Ken Shuttleworth (left) and Ray East © Getty Images
Ken Shuttleworth (left) and Ray East © Getty Images

June 13, 1970. Ray East, the Essex left-arm spinner and useful lower order improviser was also a renowned humorist. Arunabha Sengupta recounts his hilarious exchange with Lancashire paceman Ken Shuttleworth.

In the summer of 1970, Ken Shuttleworth was in his prime. He bowled scorchingly fast, and would soon be selected for the tour of Australia that winter. He would go on to capture 5 for 47 on debut at Brisbane.

Hence, on a rather fiery wicket at Valentine’s Park, Ilford, the Essex No. 10 Ray East did not quite fancy facing him. You see, it would be a while before East’s incredible improvisations would get results enabling him to bat higher up, sometimes in the middle-order, of the Essex line-up. At that time, as he trudged in at 232 for 8 with Shuttleworth breathing fire, he was very much a left-arm spinning tail-ender.

And so, on his way to the wicket, he brokered a whispered deal with the paceman. If Shuttleworth could see his way to keeping the next delivery up full and straight, East would do his bit and remove his bat from the line. That way, dignity and body intact, he could gracefully retire to the safe confines of the pavilion.

Shuttleworth nodded, and East took strike. The fast bowler ran in and duly bowled a half-volley on middle and leg. East, with every intention of missing it, swung his bat in expansive style. And it connected.

The sound was sumptuous. Shuttleworth’s eyes betrayed fury, East’s showed alarm. The ball flew into the orbit, sailing magnificently, many a mile and over the distant wide long-on boundary. It was a six.

Turning to East, Shuttleworth opened his mouth. His remarks, in the absence of any stump microphone to facilitate a ban, came off quick, brim-full with profanity, and without too many pretentions of comradely feeling. Nostrils flaring, he stomped back to his bowling mark.

East waited with consternation. And as Shuttleworth stormed in, he threw away his bat and dived into the ground, face down, covering his head with his hands. Needless to say, the predicted bouncer flew harmlessly several feet over his prostrate body.

Of course, this act effectively diffused the tension of the situation as everyone in the ground doubled up in laughter.

What followed?

It turned out to be a classic encounter.

East scored an unbeaten 10, helping Ted Presland add 27. The Essex men totalled 270. Shuttleworth finished with 4 for 52.

When Lancashire batted, the excellent Essex new-ball bowlers, Keith Boyce and John Lever, had them struggling. Later East came on to pick 3 wickets. The Lancashire response was restricted to 202.

East did not bat in the second innings. The hosts went for quick runs and the declaration came as soon as Essex crossed 200. They lost 7 wickets in the process, 3 of them to Shuttleworth.

Following this, Lever made a gallant attempt to bowl out the Lancastrians. With Barry Wood, Harry Pilling and Clive Lloyd falling to the left-arm seamer with just 13 on the board and Boyce making it 4 for 19 by removing John Sullivan, a quick end looked likely.

But the later order batsmen stuck around, as did David Lloyd, and even though East boasted second innings figures of 12-10-5-3, David Hughes and Peter Lever held on till the end and Lancashire averted an outright defeat by finishing with 102 for 9.

Brief Scores

Essex 270 (Keith Fletcher 103; Ken Shuttleworth 4 for 52, Jack Simmons 4 for 26) and 202 for 7 decl. (Brian Taylor 55, Graham Saville 40, Ted Presland 44*) drew with Lancashire 202 (Barry Wood 44, Harry Pilling 46; John Lever 4 for 43) and 102 for 9 (John Lever 4 for 32).