The defining moment of Sydney Copley’s otherwise unremarkable career in cricket came on Tuesday 17 June 1930 when he was called on as a replacement fielder as England faced Australia at Trent Bridge. Harold Larwood was taken ill in the Australian second innings. McCabe and Bradman were batting in irresistible form and looked certain to save the game for the visitors. McCabe drove a ball from Tate in the direction of mid-on and Copley dived forward to pick up a brilliant catch.
"On my arrival that morning the tannoy system was calling my name to report to the secretary's office," he recalled years later.
"I met the captain, Percy Chapman, and Jack Hobbs. I was asked how I would like to substitute for England. I was thrilled to do so, of course. I had done a lot of 12th-man duty for the Nottinghamshire XI so I was not too nervous, just a little. Hobbs soon put me at ease with a few kind words."
Although Australia soon lost Bill Ponsford and Alan Kippax, their most dangerous batsmen, Don Bradman and Stan McCabe, began to build a frustrating stand. Walter Robins eventually dismissed Bradman for 131, but McCabe was still there and beginning to cut loose when Copley's moment came.
"Right from the first ball I fielded things went well for me," he explained. "Maurice Tate had said to me how Stan was very strong on the on side and to watch out if he pitched short, as Stan would be on to it like a flash.
"I was at mid-on when it happened, being on the move already as I was always on the lookout for this shot against the short ball. Stan played it hard and low not more than six inches off the ground. I made many yards to reach it and with a terrific effort I seized the ball and turned a somersault, still clinging to the ball, to break up a dangerous partnership. I was picked off the ground by a very jubilant captain. It certainly turned out a great day for me!"
Copley had played club cricket for Gedling and Carlton and spent eight years on the playing staff at Trent Bridge but played just a single first class match against Oxford University in June 1930. A useful footballer, he appeared for Grantham Town, Rotherham United and Nottingham Forest reserves.
GOES ALL IN