TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
“THEY just batted and batted and batted,” is Jimmy Cook’s abiding memory of the 1988-89 Currie Cup final. “They” were Eastern Province, and their innings victory over Transvaal at St George’s Park in that match marked a milestone in the history of SA cricket.
For only the second time in the 60 editions of the competition played to that point, a team other than Transvaal, Natal and Western Province claimed the trophy. The other exception was Kimberley, who won the second Currie Cup in 1890-91.
The player at the centre of EP’s triumph was opener Philip Amm, who batted for more than 11 hours to score 214 in their first innings of 561.
Last week, 26 years after that monumental performance, Amm died at his home near Grahamstown of what police described as “natural causes”. However, longstanding alcohol abuse can only have hastened his demise. He was 51.
“He was a very organised player and a nice guy to be around,” Cook said. “He wasn’t Herschelle Gibbs in terms of talent but he was gutsy.”
For all Amm’s heroics in that Currie Cup final, Cook remembers him better for the 44 not out he scored batting at No. 7 in the second innings of a match at St George’s Park in January, 1985.
“At that stage of the season we had won every game we had played in both formats and we were pushing hard to keep that record intact,” Cook said. “But Philip, who had retired hurt and came back, stopped us from winning the match.”
Amm’s effort was EP’s top score in an innings that had wobbled to 109/8 – 208 runs away from the mythical target – when hands were shaken on the draw.
It was indeed the first time in that 1984-85 season that the “Mean Machine” had been denied victory. They would play 21 matches that summer, and their only loss was to Western Province in the Benson and Hedges Trophy final at Greenpoint stadium in Cape Town in March, 1985.
That Cook should remember Amm’s performance before others only adds to its flintiness considering that, in the same match, Cook himself reached 7000 first-class runs, Henry Fotheringham improved his career-best score to 166 and passed 6000 first-class runs, and EP fast bowler Mike van Vuuren took his 150th first-class wicket.
Amm also had reason to celebrate, having reached 500 runs in the 10th match of a first-class career that would stretch to 108 games.
He played the last three for Border in 1997-98, registering two ducks and a half-century in five innings that amounted to 77 runs.
By then, Amm’s confidence had been all but destroyed by the twin blows of ducking into a bouncer that shattered his helmet and the breakdown of his marriage.
But, for more than 11 hours as the sun set on the summer of 1988-89, life for him was beautiful.