Australia – Over 50s World Cup Champs 2018

Congratulations to our very own club member, Bill Blair, who was part of the Australian side that won the Over 50s World Cup in Sydney on 5 December. Australia won a close match to defend 165 by 3 runs against Pakistan. Bill contributed well with a quality bowling spell of 9-0-33-2, and a catch in the field. The match report is available on the Veterans Cricket Australia website. Bill Blair was also part of the ashes winning Australian side that whitewashed England 3-0.

Bill Blair in his Australian Blazer
Bill Blair bowling in the final against Pakistan
The World Championship winning Australian over-50s team

Interview with Bill Blair taken from The Camperdowner, Vol. 1, Issue 3, Thursday , 20th December 2018.

1. How did you get selected for the Australian over 50s side? 
Last year mid-July to August, I was away with my son on the CCNSW tour in Scotland and England. Anyway, a couple of blokes on the tour kept working on me to play Vets, so I played a few games before Christmas. At the start of the year, one of them sent off an email to me for a state side in the national carnival, and I didn’t even read it, I just put in the bin. Then later I went searching for that email and thought I’d go in for it. The Victorians took a couple of sides to the carnival in Orange in April, and I played four games for the Vic White side and did alright [three man of the match awards]. They had another carnival in Brisbane in October to build up for the World Cup, and I did okay again. So I put my hand up for selection through performances in the two national carnivals, and got a phone call from one of the selectors saying, “Congratulations, you’ve been selected. Get your leave forms in and get ready!”

2. Australia went through the World Cup unbeaten – did a strong team culture develop during the competition?
The team culture was good, although it was probably more professional than the nationals. Everyone was getting to know each other, and staying in the same hotel certainly helped. We got to know each other socialising over a beer or two, and then having a training run. The first two or three games the team was still getting to know each other, and who can do what in different situations on the field.

3. What were some of the better performances by the Australian team during the tournament?
Definitely the standout was the captain, Peter Solway from ACT. He batted really well at number 3 [leading runscorer with 369 runs at 123.00 ave]. He hit a 151* against Sri Lanka in the final pool round and contributed a couple of fifties. Joey Santostefano from WA [325 runs at 45.80] and Tony Clark from NSW [239 runs at 44.75] were also solid bats. I thought the bowling was shared around between the team, but if there was a standout it was Steve Gollan from WA [12 wickets at 12.42 ave], but the team worked well together. John Short from NSW [8 wickets at 15.13], Tim Sargent from SA [6 wickets at 25.83], myself from VIC [6 wickets at 30.83] and Greg Briggs [8 wickets at 20.13]. Briggsy pulled a hammy in the semifinal so he couldn’t play in the final, which was a blow to the side as he was bowling quite well.

4. Talk us through the final against Pakistan – was the team getting nervous towards the end of the game?
Even before the final, the semifinal against New Zealand. We got 270-odd, and New Zealand came out all guns blazing. They ended up needing 4 to draw the game off the last ball, and the batsman clubbed it to deep mid-wicket, who took the catch just inside the rope. So then we were into the final against Pakistan, both teams undefeated and keen to keep that record intact. We won the toss and batted, lost some early wickets and were in a bit of trouble. We finished up 160-odd at the end of our innings, ruing leaving a couple of overs unused. Then Pakistan came out there usual aggressive selves, when they probably should have played sensible cricket. We got a run out when I came on first change, then I got the new guy caught behind first ball. The next batsman was starting to look dangerous, and I got the ball to nip through to clip the leg bail. All of a sudden Pakistan was 9 for 90 odd, and things were looking good. Then the last pair, to their credit, batted sensibly just picking up the singles. It was getting a little worrying as they were getting closer. So I was trying to keep up the talk on the field, not sledging the opposition, but talking up the team, and we got the wicket in the end.

5. How would you rate the World Cup win?
It was an absolutely fantastic experience. The nationals are played pretty seriously, so I guess I expected this to be even more so. On the first day at training we were handed our blazer and our cap with our number on it. Then we had a talk about the privilege of playing, and the fact we were playing in the inaugural world cup started to sink in a little bit. It’s an honour to play for your country, no matter what level it is, and we took it pretty seriously.

6. Finally, you’re based in Victoria, so how did you get involved in the CCNSW?
Going back to 1991, I was skipper of the Australian Airlines cricket side on a tour to New Zealand. One of the guys on tour invited me on a tour to Singapore, and I ended up rooming with Wayne Walters, a CCNSW member. Then in 1996 I took the Melbourne Qantas side to play in the World Airline tournament in  Antigua, and invited Wayne to tour with us to help make up the numbers. On that tour, I got engaged to my wife, and Wayne invited us to join the CCNSW on their UK tour the following year. So we decided to go for it to see a lot of the smaller towns and villages around the UK. About a month before the tour Wayne smashed his finger, and had to pull out of the tour. So we went over there not knowing anybody, but we met some fantastic people and had a damn good time playing cricket. I’ve been a member ever since, and now my son is a member too.