40 years on: McKenzie recalls Lillee's amazing 8-29
Sunday MiD DAY catches up with Perth-based former Australia fast bowler Graham McKenzie, who talks about one of the best spells of pace bowling at the Western Australia Cricket Association ground 40 seasons ago
Exactly 40 seasons ago in 1971-72, a 22-year-old Dennis Lillee, bowling alongside his idol Graham 'Garth' McKenzie, destroyed a strong World XI batting line-up that included Sir Garry Sobers, Clive Lloyd, Rohan Kanhai and Sunil Gavaskar by taking 8-29 here at the Western Australia Cricket Association Ground (WACA). Lillee's burst helped Australia win by an innings and 11 runs. He was only his second season for Australia.
Dennis Lillee in full flight. Pic/Getty Images
Lillee marks down that Perth Test as his most memorable hour. That's because he was about to be taken off the attack before wrecking havoc at his home turf. He was quoted as saying by Wisden: "I felt shocking when I got to the ground - some sort of virus was going around Perth at the time - and, after bowling a couple of overs for the wickets of (Sunil) Gavaskar and (Farokh) Engineer, I felt terribly tired and asked Ian Chappell (the captain) if I could possibly have a rest. He talked me into having one more over and things suddenly began to happen after McKenzie dismissed (Rohan) Kanhai and Zaheer (Abbas) was run out. I think that was the most memorable match I've played in from a personal performance point of view."
McKenzie revealed that Lillee was feeling uneasy. "The first few overs he bowled weren't at his best. He was hesitant to bowl and was breathing very heavy. I was bowling at the other end. Dennis was ready to go out of the attack. I was supposed to replace him from that end, with Doug Walters being brought on. But, Chappelli told me, 'let's give him (Lillee) another over. What to do you think?' Ian and I went up to Dennis and convinced him to bowl another one. He was still little hesitant but couldn't say no to us.
"Then, he got Tony Greig out caught at slip - a good catch by Keith Stackpole. After that, he got into Sir Garry with some short-pitched stuff before having him caught behind with an absolute pearl. Sir Garry will never forget that ball. I think that spell made him believe that he could get into the best of the best. After that summer, he went to England and destroyed them too," fast bowling legend McKenzie told
Lillee wrote in his autobiography that McKenzie opened the doors for other Western Australians to aspire to play for Australia. "I was the first Western Australian to play Test cricket regularly. There had been just one or two others before. I did well. He probably looked up to me. I am glad if I inspired him to bowl faster and achieved what he did for Australia. He had a fantastic career. I still rate him as our greatest-ever," said McKenzie.
McKenzie, 70, who finished with 248 wickets from 63 Tests, has happy memories of touring India in 1964-65 (13 wickets from 3 Tests) and 1969-70 (21 wickets from 5 Tests). "I can never forget the spells I bowled in Chennai in October 1964. I think I had 10 in the Test. The Chennai wicket was really quick those days. Though we couldn't win that series, it was a memorable experience. The next tour we went there under Bill Lawry's captaincy, it was all about Ashley Mallett and (John) Gleeson. They spun us to a famous win. But, I got some wickets at Eden Gardens in the fourth Test of that series," he said.
McKenzie visits India frequently these days. "I am 70 years old but I still do some travelling. It's a real pleasure to go to India these days. I was in Chandigarh for a Test a few years back."
The fast bowling great from Cottesloe is impressed with India's pace-attack. "I've actually been quite impressed with their bowling. (Ishant) Sharma hasn't had any luck. He's just not quite at his absolute best. He's a very good bowler. And the other two (Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav) - were particularly good -in the first Test," he said.