‘Six Sixes’ book author reveals all about historic Sobers cricket ball

19 Nov

Scottish cricket enthusiasts with a particular interest in the history of the game who attended the Society’s meetings in Glasgow and Edinburgh on 10th and 11th Nov were in for a treat. 

The author of a book investigating the controversial sale of a ball supposedly hit for an historic six sixes by West Indian legend Garry Sobers in Swansea in 1968 addressed members of the Cricket Society of Scotland. 

The Duke & Son ball was sold for a world record £26,400 by Christie’s in 2006 but in Howzat? The Six Sixes Ball Mystery, freelance broadcaster and journalist Grahame Lloyd proves that it wasn’t the one bowled to Sobers by Malcolm Nash at St Helen’s because it was the wrong make. 

Lloyd also reveals that David Convery, Christie’s head of sporting memorabilia at the time who now works for Great Western Auctions in Glasgow, has refused to discuss the controversy surrounding the Duke’s sale.

The actual ball used in the over was manufactured by Stuart Surridge and BBC TV footage confirms Nash’s assertion that it was the only one he bowled – not the last of three as claimed by Christie’s – during the Glamorgan versus Nottinghamshire county championship match. 

“I used the same ball for all six deliveries,” says Nash, “and it was charred, scarred and scuffed but never changed. It’s interesting to note that Christie’s have never bothered to ask me about the ball I bowled and how many balls were used in the over.” 

After the Duke ball was withdrawn from a sporting memorabilia auction in 2012 by Bonhams in Chester because of what they described as Lloyd’s “compelling and conclusive” evidence, Lloyd launched his 18-month investigation, Operation Howzat?, which tracked the ball from Swansea to Nottingham to London and finally to India.

“I unequivocally support Malcolm Nash’s contention that the ball isn’t genuine,” says Lloyd.

“I’ve tried to uncover the truth about its sale by Christie’s but with half the people involved refusing to discuss it, my search hasn’t been easy. I think it’s best to leave it to the readers of the book to make up their own minds about the controversy. 

“I’m very disappointed that the unwritten 43rd Law of Cricket covering the exercise of common sense has been ignored by Christie’s. What happened to that ball in 2006 is ‘just not cricket’.”

During the course of Operation Howzat?, Lloyd discovered that:

* Although Sobers signed a certificate of authenticity to verify the ball, he didn’t profit from its auction at Christie’s. The former West Indies and Nottinghamshire captain describes himself as a “very innocent bystander”  

* Two former Christie’s specialists declined to discuss their part in the ball’s sale – their then head of sporting memorabilia David Convery, who’s now a senior auctioneer at Great Western Auctions in Glasgow, and the Manchester Jewish Museum’s current chief executive, Max Dunbar 

* Glamorgan County Cricket Club’s archivist and the curator of the Museum of Welsh Cricket, Andrew Hignell, refused to answer questions about his role in the ball’s verification process  

* Having re-investigated the 2006 auction, Christie’s stand by the ball’s original “good provenance” and the “signed certificate”  

Howzat? The Six Sixes Ball Mystery features extensive interviews with Sobers, his former agent, Basharat Hassan, Nash and Jose Miller, the former secretary of the Nottinghamshire Supporters’ Association, who sold the ball at Christie’s in 2006. 

It was nominated for the 2014 MCC/Cricket Society Book of the Year award and has been described as “a terrifically dotty whodunnit, driven by one man’s relentless, borderline- psychotic quest for answers” (Wisden), “the most original cricket book that has been published in years” (cricketweb.net), “a cracking read and unhesitatingly recommended” (Cricket Society), “the product of diligent and disciplined investigative journalism…a compelling read” (Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians) and “a skilfully crafted and highly absorbing book…a triumph” (Backspin magazine).

Howzat? The Six Sixes Ball Mystery (foreword by Matthew Engel, former editor of Wisden) is published by Celluloid Ltd. Signed copies can be obtained for £14.99 from the author at grahameatcelluloid@btinternet.com or on 01522 – 542555 or 07980 – 541899. 

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