Graham McKenzie
Cricket News

Foxes Flashback - Graham McKenzie

Graham McKenzie (24th June)

It would be a useful pub quiz question. What Graham McKenzie and Stuard Broad - two fast bowlers have in common? Yes, they both played for Leicestershire, but they also share a birthday. Click Here to view Stuart Broad's article.

The contrast is that whilst Graham (Garth) spent the final days of his cricketing career at Grace Road, Stuart started his there before moving onto fame and glory with Notts and England.

It’s interesting to compare the careers of Garth and Stuart Broad. Stuart is now 34, the same age as Mckenzie was in his final season of first class cricket. How well the stats reflect the changing face of cricket over the past 60 years!

Leicester’s first experience of Garth was in 1961. In the tourist’s match at Grace Road, the ‘baby’ of Richie Benaud’s Ashes winning team, clean bowled the first three Leicestershire batsmen in his first four overs. (Hallam 0, Watson 1 and Jayasinghe 6). The following week he made his test debut in the Lord’s test. A breezy 34 in Australia’s first innings, and 5 cheap wickets in England’s second, gave him a significant role in their victory. The career of one of Australia’s greatest fast bowlers was launched.

In 1968 the registration rule on overseas players was relaxed, and counties were allowed to sign an overseas player without them spending a year of residential qualification. Some of the greatest players in the world decided that county cricket was a good option. Notts signed Garry Sobers and Warwickshire Rohan Kanhai, and Barry Richards and Mike Procter played for Hampshire and Gloucestershire, and Greg Chappell went to Somerset. Leicestershire, considering they had been signing overseas players since the 1930s, decided to wait until the following year when they could sign Garth. As I remember, they did so with the knowledge that he could play for three years before Australia toured again in 1972. No ‘nipping in’ to play half a dozen matches in those days.

His best test bowling was the 8 for 71 he took against the West Indies in the Boxing Day test of 1968, but how about his performance at Old Trafford in 1964? Sixty overs, 15 Maidens, 7 for 153. This was reckoned at the time to be comparable to Bobby Simpson’s triple hundred and Ken Barrington’s monumental 256, scored in the same match.

His test career pretty much finished in South Africa in 1970, where he had to wait until the final match of the series before taking his sole wicket. By the following winter, fellow ‘sand groper’ Denis Lillee was ready to take over. This left him with 246 test wickets, frustratingly just two short of Richie Benaud’s record at the time.

For six years he was pretty much the corner stone of the Leicestershire bowling attack, taking over 50 wickets each year. By 1975, he was starting to fade, and it was clear that this was to be his last season. Happily, he went out with a bang.

Leicestershire’s final match in 1975 was against Derbyshire at the beautiful Queen’s Park in Chesterfield. Though they went into the final match top of the table, they were very catchable. They needed to do well and certainly needed at least a good haul of bonus points to win the championship for the first time. Winning the toss and opting to bat on a green wicket, Alan Ward, Mike Hendrick and Phil Russell reduced Leicestershire to 77 for 6. A mini recovery followed, but when Garth appeared at number 10, the score was still only 146, and still no points.

He actually had quite a modest record as a batsman, his top first-class score was only 76 and he had a career average of 15, but he always looked like an organised batsman, capable of achieving more.

I remember that we gave him a good clap as he went out to bat in his last first-class match for Leicestershire and our hopes were justified. An hour or so later, the innings ended, and he was unbeaten with an innings top score of 44, and with the help of Norman McVicker and Ken Higgs had helped the county achieve two valuable batting points.

On Tuesday afternoon he took a wicket with his last ball in first class cricket when he dismissed Alan Ward, and the following over Chris Balderstone claimed the final wicket and Leicestershire had won their first county championship title in style!

His best bowling? That astonishing match against Glamorgan in August 1971. Firstly, he top scored with 53 not out in Leicestershire’s 209 for 8 declared, scored in 95 overs. Garth then proceeded to take 7 wickets for 8 runs as they were dismissed for just 24, and then following on he took 4 for 29 as they crumbled again for 66.

Richard Holdridge - Club Historian