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Picnic Time

By Michael Sexton

Just before lunch on the second day of the Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania in March 1987, Andrew Hilditch was out for 88. As he returned to the changerooms, he tossed his bat down and declared: “I have missed the bloody picnic here.”

He was right. The next batsman to the crease was Wayne Phillips, who joined his captain David Hookes. Over the next three sessions they broke every single Australian partnership record with an unbeaten stand of 462. “It was like a history lesson,” said opposition captain David Boon as he endured the Adelaide Oval announcer regularly updating the crowd as each record was overtaken.

Boon had won the toss and batted on a good pitch but his side only posted 240 thanks to Tim May’s 5/60 off 20 overs. Hookes came in on the second day at 2/78 and set about attacking the under-strength Tasmanian attack. When Hilditch was dismissed the total was 3/181.

After lunch Hookes and Phillips helped themselves to the picnic. The two left-handers played beautifully, especially square of the wicket and driving off the back foot. In the final session they added 181 off 32 overs with Hookes especially belligerent. He passed his double-century mark while Phillips brought up his ton. At stumps the score was 3/462 and their partnership was 281.

Hookes was a great student of cricket history and that evening as the team relaxed in the rooms, he started going through the record books and posing possibilities to his batting partner. They liked the idea of passing Barry Richards and Ian Chappell for the highest partnership in Shield cricket (308 at Perth in 1970) but they loved the tantalising prospect of bettering Don Bradman and Ron Hamence’s 356 which was the highest South Australian partnership in first-class cricket (against Tasmania in 1936).

Then on the far horizon was Bill Ponsford and Edgar Mayne who put on 456 for Victoria against Queensland in 1923. The third day belonged more to Phillips as he took the lead role and soon brought up his double-hundred. As the pair met mid-wicket Phillips said with a grin: “I am only 34 short of the Don.” Hookes was bewildered as his mind started adding up scores. Bradman had made 369 against Tasmania. It didn’t make sense, so he asked for clarification. “Only 34 double-hundreds short of Bradman. I have got three and he has 37.” As the pair laughed a Tasmanian fielder urged his side on by saying a wicket wasn’t far away. “That is what you said yesterday,” snarled Boon.

When the picnic ended Hookes was 306 (330 balls, 41 fours and two sixes) and Phillips 213 (253 balls, 30 fours and one six) and SA 3/643. The demoralised and exhausted Tasmanians were dismissed for 257 early on the fourth day giving the home side victory by an innings and 146 runs.The extraordinary partnership was the highest in more than a century but remarkably only stood for three seasons. In 1990 Steve and Mark Waugh put on 464 against Western Australia in Perth.