Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Underrated English opener ‘Sacker’ was born
April 7, 1943 - Dennis Amiss was on 85 First-class hundreds in 1978 when his manager persuaded him to aim for the remaining 15. As it turned out, Amiss not only completed the century of centuries in FC cricket, but went a couple of steps further, ending with 102.
It was the second Test on the England tour of West Indies at Kingston in 1974. On the back of England's 343, West Indies had declared on 583 and Dennis Amiss scored 262, his highest score in Test cricket, and saved the game. After having been at the wicket for nine hours, he was clearly exhausted, and in the dressing room, he had some brandy - yes you could do that in 1974! - This is when Fletcher told him that he looked like a sack of potatoes and the nickname ‘Sacker’ was born.
Here's an incident which would give an insight into the matter-of-fact and humorous personality of Amiss. When asked whether or not it's true that he laughed when Tony Greig was bowled by Holding once, Amiss says:
"Tony Greig used to rile up the fast bowlers. He had this theory that it would make them lose their composure, make them try too hard, bowl too fast, and that would make them bowl a few loose balls. It suited him; it did not suit the other players. And, of course, he had said before the series that he would make the West Indies ‘grovel’, which is not quite the right thing to say to a team as talented as that and who had a pace attack as great as that.
"Prior to his coming out to bat, it had been quite nice. The bowling had been 90 miles per hour, one bouncer per over. Holding and [Andy] Roberts were taking a break. As soon as Tony Greig emerged, they came back. It went up to 95 miles per hour, three bouncers an over. And then Holding’s yorker knocked his leg stump out of the ground. Geoff Miller came in and it was back to 90 miles per hour and one bouncer per over. It was the only time in my life I was happy to see an England captain lose his wicket."
While Graham Yallop is regarded as the first man to wear a helmet in Tests, it was Amiss who started wearing helmets for the first time in World Series Cricket after consulting Tony Greig, Alan Knott, Keith Fletcher and Derek Underwood. Soon, Zaheer Abbas, Mushtaq Mohammad and others started wearing the safety equipment as well and the trend caught on.
Despite having made 11 Test hundreds from 50 Tests, two landmark double centuries against the West Indies, including 203 against a rampaging Michael Holding at The Oval and sporting an average of 47.72 with 4 hundreds in 18 ODIs, Amiss, unlike several other cricketers, did not return to the national side after the WSC.
In 1978, he was nearing the end of his career. Young players Derek Randall, David Gower and Ian Botham were coming up and the England selectors wanted to try out the younger players. Amiss wanted to give up First-Class cricket too at that point, but Warwickshire wanted him to carry on, stay a few more years and help the youngsters.
Amiss was on 85 First-class hundreds then and his manager persuaded him to aim for the remaining 15. As it turned out, Amiss not only completed the century of centuries in FC cricket, but went a couple of steps further, ending with 102.
So, the next time you pick the openers for your All Time England XI, apart from the obvious Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe, Len Hutton, Geoff Boycott and even Andrew Strauss, keep Dennis Amiss in consideration as well.
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