St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Urban Legends St George's Park - Batsman "Bailed Out" on St Valentine's Day
Batsman "Bailed Out" on St Valentine's Day
Ivor Markman

St Valentine’s Day, (February 14, for those unromantic souls) 1987 was a beautiful, windless and sunny day in Port Elizabeth. Uitenhage batsman, Aubrey Nell, was about to receive the surprise of his life.

The team of the Uitenhage Cricket Club were playing against the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club at St Georges Park in a "B" division Premier League match when there was a rather unusual occurrence.

Click image to enlarge
Aubrey Nell
Uitenhage opening batsman, Ian Daniell, was facing PECC bowler, Stephen Preston, at the Duckpond end with non-striker, Aubrey Nell, at the Park Drive side of the pitch.

Daniell hit the ball to deep extra-cover and the two batsmen ran. As the two passed midfield, Daniell called out to Nell "The second run is on!"

"I turned for the second run, but in turning I knew it was going to be a close call. Still though, I carried on running," said Nell.

Meanwhile, PECC fielder Tim Smuts picked up the ball and threw it at the Park Drive end wickets. His aim was accurate and the ball clipped the wickets.

Nell was two metres from the crease when the ball struck the wicket. "Out of the corner of my eye I saw the bails go up in the air," he recalls, "so I carried on running towards the pavilion because I thought I was out."

The umpire, Brian Basson, saw the bails lift into the air and that Nell was way out his ground. So he signaled him "out".

But then Nell looked back and saw that the bails had not hit the ground - they were stuck between the wickets.

He appealed to the umpire, "Brian, I’m not out because the bails haven’t fallen on the ground."

"The umpire gave one helluva smile and said, ‘Shit, you’re right’ and called me back."

Meanwhile the PE players were happily slapping each other on the back as cricketers normally do when they collect a wicket.

"Basson called them and told them to carry on playing. When they asked why, he said because the bails were still where they were supposed to be. So they all looked at the wickets and burst out laughing."

Nell went on to score 64 not out and Uitenhage were 300 for three at the end of the limited overs match. Port Elizabeth were all out for 198.

Click image to enlarge
Aubrey Nell with the award he receivedin 1987 to commemorate the occassionwhen the bails never touched the ground.
After the match Nell asked Basson if he could purchase the bails as a souvenir. Basson said they were specially made for windy conditions, were heavier than the average bails, and that he was not prepared to part with them.

But Basson had a little trick up his sleeve.

At the 1986/87 annual Port Elizabeth Cricket Union prizegiving held at the UPE Indoor Sports Centre, (Uitenhage won the league that year) Basson announced the presentation of a special award to Aubrey Nell to recall an umpiring "incident".

Nell had no idea what it was all about as he walked up to the podium. Then, from behind a curtain, Basson pulled out a trophy made up from the original wickets and bails.

The wickets were cut down, secured into a base of solid wood, and the bails secured in exactly the position that they had ended up in.

Considering that the feat was so rare - the odds are heavily against the bails falling back into their rests - Basson had made a trophy for Aubrey to recall the event.

Basson recalled the match between EPB and Natal that season when Nell got "the finest of inside edges down the leg side and the ball was caught by the wicket keeper - an umpire’s nightmare".

"But Nell, realised he had touched the ball and walked. He made the umpire’s job easier."

When Basson handed over the trophy he quipped, "Now we’re even."

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