Best day of my life: Warwick Larkins

Warwick Larkins. Photos supplied.
Warwick Larkins. Photos supplied.
Continuing last year's Summer Times quest to find out what was the best day of people's lives (except the birth of their children or the day they met or married their partners), another eight Otago residents tell their stories.

Friday, June 9, 1972.
I had, of course, heard of ''Dolly'' [The great South African ''coloured'' cricketer who became an anti-apartheid hero, 1931-2011]. Who in the cricket world, and beyond, hadn't?

His battles with South Africa, the land of his birth, had led him to seek a new land in which to play the game he loved.

It was 1972. I had arrived in England on the anniversary of D-Day and now, three days later, another D-Day - my first cricket test in England, courtesy of Basil D'Oliveira and Norman Gifford.

Both Basil and Norman were in the England team dubbed by the media as ''Dad's Army'' because of their advancing years.

Warwick Larkins (bottom row, second from right), former New Zealand cricket scorer, who played for New Zealand against Holland in 1978.
Warwick Larkins (bottom row, second from right), former New Zealand cricket scorer, who played for New Zealand against Holland in 1978.
England was playing Australia in the first Ashes test of the summer at the real Old Trafford, Manchester, and the trip from Worcester - where I was flatting with Glenn Turner and Worcester wicketkeeper Rodney Cass - was to be made in cricket bat-maker Duncan Fearnley's new Rolls-Royce.

This was a bit of a change from my 1964 Morris Oxford back in Dunedin.

The Rolls' passengers comprised Messrs Turner, John Parker, West Indies opening bowler Vanburn Holder, Fearnley and Larkins, who advised of possible car sickness and therefore was allowed to sit in the front.

The Rolls sped along the motorway with much merriment and sports chatter in abundance.

Fearnley turned and said to me in his broad Yorkshire accent: ''You Kiwis don't follow football that much, do you?''I replied: ''Not all that closely'' but I certainly had an interest.

''Coming up on the left here is the home of Bobby Charlton. Have you heard of him?''I could feel my face getting rather hot and replied that ''I most certainly did''.

Charlton's home resembled Olveston.

Tickets left by D'Oliveira and Gifford were collected at the Old Trafford gates and Fearnley was thrilled to see a guest park was among them.

''Got to take care of the Roller,'' he chuckled.

England was batting and on a cold day we settled down to watch.

But before long, a silver-haired man came to say hello.

It was former England player Jack Ikin, who had helped New Zealand with its batting in the 1969 series.

He was followed by a tall West Indian, Reg Scarlett, who was unknown to me.

After he had gone, Fearnley informed me: ''Two tests'' and asked ''What do you think he did?''Scarlett was tall and I replied: ''Fast bowler.''

''You're wrong,'' replied Fearnley.

''An off-spinner. Isn't it ridiculous.''

Lunch tickets were provided and as we sat at a long table, my eyes glanced around the dining room. They were all there: Ray Lindwall, Jim Laker, Colin Milburn, Barry Jarman, Trevor Bailey, Cyril Washbrook, Don Kenyon, Freddy Brown, Ken Barrington, Alec Bedser, Ted Dexter, Ian Redpath and others besides.

We sat at a table with Sir Leonard Hutton.

Fearnley was highly excited because they were both from Pudsey, Yorkshire.

Glenn and Sir Leonard had a long discussion on the merits of whether a batsman should duck or weave a bouncer.

Dennis Lillee had arrived.

The rest of the day's cricket saw England well on top - Captain Mainwaring would have been thrilled.

England went on to win by 89 runs on the fifth day - the first time since 1930 it had won the first test at home.

Before returning to Worcester and county cricket the next day, we called in at a local pub for food and a freshener.

There was Sir Leonard, England captain Raymond Illingworth and Alec Bedser.

The place was chocker.

As Richmal Crompton's ''William'' once stated: ''Sheer bliss'' - and even more so as we glided back to Worcester with yours truly again in the front seat of the Rolls.