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Matabeleland Invitation XI v Australians
Reports taken from the Rhodesia Herald unless otherwise stated. - 2, 3 November 1966


Rhodesia Herald, Wednesday 2 November 1966

>From Louis Duffus (Bulawayo, Tuesday)

When the MCC opened their tour in Bulawayo two years ago they asked that no one who had represented Rhodesia should play in their first match. The Australians made no such stipulation this time.

Hence, when they launch their eventful season on Wednesday, Their opponents in the Matabeleland Invitation XI will not be the customary push-over for a visiting team.

The Rhodesian selectors have chosen a wise mixture of five players under 23 and six capped Rhodesians. Among the latter are the Test cricketer Colin Bland, who has an opportunity to establish convincing form, and the leg-spin bowler Jackie du Preez.

If the impressive control du Preez showed against Transvaal were reproduced both here and for Rhodesia at the weekend it might bring him into the reckoning for South Africa.

The selectors must also wish to test that tall, hard-hitting wicket-keeper Howard Gardiner as a rival for Tony de Caila in the Rhodesia XI, and John McPhun as a substitute for Ray Gripper.

Brian Davison, who scored a century in a Logan Cup match a short time ago, is the only one who played in the equivalent match against the MCC when they won by ten wickets with 40 minutes to spare.

The opening batsmen are expected to be McPhun and John Wallace, and the opening bowlers the left-hander Huntsman Williams and Peter MacKenzie.

Other members of the attack are the seam bowler Neville Williams and the left-hand slow bowler Mike Shacklock.

Rob Ullyett has had experience of leading teams, but is not a regular captain.

Three conclusions are apparent from the composition of the Australian side:

*** They are giving five of their likely Test batsmen - Bobby Simpson, Bill Lawry, Bob Cowper, Grahame Thomas and Keith Stackpole - an early chance to strike form.

*** They are testing side by side the fast bowling possibilities of Dave Renneberg and the impressive left-hander Jim Hubble.

*** And they are giving first session with the gloves to the senior and more experienced wicket-keeper, Gordon Becker.

The team has a third pace bowler in the international, Graham McKenzie, and is completed with the young all-rounder Graeme Watson, and the batsman Ian Redpath.

The Queens Club has a well-grassed pitch and true outfield. Rain is due about this time.

Simpson scored 44 not out as No 6 when the last Australian team of 1957/58 drew their opening match against a Northern Rhodesian Invitation XI at Kitwe.


Bulawayo, Tuesday

The wicket at the Queens Club ground here, the venue for the Australian cricketers' opening match of their tour against the Rhodesian Invitation XI tomorrow, looked a 'beauty', according to the visitors.

Although well grassed, it would be cut before the start of play tomorrow in the tourists' two-day fixture.

A club official expected the wicket to provide a good batting strip, but there would also be something in it for the bowlers a little nippy at the start for the pacemen and helpful to the spinners later on.

Despite the broiling heat and the general lack of rain, the field itself looked in good condition and even a little heavy near the boundary on the one side.

Following their sightseeing tour to the Victoria Falls and the Wankie Game Reserve over the weekend, the Australians all turned out for net practice this morning in hot, humid weather with the temperature in the 90s at 10 o'clock.

The captain, Bobby Simpson, and his deputy Bill Lawry, the team's two most experienced Test openers, both showed splendid form.

Their timing was good and they revealed an abundant variety of forceful strokes off the front foot. With these two to set the tone and a heavy barrage of batting to follow the Australians could score heavily.

Although interest in the match has increased a little since the arrival of the Australians in Rhodesia, booking for the game has been rather disappointing.

However, cricket officials here are still hopeful of a good attendance for the two days' play.


>From Richie Benaud (Bulawayo, Tuesday - extract)

I have seldom seen a more relieved bunch of Australian cricketers than Bobby Simpson's lot, who today exchange the movie camera for the bat and the waterfall-watching binoculars for the ball delivered in anger.

After Simpson's driving leadership at the Johannesburg nets, the sight of the magnificent Victoria Falls and lion, elephant and giraffe at Wankie Game Reserve was a welcome break for the tourists.

But they are desperately eager now to get on to the field to try conclusions with the best of South Africa's cricketers.

Simpson, Lawry and Veivers have given much thought to the composition of the two sides for the matches in Rhodesia, packing the team with fast men for the match starting today against a Rhodesian XI.

