On the night of December 20, 1977 Tony Mann was known as a fine leg-break bowler who could bat a little. A day later, Mann, who came in as nightwatchman on the fourth day of a Test match at his home WACA Ground against India, hit a ton and helped his side chase down a massive fourth innings
target of 342.
In those days of tumult, with the World Series Cricket running wedge between the players and authorities, he starred for a makeshift side led by Bob Simpson, who had come out of retirement to lead a motley crew of state players at the age of 41.
Mann came in at the fall of John Dyson's wicket and ended the fourth day on three runs, after batting away the last few deliveries. He ended up making 105 off 165 balls. Finally, a fine 83 by Peter Toohey guided Australia to a two-wicket win as a five-wicket haul by Bishan Singh Bedi went in vain.
HT caught up with the Western Australian in an exclusive interview.
Your thoughts on the hundred against India?
I was sent as the nightwatchman on the fourth night, after Bedi dismissed Dyson. The next morning, before the start of play, I had a word with Bobby Simpson. He asked me to treat each ball on merit. Since we were chasing a huge target, I was pretty clear about the strategy... no point sticking around. I was confident because I had played at the WACA for many years and knew the bounce. When I nicked one from Bishan into the hands of (Syed) Kirmani, the score was 170-odd for three. I think I'd done my job well.
Was this your best innings as a nightwatchman?
In 1970-71, when England were touring Australia, we played a practice match at the WACA. I came in as a nightwatchman and got a hundred.
What is required to succeed as a spinner at WACA?
The important thing in Perth is to loop the ball and give it a fair toss. Bedi was successful here because he looped it up. The trick here is to slow the pace of the delivery, because the ball hangs in the air longer than anywhere else. I used to tell the same thing to Shane Warne, but he never listened (Warne averaged 36.45 in 12 matches at the WACA, his poorest figures at any major Australian ground).
Your take on R Ashwin...
I think he should give the ball more air. He bowled well in Melbourne, but in Sydney, he was too defensive. It would make sense for Dhoni to bowl Ashwin into the Freemantle Doctore, rather than bowl with the breeze, as it would help his balls drift slower through the air.