* X

The year was 1969. The place was a large air base called

Phan Rang, in South Vietnam. There was a war going on. Wars

do a number of things to Australians. For a start, their

attention is gained. Furthermore, they tend to become absorbed

in the nastier aspects of their day-to-day activities. War

has, however, never been able to remove from Australians their

pre-occupation with cricket. Quite the contrary. So it was to

prove while I served in Vietnam with No. 2 Squadron, RAAF.

I was on the tarmac one day when a young airman, whom

I knew very well and respected greatly, approached and said:

"What about a cricket match between the officers and airmen?"

I was not so much surprised, as somewhat taken aback. I didn't

know how we could find the time, I told him. There were, after

all, somewhat more important activities going on around us.

A match would take at least half a day, even with limited overs.

"I happen to know," he said, "that you do a good deal of the

programming. Couldn't you organise the programme so that all

of the strikes were completed by about midday?"

"I suppose so," I said thoughtfully.

So it was done. I left the arrangements pretty much in the

capable hands of my airman friend. "Can you find a reasonable

pitch?" I asked.

"Of course," he grinned. "The Americans have a great area

down alongside the strip, they've set it up as a Softball field.

It's ideal."

"Okay," I said, "You're in charge of arrangements. What about


"No problems," he said, "The Australian RSL has sent us a lot

of gear. All new too. We've been using it a bit for practice,

but it's really as good as brand new."

This was reassuring. "Okay," I said, "I'll tell the commanding

officer and we'll consider the match a fixture for about a

week's time." He grinned again. "Four dozen cans? Loser

buys?" I thought for a moment. I knew that most of the

officers, even those who were players, were out of practice,

including me. But I considered that I held an ace. This was

Mike, one of our young pilots who could have played for his

State, at least, if he had decided to be a full-time cricketer,

rather than a bomber pilot. I had played with him and against

him and I knew his cricketing capabilities fairly well. He

bowled very quickly and could move the ball both ways through

the air. He could also use the seam to destructive effect,

off the pitch. He batted at about five or six and was always

good for forty or fifty. Little did the airmen, I thought to

myself, appreciate my secret weapon.

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