Burnaby Road, Portsmouth 1978

Hampshire versus Yorkshire, 6th August 1978

The blogger’s first visit to the ground was in 1973, watching from the small stand below the Officers’ Club in the corner. Burnaby Road at the time had a certain robustness to it that came  with the usage of the ground by the military and which, in a way, was symbolised by the ground’s heavy roller; but with it also came the character that made it  different to the other county grounds in Hampshire and many elsewhere.

What it did have in common  of course was a watching experience which for most was at, or close to, ground level.  While a general advantage of ground rebuilds since has been more  elevated seating and the better perspective it gives, there was, and still is, a charm from old style watching at outgrounds, close to the action and easy to perambulate, centrally located and a part of the life of the communities that developed them.

As mentioned in the then and now  post on the Oval, Hampshire were a team in transition in the summer of 1978. When Yorkshire arrived in the first week of August that year Barry Richards and Andy Roberts had departed, having played their last games for the county at a rather wet Leicester, where a Gillette cup (60 over) match ran into a second day, as they sometimes did in those days. Two of the major stars in the history of the game gone, and their captain, Richard Gilliat, was also to retire from the game at the end of season as well. They were however still challenging for the Sunday League, a trophy they had won three years previously in  Derbyshire.

Yorkshire won the toss that Sunday and elected to field in front of a good crowd. Richard Gilliat moved up the order to open with Gordon Greenidge and together they put on 133 for the first wicket, the first in a succession of important opening stands for  Hampshire’s challenge in  the absence of Barry Richards.  Gordon Greenidge went on to make a 116; the Hampshire Handbook for the year recording ten 4’s, and five 6’s in a different era for what are now called maximums. Trevor Jesty towards the end of the innings helped lift the total to 216-4 in a match that the weather restricted to 34 overs; in truth a  pretty formidable score given the way the game was played then.

The late 1970s was a time of West Indian dominance in cricket and this match at Portsmouth bears at least some comparison to the England-West Indies World Cup Final the following year. Viv Richards made a century that day, and together with the help of Collis King, the West Indies totalled 286-9 in their as it was then 60 overs;  in reply Geoff Boycott and Mike Brearley gave England a platform with a century opening partnership, but much pressure was then on the later order batsmen; the England innings finishing on 194 despite the  efforts of Graham Gooch.

At Portsmouth Yorkshire’s reply started well enough, with a second wicket partnership between Geoff Boycott and Bill Athey taking the score to 70, although when it was broken good bowling by Mike Taylor (4-36) and John Rice (3-25) was to restrict the visitors score to 130 as the pressure told on the later order batsmen that day as well. For Hampshire a win to keep their Sunday League trophy ambitions  on track after the defeat at the Oval the previous month.

As to 2017, alas unlike the Oval no fixture to attend at Burnaby Road this year, although perhaps things may change in 2020 or sometime afterwards. In 1978 eight of the sixteen Sunday fixtures Hampshire had were at outgrounds and, broadly speaking, the centralizing tendencies in cricket can be traced back to not all that long after the time of the match remembered here. A change of direction would not be before time.