More silver! Queensland’s 1974-75 Sheffield Shield campaign

    This piece is a sequel to one I wrote the other day about the 1973-74 Sheffield Shield season – the one where Queensland learned how to come second under Greg Chappell.

    Here I’m looking at 1974-75 Chappell-led Queensland to some more silver. This season really consolidated us as the state who had everything to come second – a status we (warning: I am a Queenslander) pretty much kept for the next twenty years.

    The big news of 1974-75 was New South Wales bowler Jeff Thomson had decided to move to Queensland. Looking back Thommo is such a natural Queenslander with his pig-shooting and spearfishing that it’s weird to realise he originally came from New South Wales – and, what’s more, helped wreck Queensland’s chances of winning the Shield in 1973-74.

     

    Truth be told we didn’t actually need bowling help in 1974-75 – Queensland’s attack in the early 70s was pretty good (Geoff Dymock, Tony Dell, Malcolm Francke, Phil Carlson and now Greg Chappell), it was the batting that was dodgy.

    An attempt was made to lure Ian Davis to Queensland – the Sydney batter who’d earned Test selection ludicrously early the previous season and who was seen as the next big thing – but it didn’t work. (Davis would play for Queensland in 1975-76.)

    But anyway, it was good to have Thommo. Like I say, he and Queensland suited each other.

    In terms of batting we at least had Sam Trimble, John McLean, Phil Carlson and Chappell (who had signed for five years). Not a bad. Just a little thin.

    There was some new talent like batters Martin Kent and David Ogilvie, and spinner Graham Whyte. Jeff Langley had moved to Queensland from South Australia. Maybe if the young kids kicked on…

    Anyway, Queensland’s first game of 1974-75 was against New South Wales. Thommo took 4-65 (no balled 12 times) as NSW scored 222, with Queensland making 277 in response – Martin Kent, in his first class debut, scored 140 launching an enigmatic new batting star.

    Queensland’s attack blew away NSW for 97, which is always satisfying, and we won by nine wickets.

    So far so good. But then, Queensland tended to start strongly. Could they maintain it?

    Game two was against WA, who now had Dennis Lillee back after a year off with injury. At one stage we had them 9-125 but the tail wagged to take them to 182.

    We made 185 in response, then they were dismissed for 219, setting Queensland 217 to win. The rain-shortened game ended in a draw at 4-137 (Chappell 51).

    Hmmm.

    WA had 42 Shield points from four matches, Queensland had 25 from two matches.

    Dennis Lillee (left) and Jeff Thomson. (PA Images via Getty Images)

    “The Sheffield Shield competition looks like being an interesting battle again this year,” wrote Ian Chappell, adding “at this early stage it appears Western Australia and Queensland have a slight edge.”

    In November Sam Trimble announced his retirement from first class cricket. This was a blow. Trimble was getting on, it’s true, but Queensland didn’t have the openers to replace him (and to be honest, wouldn’t until Robbie Kerr and Kepler Wessels came along in the 1980s).

    Queensland played the touring English side. They made 258, Queensland 226 (Chappell 122), England 175 (Dymock 5-49) and Queensland 161 (Chappell 51). Yuck.

    It was England’s first victory over Queensland since 1932-33. On top of another victory, against NSW, England were feeling good before the Test series.

    “Everything’s building up nicely,” said captain Mike Denness – which I mainly mention because of course England went on to be decimated in the Ashes 4-1, partly due to Jeff Thomson’s 33 wickets.

    Queensland went south to play Victoria. This didn’t go well. We were dismissed for 182, Victoria made 259, then got us for 167 and won by eight wickets.

    Boo.

    The Shield table stood at WA (50 points), Victoria (33), NSW and Queensland (29) and South Australia (19).

    Thankfully South Australia came to the rescue. We were without our test players (Chappell, Thommo) which was scary, but it went well – we knocked them over for 202 (Dymock 4-70), and put on 328 (Jeff Langley 117). South Australia collapsed for 182 in their second innings (Francke 4-42) and we won by nine wickets.

    It would’ve been a very satisfactory game for Langley, who’d only just left South Australia.

    This made Queensland second on the Shield table – 45 points to WA’S 50.

