New Book Provokes 'Six Sixes' Ball Row
A book investigating the controversial sale of a cricket ball which was supposedly hit for an historic six sixes by West Indian legend Garry Sobers in Swansea in 1968 has uncovered startling new evidence about the auction - and ignited a row involving the bowler on the receiving end of the famous feat.
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, published earlier this month, author Grahame Lloyd maintains that it wasn’t the one bowled to Sobers by Glamorgan’s Malcolm Nash at St Helen’s because it was the wrong make.
The actual ball was manufactured by Stuart Surridge and BBC TV footage confirms Nash’s assertion that it was the only one used in the over – not the last of three as claimed by Christie’s.
After re-investigating the sale, the world’s leading auctioneers are standing by their claim that the ball is genuine - prompting Nash to call for his role in cricket history to be accurately acknowledged by Christie’s.
"Forty five years on, I’m still amazed why anyone would want to dispute the fact that we used a Surridge ball," says Nash.
"We always used that make and as the TV footage shows, I bowled the same ball for all six deliveries 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. I would like to see a conclusion to all of the nonsense that’s going on now."
Lloyd’s 18-month investigation, Operation Howzat?, reveals 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" but his former agent, Basharat Hassan, has admitted receiving nearly £4,000 from the sale – and not telling Sobers about the payment.
- After the ball’s withdrawal from a sporting memorabilia auction in 2012 by Bonhams because of what they described as Lloyd’s "compelling and conclusive" evidence, Christie’s have now re-investigated the 2006 sale but stand by the ball’s original "good provenance" and the "signed certificate"
- Despite Lloyd’s material and Nash’s repeated assertion that he didn’t bowl the disputed ball to Sobers, Christie’s found no "evidence or knowledge of any wrongdoing that helps to shed any light on the subsequent controversy identified by Mr Lloyd"
- Two former Christie’s specialists – their then head of sporting memorabilia David Convery, who now runs Convery Auctions in Scotland, and the Manchester Jewish Museum’s current chief executive, Max Dunbar - have refused to discuss their part in the ball’s sale
- Another specialist connected with the 2006 auction, Rupert Neelands, now a Christie’s director and head of sale, has declined to be interviewed
- Glamorgan County Cricket Club’s archivist and the curator of the Museum of Welsh Cricket, Andrew Hignell, has refused to answer questions about his role in the ball’s verification process
- The ball was bought by an Indian art impresario in London in 2006 but when he failed to pay its import duty charges at New Delhi Airport, it was sold via an e-auction to a solar energy expert. As part of Lloyd’s abortive attempt to secure the ball’s return to Britain, Wisden editor Lawrence Booth agreed to act as courier after England’s successful Test series win in India in 2012.
Howzat? The Six Sixes Ball Mystery features extensive interviews with Sobers, Basharat Hassan, and Jose Miller, the ex-secretary of the Nottinghamshire Supporters’ Association who sold the ball at Christie’s in 2006. They were conducted partly for a Wisden article which was later dropped because, at the time of printing, Christie’s had not produced a response to Lloyd’s evidence.
Both Miller and Hassan have indicated their willingness to pay back the £18,800 they made from the sale of the ball.
"I unequivocally support Malcolm Nash’s contention that the ball isn’t genuine," said Lloyd.
"I’ve tried to uncover the truth about its sale 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 . To me, what happened to that ball in 2006 is ‘just not cricket’."
232 pages inc 16 b & w/colour photos
£14.99 Celluloid Ltd Publication date: 23rd September 2013
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Signed copies of the book are available from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 01522 542555