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Lillee and Thommo The Deadly Pair’s Reign of Terror By Ian Brayshaw

Release date: 15th December, 2017
Publisher: Hardie Grant

List Price: £16.99
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Considering this book’s subject matter, ie the raw pace of Lillee and Thommo that would destroy England’s cricketers (sound familiar?) during the 1974-75 Ashes series, author Ian Brayshaw eases the reader into his mixture of observant narrative and timely comments from players of both sides in the well-practiced manner of a host leading a house guest to a comfortable armchair.

His guest duly seated, Brayshaw sets the scene, initially from the old Adelaide Oval, where Lillee was making his comeback in an Australian state match following a serious back injury. Several members of England’s touring party meandered over to watch him bowl, but few believed the moustachioed one would be the force he once was. Dennis Amiss noted that if Lillee bowled off a short run, “We might be able to handle that.”

The scene changes. To Queensland. Where Jeff Thompson is introduced under the watchful eye of his state captain, Greg Chappell, keen to keep his pace hidden from prying English eyes as the tourists visit for a pre-Test warm-up. Again, most of England’s touring party are unimpressed after Chappell told Thommo to go easy and save himself for the first Test.

As scene-setting goes, this wonderful introduction is akin to preparing to watch a major sporting event on TV. All of the trimmings are in place – nibbles, drinks, remote control, comfy chair – before the umpire or referee gives the signal for hostilities to begin. And boy, did they begin once L & T were let loose on the England XI.

The figures tell only part of the ensuing story as Australia won the Test series 4-1. Lillee took 25 wickets at 23.94 apiece, while his mop-haired partner Thompson captured a phenomenal 33 wickets at less than twelves runs each. England were subjected to a barrage of extremely fast and often short-pitched bowling that left them battered and bruised, while Mike Denness suffered such a loss of form that he became the first captain to drop himself from an Ashes Test match.

This all sounds painfully similar to what’s going on Down Under at the moment, but the roots of England’s current thrashing could be found at the start of L & T’s reign of terror as this excellent read confirms.

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