McKenzie, Watson, Renneberg and Huckle will have the use of a traditionally well-grassed strip here at Bulawayo, while Martin, Veivers and Chappell, plus Simpson, will operate on the Salisbury pitch, where the ball spun so much for South Africa's Atholl McKinnon a fortnight ago.

The Australians will have no easy task in these matches, and one of their main obstacles will be Colin Bland, the easy-going right-hander, who stands, at the moment, as the finest cover and outfielder in the cricket world.

He's no slouch as a batsman either but, at the moment, seems a little like the well-known fellow who was not without honour, except in his own country.

In Rhodesia, Bland's chances of making the Tests against Australia are regarded as something less than certain. To those, like myself, who have seen him play here, and in Australia and England, this is almost farcical.

But senior Rhodesian officials have been quoted as classing him as 'not the Bland of old', and they have criticised his batting.

Apparently, he had a poor Currie Cup last season and his detractors say that his 48 and 29 in the one game played this season were far from impressive.

If I was Bobby Simpson, I'd be giving him the full treatment in these two matches, in the hope that the South African selectors might take heed of all this, for Australians class Bland as one of the most dangerous players in the world.

He's played only 20 Test matches for South Africa but has scored more than 1600 runs and averages over 50 an innings. In the Australian side only Lawry and Cowper average over 50, and for South Africa only Graeme Pollock fractionally heads Bland with 1200 runs at 52.

The lack of confidence in Bland will not have been lost on Simpson, and if the Springbok makes runs in these two matches he will have earned them, believe me.

If he doesn't, then the Rhodesians who are having a shot at him now might well carry the day and the brilliant Bland will hear the Test matches on the wireless from 500 miles away.


Rhodesia Herald, Thursday 3 November 1966

>From Louis Duffus (Bulawayo, Wednesday)

The Australians, who lost five wickets for five runs, showed none of the pulverising power of their predecessors at the Queens Ground here today. They scored 211 - 104 more than the Matabeleland XI, who were all out for 107.

It was a triumphant day for the Aussies' youngest player, 21-year-old Graeme Watson, who bowled Colin Bland for nought, for wicket-keeper Gordon Becker, and for the 22-year-old left-hander Huntsman Williams, who bowled Bobby Simpson for a duck and took four for 81.

Little 23-year-old Jackie du Preez, who made top score of 25 and took three for 22, again showed possibilities as a prospect for South Africa.

It was as if the players were creeping to the edge of the Victoria Falls to peep over the brink there was so much tentative cricket.

It was understandable. The lively pitch was highly responsive to seam and spin. It gave the pace bowlers lift. Though the temperature rose to a grilling 95 degrees, the biggest gasps from the 3057 spectators rose when Bland and Simpson each went out for a duck.

Bland played outside to a ball that swung away and was bowled. Simpson had a good ball to go lbw.

Three of Becker's four catches were brilliant. He made an impressive stride towards Test selection. No chance was missed.

Simpson read the pitch prophetically when he sent the Rhodesians in to bat. He set no deep fielders behind the stumps and used no spin bowling.

McKenzie, who quickly showed his class, Watson and Hubble all swung the ball sharply. Renneberg, who dismissed three tail-enders, was erratic with little movement.

The throwing from the boundary was moderate and surpassed by the Rhodesians, especially when Bland was moved from the slips.

Well might Huntsman Williams leap like an impala as he dismissed Simpson. He had three more joyful leaps from excellent bowling. He will be the pride of his Inyati farming neighbours.

After playing his sturdy innings, du Preez, like Watson, started by taking two for nought. Lawry belied his dour reputation by scoring 62 in 96 minutes, which included a six and six fours.

Thomas was out of touch. After a patchy start the left-hander Cowper hit glorious off-drives. Then came the landslide.


>From Richie Benaud (Bulawayo, Wednesday)

Bobby Simpson's Australian side had a very mixed day at Queens Ground today, nullifying some fine bowling and catching by slipshod batting late in the day. The pity was that none of the batsmen new to the side came off and it was left to the experienced players - Lawry and Cowper - to play the strokes and achieve dominance over the Rhodesian seam attack.

This they managed with some of the finest strokes that will be seen at any stage of this tour and it must have been heartening for Simpson to see them in such fine touch so early on the trip.

