St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Tournaments St George's Park - Marylebone Cricket Club Clean Bowled
Marylebone Cricket Club Clean Bowled
Ivor Markman

The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) has been clean bowled and are out, having lost the battle of the bat, with South African administrators and fans emerging victorious.

And the walnut wood bat, with whalebone and satinwood handle, may possibly find a new home in the new Red Location museum.

Murray Brown, marketing consultant to the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club (PECC), advised Gerald Majola, CEO of the United Cricket Board (UCB) that he has advised the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in London that the PECC is withdrawing its offer to sell the 1876 Champion Bat and the 1889 first Test cricket ball.

The proposed sale drew howls of indignation from the cricket loving public when details of the deal, which was brokered by Brown, were first revealed by The Herald on January 18.

PECC President Terry Reid said, at that stage of the furore, based on the legal advice from a firm of attorneys, that as they had held the bat in their possession for more than 30 years, the PECC accepted that they were the legal owners and they were going to continue with the sale.

Brown, who stopped short of apologising, said in a letter to the UCB that “I consider my action genuine and not to undermine higher authority, especially cricket.”

He continued “I am, however, relieved to have learnt that there are procedures and policies governing our country to protect our heritage items of which the club (PECC) and I were completely unaware of.

“I have withdrawn myself from all further involvement,” he said.

While Brown’s statement may have relevance when it come to the 1889 first Test ball, it is a moot point when it comes to the bat.

Last week The Herald found a document in the city’s Main Library entitled “Regulations governing the possession of the Champion Bat of South Africa” in which it is stated that the bat was presented by the Town Council of Port Elizabeth to the cricketers of South Africa and that all questions having reference to the holding of the prize shall be decided by the Mayor of Port Elizabeth.

Also last week, before the discovery of the document, the NMMM Sport, Recreation and Culture councillor, Charmaine Williams, issued a statement that has raised concern among cricket fans that the bat will not go to a cricket museum.

"It is most important that the bat and ball be kept in Port Elizabeth, if the PECC is wanting to sell it because they are cash-strapped it will show that they have no regard for the historical value of these items.

"There will be 12 memorabilia boxes in the Red Location museum, and there is nothing preventing us from donating one to sport, and the bat and ball can be made available to the museum," she added.

Majola said that he was sure there was nothing to worry about and he was sure the Mayor would make the right decision.

Negotiations had already been concluded with the MCC and a price of £8,000 was agreed upon for the sale of the cricket bat and £7,000 for the Test ball.

According to Roger Knight, secretary and chief executive of MCC at Lords, 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”.

The plan was for Brown to fly with the bat and ball to London in late February and to personally deliver it to the MCC. “My pending visit to London is meant to be a private journey and the fact that the items were to be delivered at the same time is purely coincidental,” he wrote.

Knight refused to withdraw from the deal after Majola requested the MCC to do so and instead suggested that the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) make an offer to buy the bat from the PECC.

Knight also said that the PECC had advised them that “these items had attracted relatively little public interest over a lengthy period of time” and indicated that the MCC would be prepared to loan the bat to South Africa for various periods in the future.

Knight said in his letter that “While we would be extremely disappointed if we lost (the sale), at this very late stage, . . . we would not . . . seek to hold the PECC to its existing agreement with us.”

Majola said from Johannesburg on Friday night “I want to thank the executive of the EPACB for the sanity that has prevailed and am pleased that the matter has been satisfactorily resolved. We will now go ahead with the process of registering the items.”

January 31, 2005

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