A cricket ball which may have been used during the famous six sixes match at Swansea in 1968 is being put up for auction later this month – amid continuing speculation about the authenticity of the ball allegedly hit over the boundary by Garry Sobers.
When the then West Indian captain made history by smashing Glamorgan’s Malcolm Nash for 36 runs in one over at St Helen’s, the last six disappeared out of the ground and Sobers declared Nottinghamshire’s first innings closed.
As the players left the field, a 17-year-old schoolboy, Richard Lewis, of Pontardawe, found the Surridge-made ball lying in St Helen’s Avenue. When he returned it to Glamorgan two days later, they showed their appreciation by giving him another similar Surridge ball which is now being sold.
The actual ball bowled by Nash to Sobers was taken directly to Nottinghamshire’s Trent Bridge ground in 1968. In 2006, a ball supposedly used in the over – and verified by a certificate of provenance signed by Sobers - was sold by Christie’s in London for £26,400 to an anonymous overseas buyer - even though it was made by Duke & Son and not Surridge.
Two years later, freelance broadcaster and journalist Grahame Lloyd suggested in his book, Six of the Best: Cricket’s Most Famous Over, that the ball sold by Christie’s was a fake. In May 2012, that same ball was withdrawn from a sale by Bonhams in Chester after Lloyd provided what the auctioneers described as “compelling and conclusive” evidence.
After hearing about the Bonhams withdrawal, Lewis consigned his Surridge ball to Hansons, based at Etwall in Derbyshire, and it will be auctioned at a Fine Arts Sale on Friday, 26th October.
“I’ve had the ball long enough,” said Lewis, a semi-retired history and politics teacher in Birmingham. “I’ve enjoyed owning it, it’s been sitting on my mantelpiece at home for the last 44 years and I think it’s time to move on.
“Bearing in mind the recent publicity associated with the original ball, I’ve decided that now would be a good time to sell mine and use the proceeds for an excellent holiday which I would always associate with those splendid memories of 1968.”
A guide price of £1,000-£1,500 has been placed on the ball by Charles Hanson, the manager of Hansons who regularly appears on BBC One’s Bargain Hunt and Antiques Roadtrip programmes.
“I suppose the ball, by association, is the nearest to the original six sixes one in that it’s the same make and same age,” said Hanson. “It’s signed by Garry Sobers and it provides collectors with an opportunity to acquire an item that is linked to one of sport’s most iconic moments.”
“Documents from the time and BBC Wales footage of the event prove that the ball sold by Christie’s in 2006 simply cannot be the one which Sobers hit,” said Lloyd. “It’s the wrong make and it was not, as Christie’s stated in their lot notes, the last of three balls used in the over. Malcolm Nash says he bowled only one ball – and that was a Surridge not a Duke.
“What happened to that actual ball? Nobody knows. I suspect it was lost sometime during the redevelopment of Trent Bridge. We can’t be sure about the Hansons’ Surridge ball either but it could have been used in the first innings of both teams in the match at St Helen’s in 1968’.
* Viewing day at Hansons’ Auction Centre in Heage Lane in Etwall, Derbyshire will be on Thursday 25th October 11am – 7 pm. Further details are available at www.hansonsauctioneers.co.uk or 01283 733988 or firstname.lastname@example.org
* Richard Lewis on 01527 852616 / 07713 186920 and Grahame Lloyd on 01522-542555 / 07980-541899 are both available for interview.
Hansons Auctioneers & Valuers Ltd, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derby. DE65 6LS