Most of us knew Hookes as a good commentator, until a sad bar brawl took him away. Only do a few of us know of his brilliance as a swashbuckling batsman.
“South Australia captain David Hookes was left frothing at the mouth after his opposite number, Graham Yallop, chose to extend the Victoria innings till the end of the second session on the fourth and final day. South Australia were left to score 272 runs in 30 overs. Victoria’s declaration was a token, the time remaining a formality – or so it seemed then – and the situation was perfect for spectators to exit early.
But there was one huge factor many failed to consider: Hookes’s anger. He promoted himself as an opener (he normally played at No. 5) and took it out on us bowlers. We had already felt the impact of his bat when he hammered 137 in the first innings, scoring a century between lunch and tea. Yallop’s 151 in the second innings against Rodney Hogg and West Indies import Joel Garner was a blessing for Victoria, but the delayed declaration turned out to be a curse as it brought out the beast in Hookes.
When he was just 20 and still to make his foray into first-class cricket, Hookes had hit six sixes in an over in a match in London. And it was primarily his reputation as a plunderer that delayed Yallop’s declaration here.
Hookesy opened the innings with Rick Darling and pulled the first ball from Peter King high over midwicket and onto the roof of the members’ stand. The impact of leather against tin roof resounded around the ground. King, who got 5 for 88 in the first innings, went on to be battered out of the attack with figures of 2-0-38-0.
In the carnage of the opening overs bowled by Rod McCurdy and King, I distinctly remember fielding at deep backward point when a shot from Hookesy thundered to the boundary before I could get to the ball – and it was barely five yards away from me.
I remember Yallop coming over to me at the end of King’s second over and telling me that I was next in the line of fire. He asked me the field of my choice and I thought it wise to pack the off side – which had a longer boundary – and bowl wide of the off stump. It was an excellent defensive ploy in theory, but after being taken apart for 18 runs in my first over, I had to do a hasty rethink. I remember bowling almost a foot outside the off stump and Hookesy walking inside the line to hit past the unmanned fine leg for four. It was his day and anything he tried came off, including a couple of edges which went through slips. Just three bowlers bowled in the second innings and I thought it wouldn’t have been a bad idea for Yallop to have effected a change of pace by bringing on Jim Higgs and the orthodox, slow left-arm spinner Peter Cox.
We were shell-shocked, no doubt, but we knew we only had to dismiss Hookesy to get right back into the game. As it turned out, we were only three wickets away from winning ourselves, as South Australia kept going for the runs and losing wickets in the process.
Such was the brilliance of Hookesy’s calculated assault that when he got to his hundred, the free-stroking Rick Darling was only on seven! Hookesy’s 50 had come in 17 minutes and his 100 in 43 minutes from 34 balls (17×4, 3×6). It is still the fastest authentic (read: in non-contrived circumstances) hundred in the history of first-class cricket. It was quite amazing.
There were some 400 spectators when the South Australian innings began; by the time the match ended there were about 4000. McCurdy was hit for 88 runs in 12 overs while I went for 67 in 10.
I was fortunate enough to be at the Melbourne Cricket Ground when Garry Sobers made 254 for the Rest of the World against Australia in 1971-72, but I have not seen a better innings, in the games that I have played, than Hooksey’s 107. The power and intelligence of that innings was unforgettable. There may have been some personal pain as a bowler, but there was also some great cricketing pleasure and we still talk about it when we meet.”