Monday, 9 January 2012


January - sick and tired you've been hangin' on me
You make me sad with your eyes
Telling me lies
Don't go don't go.

Edinburgh's own Pilot
Fantasy Bob concedes that this may not be poetry of the highest quality but it is the lyric to one of the best pop songs to come out of Scotland. It was recorded by Pilot, written by group member David Paton and produced by Alan Parsons.  It spent three weeks at No 1 in February 1975.  Here is a link to Pilot performing the song.  Test Match Quality.

One person who was definitely sick and tired in January 1975 was another Scottish export.  Mike Denness, was captain of the MCC tour to Australia and New Zealand.  Always a controversial choice as captain of the tour, after a series of poor performances with the bat, the baying hounds of the press were turning against him.  Even by present day media standards, the vituperation was severe.  He was not good enough.  He should stand down.  He was Scottish................

Denness at his best
Going into the Fourth Test at Sydney, England were 2-0 down in the 6 match series. Badly beaten in the first 2 Tests, they had managed to hang on for a draw at Melbourne.  While none of the batsmen had made much headway against the hostility and pace of Lillee and Thomson, Denness' weakness against extreme speed had been cruelly exposed in a string of low scores.  In six innings he had amassed only 65.   But this was a must win match.

Denness looked hard in the mirror and stepped down. There was no selection committee, no coaching staff to offer views; he took the decision himself.   He dropped himself.  There were mixed feelings as to whether he was right to sacrifice himself in this way, some, eg Tony Grieg seeing it as a courageous stand, others, Keith Fletcher, as a sign of weakness.   It was Fletcher who stood in to bolster the batting.  Veteran batsman John Edrich took over the captaincy.  It was Edrich's only appearance as captain in his 77 Test career.  Regretably it was not a happy experience for him.

Australia scored 405 in the first innings, with Geoff Arnold getting 5 for 86, and Greg Chappell top scoring with 84.  Opener Rick McCosker made 80 on debut.  England scrambled to 295, with Edrich batting at 5 scoring 50 - off 177 balls. The innings was made respectable by Alan Knott's 82.  Thomson had 4 for 74.  A 200 plus partnership between Ian Redpath (105 ) and Greg Chappell (144) meant that Australia declared at 289 for 4.  England needed 400 to win and were all out for 228 in their second innings to lose by 171.  Bye Bye Ashes.  In the second innings  Edrich was hit in the ribs by his first ball, from Lillee and retired hurt.  Although it was confirmed that he had broken ribs he returned and finished 33* (off 163 balls) in another characteristically back to the wall performance.

being helped off
with broken ribs
Edrich's injury meant that Denness had to return for the next test.  He top scored with 51 as England slid to another defeat.  In the final Test, Denness showed something of his true worth by scoring 188 - but Thomson was not playing and Lillee's contribution was restricted by injury.  He also batted big in the subsequent games againt New Zealand with an innings of 181.

Denness' statistics confirm the fragility against pace - in matches against West Indies and a full-strength Australia he scored 372 runs at 19.58 with two fifties; against all other opposition he made 1295 runs at 56.30.

While Pilot's life did not extend much beyond 1975 all its members made significant other contributions to music of the period and later, and can be heard behind Kate Bush and as part of the Alan Parsons Project.

And a Scottish person captaining England? - As their other big hit would have it - oh, oh, oh it's magic......

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