I thought Cowper's cover driving superb, yet the most chilling thought for South African bowlers must be that Bill Lawry hardly played a false stroke in less than 100 minutes at the crease.

The Rhodesian attack was a useful one on this pitch - green and bouncy but not really possessing a great deal of pace - and the batting of Lawry and Cowper was underlined later by the distress caused to the rest of the Australian batsmen by the same bowlers.

Nothing was given away in the field by the local side and, indeed, some of the groundwork was outstanding and well in keeping with the finest standards of South African cricket.

It must be remembered that this was not a first-class match and batsmen therefore were more likely to be carefree.

The local batsmen gave largely dismal performances in the early part of the day in the face of some hostile bowling by Watson who gave notice that he would be seriously challenging for the position of third seam bowler when the Test matches come along.

He moved the ball both ways in the air and off the seam and, by the lunch interval, had almost completely destroyed the batsmen's confidence with his persistent attack.

In some ways he reminds me of the former Victorian Test player Sam Loxton and, with his brilliant fielding and more than useful batting, he will be a valuable addition to the Australian attack.

McKenzie was never flat out today and Hubble and Renneberg were well below top pace, particularly Hubble who, for most of the time, bowled no more than medium fast and always with the threat of being called for front foot no balling.

It should be a salutary lesson for this young fast bowler . . . he could do worse than spend a few hours in the nets correcting a glaring and quite needless fault.


Rhodesia Herald, Friday 4 November 1966

>From Louis Duffus (Bulawayo, Thursday)

Colin Bland (94) swept away magnificently thoughts about his waning capabilities, Rob Ullyett (87) played an innings of outstanding competence and 'Hurricane Howie' Gardiner challenged the whirlwinds of Winslow when the Australians today suffered the biggest pasting meted out to any visiting team in their opening match.

Behind by 104 on the first innings, the Matabeleland Invitation XI scored 298 for six at 80 runs an hour before 2250 spectators. When they declared the Australians were left to make 195 in 131 minutes.

After a heavy shower lasting 57 minutes they scored 62 for three in poor light before an appeal stopped play.

The Rhodesians' spectacular display must have sent a wave of confidence reverberating among the future opponents of Simpson's team - but too much should not be read into their modest performances.

No other team has started a tour against a team as strong as this Invitation XI with its six provincial players and one Test batsman.

As a two-day match it did not call for all-out endeavour. It was not their best XI but Australians are jealous of prestige. They would not cast away a chance to gain a demoralising ascendancy.

Bland scored his 94 in two hours in a third wicket partnership of 159. He hit two sixes and 11 fours.

He could not resist his favourite lofted long-on drive and was dropped on the boundary by Hubble off Cowper on 77. For the rest it was a responsible, faultless display most heartening for the Test matches.

The 22-year-old 6 ft 5 in Gardiner hit 86 in 58 minutes with remarkable timing that earned him five sixes and 10 fours.

He has played only twice for Rhodesia, making his previous top score of 42 not out against Eastern Province last summer.


>From Richie Benaud (Bulawayo, Thursday)

Two storms, each filled with all the thunder and lightning imaginable, broke over the Bulawayo ground today, but only one brought relief to the beleaguered Australian side. The other onslaught came from the ultra-broad blades of Messrs Bland, Ullyett and Gardiner, who systematically blasted the Australian bowling to the delectable tune of 73 runs per 100 balls.

Well might they have cheered for there was some champagne hitting on view today as well as some cultured batting from Bland and Ullyett after the first two wickets had fallen for 25 runs.

At this stage the Australian bowlers, again led by Watson, were on top. It was a state of affairs that lasted just 20 minutes till Bland got his eyes focused on the ball and began lofting it with delightful freedom of stroke to the on-side boundary or crashing it through the lightly guarded off-side cordon.

Once Bland and Ullyett really cut loose, no Australian bowler, except McKenzie, had any real answer to them, and the latter only because of his extra pace and vast experience of bowling against attacking batsmen.

In the end he removed both in the space of a couple of overs, and then lightning really struck in the person of Howie Gardiner who, in 58 minutes of savagery, hit 86 runs.

I was most impressed - he is not just a hitter but a powerful stroke player with a sound defence allied to his magnificent driving and hooking.