    The Test players were back for a game against WA. They batted first, made 256 (Thomson 4-69), Queensland collapsed for 107, and WA declared at 5-269 (Laird 127) leaving Queensland 419 runs to win in 480 minutes (Queensland had never gotten more than 361 in its second innings in a game against WA).

    Greg Chappell promoted himself to opener and went for it, bless him – and at one stage Queensland were 1-232 we allowed ourselves to dream. But then wickets fell and the game ended in a draw with Queensland 7-358 (Chappell 159, Kent 58).

    Ian Chappell wrote “the Shield competition has probably never been so open at this stage of the season” adding “picking a winner is like trying to win the lottery at the moment but I would think Queensland just has a slight edge with two wins already up and the attack to take advantage of its two remaining home games.”

    South Australia helped out again. They made 220, Queensland just 139 (Kent 59), then South Australia 239 (Francke 4-97). Queensland were set 321 runs to win – and dammit if we didn’t get them with six wickets in hand! Chappell promoted himself to opener, making 77, but it was a real team effort – Langley scoring 73, Maclean 47 and the enigmatic Carlson 74 not out.

    Carlson later called it his best innings for Queensland. Chappell said it “it’s the first time we have been outplayed for the first two days and have come back to win the match.”

    Queensland were now on top of the table with 65 points to WA’s 59. Both teams had two matches to play. According to one report “Queensland now has a Sheffield Shield win in their sights and meet a demoralised NSW side, thrashed by the touring MCC, in their next match”.

    There was further good news for Geoff Dynmock who was picked to replace an unfit Jeff Thomson in the sixth Test.

    It wouldn’t be a Queensland Sheffield Shield campaign, however, if New South Wales didn’t come along and ruin everyone’s fun and that’s what happened next.

    It didn’t start off so bad: they made 232 (Dymock 4-48) and we responded with 266 (Maclean 67) – but then the blues pulled their finger out of their backside, making 7-392, led by Steve Rixon’s 115 (Steve Rixon!). Queensland were set 359 to win but were done for 179 (Chappell 71, Gilmour 5-59).

    Yuck.

    Queensland were still leading the table on 73 points but only had one game to play. WA were on 50 and had two.

    WA stormed into the lead with a victory against Victoria – they were now on 77 points.

    Then Victoria beat SA and they were on top of the table with 78 points.

    Queensland’s Sheffield Shield drought is the stuff of legends. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

    Then WA, in their last game, beat NSW (who always seemed to find some way to help hinder Queensland’s Sheffield Shield chances) and WA were on top of the table with 96 points.

    The Shield would thus be decided by the Victoria-Queensland game in Brisbane.

    Victoria would win if they won outright and got eight bonus points.

    Queensland needed an outright win plus 14 bonus points.

    Sam Trimble, aged 40, was recalled to the Queensland team. Jeff Thomson was picked despite his recent injury.

    Victoria batted first and declared at 6-325. This meant Queensland only collected three bonus points for bowling. Queensland needed ten batting points – or 400 runs in 65 overs – and to win outright.

    After 32 overs Queensland were 1-203 but then slumped to 6-226 (Chappell 122, Trimble 77), but rallied to get 357 (Thommo 61!)

    That was not enough for the bonus points.

    Queensland blew away Victoria for just 76 (Thommo 6-17) and won by ten wickets.

    But it wasn’t enough.

    Queensland finished second – 91 points to WA’s 96. Victoria were third on 89.

    To make it worse for Queensland, Dymock was overlooked for the 1975 tour of England in favour of Alan Hurst. Greg Chappell was appointed vice captain to Ian on that tour – he was being groomed to take over the top job which he did in 1975-76

    Ah, well.

    So. Queensland in 1974-75…

    What happened?

    It wasn’t the bowling – Queensland had four bowlers who took at least 25 Shield wickets over the summer – one of them Malcolm Francke who deserved to play tests. Maybe Chappell could’ve bowled Phil Carlson more. But really Again it was the batting – Queensland had only one batter apart from Chappell who averaged more than 35, and that was John Maclean. Players like Jeff Langley, Martin Kent and Phil Carlson had their moments but not enough of them. Maybe if Sam Trimble had played the whole season…? Or not.

    At least Queensland were getting good at coming second. We’d show everyone just how good over the next two decades.

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