All out at Lord’s: streaker Michael Angelow paints memorable Ashes scene
‘We’ve got a freaker!’
It was around 3.15pm on Monday 4 August 1975, 41 years ago this Thursday, and England and Australia were meandering their way towards a draw on the fourth day of the second Ashes Test at Lord’s. The home side were steadily building a declaration total, a heatwave had thermometers hovering around 33C and, sat in front of the Tavern, Michael Angelow was pondering his immediate future.
The immediate past had featured several pints of ale and some good-natured back-and-forth with a group of Australia fans who has also been enjoying the sun and the refreshments. The question of livening up the soporific proceedings had been raised. A member of the antipodean party came up with an idea and offered £20 to the man bold enough to carry it out. Angelow, 24, and a cook in the merchant navy, stepped up to the challenge. “I didn’t have any plan, just to keep running.”
Those around the country tuned into Test Match Special were , made all the more memorable by his failure to remember the word “streaker”: “We’ve got a freaker! We’ve got a freaker down the wicket now. Not very shapely and it’s masculine. And I would think it’s seen the last of its cricket for the day. The police are mustered, so are the cameramen, and Greg Chappell. And now he’s being embraced by a blond policeman. And this may be his last public appearance but what a splendid one.
“He’s now being marched down in the final exhibition past at least 8,000 people in the Mound Stand, some of whom perhaps have never seen anything quite like this before. And he’s getting a very good reception.”
(That may be one of the most famous pieces of cricket commentary in existence but years later Arlott felt he had missed an opportunity. “No, I blew it,” he told David Rayvern Allen. “What I should have said was that perhaps his greatest disappointment was not being deprived of further cricket for the day, but that he actually managed to straddle the stumps without even dislodging a bail.”)
Angelow had shed his clothing and, wearing nothing but a pair of black socks and his white Adidas trainers, leaped over both sets of stumps, in doing so creating one of the great cricket photographs. There he is, buttocks shining proudly in the sunshine, a hand (rather than a more personal appendage) poking out jauntily between his legs, fingers spread as if to say: “Ta da!” Such is the picture’s pop-culture cache that of the Duckworth Lewis Method’s , Sticky Wickets.
The police, taking a fairly laissez-faire approach to the spectacle (it’s fair to say any Edgbaston interlopers this week will not experience quite the same relaxed attitude – an Australia fan was ), eventually caught up with Angelow after he had wandered over to the Mound Stand and escorted him from the ground. Perhaps their hesitation was borne out of inexperience. Angelow’s amble across the Lord’s pitch had created a little bit of history: he was the first streaker at a Test match in England (the equally-coveted First Streaker at a Major Sporting Event title having gone to Michael O’Brien at Twickenham in 1974).
“No one at Lord’s had seen a streaker before, but I’d seen quite a few back in Australia prior to that,” noted the Australia batsman Doug Walters, who had been on the field at the time. “They were really quite commonplace back home, but you certainly didn’t expect that kind of behaviour in England, certainly not in those days, and at Lord’s of all places. It’s probably fair to say that cricket in England was a bit formal. Times have changed since then, whether for the good or the worse I don’t know.
“The players managed to forget about the interruption pretty quickly. I think it was handled pretty well at the time – there was quite a laugh from everyone on the field, but then it was back to business.”
Such was the attitude at the time that Angelow returned to Lord’s the following day to watch the conclusion of the match (Australia comfortably batting out for a draw to maintain their 1-0 lead in the series). Angelow, though, did not get to hold on to his winnings. “I remember the magistrate asking me how much the bet had been for and I said £20,” he told the Independent. “He said: ‘Right, we’ll have that then’ and that was it.”
He was offered cash to repeat his streak at the Grand National and at Wimbledon but turned all offers down, returning to the comparatively quiet life in ships’ kitchens. “It wasn’t something I was going to make a career out of. Streaker isn’t something you put on your CV.”
Which is very true, although as a antisocial ways of relieving the boredom during a Test-match lull go, give me a streak over .