hadfield, in the obituary in this newspaper, did the right thing by Fox, devoting at least as much space to his excellent sporting deeds as to that one calamitous misdeed. Apart from everything else in his sparkling career, he'd played a blinder in that particular game, and had already been earmarked for the Lance Dodd Trophy, as man of the match.

It is an unenviable thing to be a member of that small band of hapless men and women known to the world not for their many sporting achievements, but for one moment of spectacular misfortune, or for the momentous efforts, at their expense, of somebody else. I once interviewed George Foreman, and for all his geniality, and all his devout religious faith, and for all the millions made for him by his Lean Mean Grilling Machines (three times as many millions, so it is said, as he ever made from boxing), it was not hard to detect the enduring uncomfortable awareness that one defeat, against Muhammad Ali in the "Rumble in the Jungle", is better remembered than all his formidable victories put together.

Another member of the club, inducted in that same cruel summer as Fox, indeed 40 years ago today, is the former Glamorgan cricketer Malcolm Nash, who as a medium-pace seam bowler took 993 wickets at a highly respectable average of 25.87, but of course is seared into the game's history as the man smacked for six consecutive sixes, happily in front of a BBC Wales cameraman, by Garry Sobers of Nottinghamshire and the West Indies. Not least of the ironies of that episode is that Nash is happier to talk about it these days than Sobers, who groans when anyone brings it up that he sometimes wonders whether he will ever be remembered for anything else. It's easy for him to grumble, because he knows he accomplished so much else that was unforgettable.

Nash, alas, doesn't have that luxury, and presumably doesn't go around reminding folk that he was also once belted for five sixes and a four in one over, by Frank Hayes of Lancashire.

Never mind. It's still rather special to have played a vital supporting role in one of the most dramatic five-minute periods in sporting history, and for those who question whether the six sixes deserve quite such an accolade, I would counter that not many five-minute passages of sport inspire a 223-page book.

Six of the Best, a handsome little volume written by the journalist and broadcaster Grahame Lloyd, and published yesterday, tells the story of what the author reasonably claims to be cricket's most famous over.

He has talked to all the major protagonists, as well as an impressive number of the minor ones, but the whereabouts of the celebrated ball challenges even his investigative skills. In November 2006, a ball made by Duke & Co of Nottingham and authenticated by Sobers as the six sixes ball, was auctioned at Christie's, and sold to an anonymous bidder for £26,400. Yet in 1968 Glamorgan only used Stuart Surridge balls. Moreover, a photograph of the ball in the 1969 Glamorgan Members Newsletter identified it as a Surridge ball. At least Nash, and Fox, and all the others with a default place in sporting history, have never had doubt cast on whether they were really there. Even those who wish they really weren't.

Carte blanche for Blanco at 50

Serge Blanco is 50 today, and I wish him a hearty "bon anniversaire". Was there ever a better rugby union full-back than Blanco in his pomp? Bill McLaren, bless him, always reckoned that Andy Irvine had the edge. But even those of us who grew up idolising J P R Williams know that the Venezuelan-born Frenchman was the greatest.

Johnson's worrying wobble on podium

Six days after the event I am still chuckling at the memory of Boris Johnson being formally handed the Olympic banner by his counterpart, the mayor of Beijing. With the whole world looking on, I wonder whether it was only the British who collectively snorted with laughter as Boris tried desperately to unfurl the thing, while also marvelling at his ability to make an expensive suit look like a refuse sack? I've been trying hard all week to think of anyone who ever looked so out of place amid so much solemn, ceremonial grandeur, and in the absence of Rab C Nesbitt ever having inspected the Trooping of the Colour, I really can't think of a comparable situation. It was the best comedy I've seen on telly for ages. In this house even our dogs were laughing. But if Boris symbolises the 2012 Games, which last Sunday he effectively did, then how funny was it really? Lord Coe had already declared that London will not try to copy the spectacular show mounted by Beijing, and as Boris stood there not quite knowing what to do with his hands, the uneasy expression under his mad blond thatch making him look like the Dulux dog in a Farrow & Ball shop, I had the feeling that the world was beginning to catch Lord Coe's drift.