St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Tournaments St George's Park - MCC bowls googly in row over sale of historic cricket bat, ball
MCC bowls googly in row over sale of historic cricket bat, ball
Ivor Markman

PORT Elizabeth’s Battle of the Bat took a diplomatic turn yesterday when London’s Marylebone Cricket Club refused a request from South African cricket authorities to withdraw from the deal.

However, the MCC at Lord’s is prepared to lend the 1876 Champion Bat and 1889 first Test ball to South Africa after it buys the historic items from the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club.

United Cricket Board president Gerald Majola wrote to the chief executive of the MCC at Lords, Michael Knight, last week appealing to the club not to buy the bat and ball. But in his reply, Knight said the sale was “essentially a transaction between the MCC and the PECC” and would “proceed as planned”.

However, the MCC would lend it to South Africa for various periods in the future.

He said that the PECC had advised the MCC that these items had attracted relatively little public interest over a long period of time.

He said that although the sale had not been formally concluded, in discussions over the past eight months, they had reached a detailed agreement with the PECC and had “shaken hands on it”. Knight said he would be extremely disappointed if the MCC lost the opportunity to display the items at Lord’s, but the club would not hold the PECC to its agreement with them if the PECC pulled out of the deal.

Majola said he was “deeply disappointed” by the MCC’s decision.

“We view this response by the MCC as insensitive to the programme in South Africa to unite the cricket communities as a unified force in world cricket. I have discussed this with our president, Ray Mali, and he is going to raise the issue for discussion at the ICC executive meeting next month,” he said. However, the UCB had received an assurance from “the relevant government authorities” that the items would not be permitted to leave South Africa, Majola told The Herald yesterday .

The government would also assist the UCB and the Eastern Province Amateur Cricket Board in having the items registered as national heritage objects in terms of legislation and to ensure that they went on display in this country, he said. The executives of the PECC and the EPACB held what was described as a “very constructive” meeting on the matter, at St George’s Park last night.

“It was done in a very cordial spirit and I think we have made considerable progress towards a solution,” EPACB president Raymond Uren said.

Meanwhile, the Port Elizabeth Historical Society has sent a letter to the South African Heritage Resource Agency in Grahamstown, expressing its opposition to the granting of any export permit for the 1876 Champion Cricket Bat, which was the trophy for the first inter-town competition in South Africa. The ball was used in the first official South Africa-England Test in 1889.

The Herald
January 25, 2005.

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