the Third Man – an homage

From our overseas correspondent – Christopher Wright-Herbert

On a recent scouting trip to Vienna in search of potential future Tiger cricketing tour locations I happened upon the Third Man museum. Howzat, I thought to myself, I’ve hit the motherload here – a museum dedicated to that humble position out on the boundary with a fine view of the bowlers approach and the wicketkeeper’s arse, a position requiring dedication, concentration and a degree of fitness should the captain decide that one is so adept and well suited that it should be occupied at both ends of the ground. A rarely spoken of position where fielders can muse on life’s vague quirks and quandaries and hours can be whiled away in catatonic abstractions!!!

Only the Austrians I thought, that once powerful nation of baroque, strudel, and incest – oh happy day! I made my preparations, researched the location and opening hours and having pulled on another white jumper, it was -3 out there, I made my way to Kettenbruckengasse and then to PreBgasse 25 to the museums entry. Imagine my shock when upon entering, my cricketing dreams were shattered, the museum was solely dedicated to the Carole Reed film, a worthy enough topic you could argue but somewhat misleading – I made my thoughts known to the bemused volunteer assistants but paid my entry fee and began exploring.

Could there still be a cricketing nugget, a diamond lurking in the sewers of post war Vienna? I began to rummage around. Orson Welles revealed nothing and nor did Bernard Lee, surely Wilfred Hyde-White could deliver the googly I was searching for – another blank. I looked around for inspiration, ah at last a lead, Erich Ponto, born in Lubeck 1884 and died in Stuttgart 1957, the mysterious ‘Dr Winkel’ (VINKEL), was he so named for his uncanny knack of winkelling out the batsmen? Nope! Last chance saloon, I was getting desperate, I hadn’t seen any cricket related material for hours now, I needed a hit, there was only one man left who could deliver – Trevor Wallace Howard-Smith, an acting colossus, a war hero and a drinking legend, born in Kent but brought up in Ceylon, a man who declined honours but who defined honour in his role of Henry of Rawlinson End, his final acting part and Vivian Stanshall’s finest hour – two men strangely and inextricably linked in my mind, epochs apart but beautifully entwined together – further exploration on this point required!

Light was fading, shadows outside were lengthening, the staff were becoming restless and so it was all down to one man – Trevor Howard, could he deliver the winning run? Oh yes – Trevor Howard, it appears, having become one of the most successful actors of his generation, never out of work and never out of favour, decided relatively early in his career that certain priorities had to be enforced. As an MCC member, he was completely obsessed with cricket and to his eternal credit insisted on having a clause inserted in all his contracts allowing him leave from filming so he could attend Test Matches – what a LEGEND!!!!!! I gasped and punched the air – I am only speculating here but the possibility raises its head that he only took on the film in the first place because he thought it was somehow related to cricket – after extensive research I’m afraid that I haven’t found any concrete evidence, or indeed, any evidence at all to support this theory or indeed found this theory postulated anywhere else but I think you will agree – we cannot rule it out!!!!!!!

The end

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2 thoughts on “the Third Man – an homage

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  1. The origin of the position ‘third man’ is believed to date back to the onset of overarm bowling, on or outside the off stump, when the positions of slip and point became insufficient to prevent runs square of or behind the wicket, hence a ‘third man’ being required, though not necessarily on the boundary. Nowadays the position is almost redundant, allowing mediocre batsmen undeserved boundaries after edging through a porous slip cordon.

    1. Thanks for clarification Steve. Carole Reed felt that a 2 hour cinematic interpretation of this fielding position would prove challenging for post-war audiences hungry for escapist drama. That’s why he got Graham Greene in to write some stuff about Orson Wells being dead in Vienna, but not really dead because he was, in fact, the third man. In a similar vein our own third man fielders often give the appearance of being dead when they are, in fact, bored shitless.

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