Not Out at Close of Play, a life in cricket, Dennis Amiss
A review by Ken Piesse
Available from cricketbooks.com.au, $60 posted
November 30 1974: As Brian Luckhurst and Dennis Amiss are walking out to open England’s innings, they spy the length of Dennis Lillee’s run-up.
‘You can take the first ball if you fancy,’ says Amiss.
Amiss ends up on strike, marks his guard, looks up and somewhere in the distance, 10 yards in from the Gabba fence was Lillee furiously scuffing at the ground, ‘like the wild bull of the Pampas’ as Amiss comments in his memoir, Not Out at Close of Play.
‘Two deliveries in Lillee’s first over whistled past my nose, while at the other end Brian turned as pale as ash as Jeff Thomson’s first delivery flew past his forehead. He hadn’t seen it.
So began a two-series pummeling of the 1974-75 English and the 1975-76 West Indians. No Australian pair, not even Gregory and McDonald had bowled faster, or been as menacing.
‘They appeared to be in competition,’ said Amiss, ‘as to which of them could have us sucking, diving and weaving more often. Indeed it was hard not to think that they took as much pleasure in hitting us as in getting us out – both of which they did with monotonous regularity.’
As part of his series rollercoaster Amiss made 90 in Melbourne and a pair in Adelaide; only the second of his mighty career.
As prominent in his touring memories was the ‘21-day rule’, the maximum time family and children were allowed to stay with the team – and this was a tour which started in late October and extended into March with extra matchplay in New Zealand and even Hong Kong.
When he signed with World Series Cricket, Kerry Packer sponsored his entire family in Australia for six months.
Amiss’ story is forthright and frank. He still can’t believe that England refused to select its fastest bowler John Snow on that 1974-75 tour, all because England’s ‘Mr Cricket’, GOB ‘Gubby’ Allen took umbrage at Snow bowling an underarm in a Test trial at Worcester.
‘The wicket at New Road was so flat that he (Snow) thought bowling properly was a waste of time. To give ourselves the best chance of winning in Australia we needed him in the side.’
With 102 first-class 100s, a Test average of 46 and an ODI average of 47, Amiss was one of the world stars of the ‘70s and among the few Englishmen to sign with Packer, who remains as chequered a personality in England as Douglas Jardine is in Australia.
His involvement with Warwickshire and England was to continue for decades too as a key administrator.
It was he who advised the club to sign Brian Lara in 1994, just one day before he made hie new Test-high 375 at Antigua.
‘Had we waited another day to get his signature there is no way we could have afforded to engage him,’ says Amiss. ‘On April 16 he became the hottest property in world cricket as he plundered England’s attack.’
Now 77, Amiss continues to assist Edgbaston by calling many club members who are single or have once had family, asking them how they are going and wishing them the best during Covid.
His life in cricket has stretched more than six decades. He can be proud of his achievements and of this book, a hardback from the History Press.