The United Services Ground in the 1970s had a certain robustness to it, the feel to spectating given partly by the sounds emanating from the Officers’ Club in one corner and the famed heavy roller, weighing over 5 tonnes, stationed more or less directly opposite. Behind the rugby stand opposite in the photo, the railway line, and, on one side of the ground the festival tents with deck chairs for spectators, adjacent to the entrance and the impressive King James’s Gate.
Modernity then was in the form of the rugby clubhouse cum pavilion next to the pavilion used by the players; offering home-made teas on Sunday afternoons and social history in the form of the photographs of the rugby teams over the decades, and the distinctive looking figures that played for them. Burnaby Road also did something of a split scoreboard, with the main board to the left of the older pavilion and tin plates doing bowlers’ overs bowled on the other side.
Cricket Archive records first-class cricket starting with a match between a Cambridge University team and the visiting Australians in 1882, a week or so before the ashes of English cricket were urned at the Oval. County Championship matches were first played in 1895, and wars and two seasons apart, continued until 2000. An historic ground; as to the cricket played on Sunday 6th August 1978, the match rather foreshadowed what was to happen in the World Cup Final a year later. In an era of outstanding West Indians, Gordon Greenidge batted brilliantly, scoring at a rate close to current norms in List A cricket; the visitors after a solid start, struggled rather (Hampshire 216-4 in 34 overs, G. Greenidge 116, Yorkshire 130ao, 28 overs).
Ambient pleasure in watching at Pompey came from its history and distinctive character, a good ground to perambulate and cricket by the sea as well; with the prospect of the Rose Bowl being otherwise used for several weeks in the summer of 2020, perhaps a Hampshire team will return to Portsmouth, or, if not, then to May’s Bounty in Basingstoke.
Good Old Sussex by the Sea was the reward for a journey involving three slam door trains, in time to see Gordon Greenidge and Trevor Jesty coming out to bat on a brilliant midsummer morning; two members of a particularly strong Hants team in the 1970s, albeit by the time this photo was taken one that was coming towards the end of its lifespan. The relatively small numbers of mature spectators, in the pavilion, in the deckchairs not unusual for a weekday in June; numbers tended to rise, to some extent, with those of school-age, their teachers and holiday-makers later in the summer. As for commercialisation in cricket 1978 style, the (slightly bedraggled) sign for Qantas is not all that surprising, even if Barmy Army travels were not to start for more than a decade; more of a surprise, maybe, is the sign for the Burnley Building Society to its right, advertising to cricket-goers in Hove.
In the summer of 1978 both counties had a schedule of 72 days of First-Class cricket of which this match was the fourth of six (3-day) fixtures in June, with, for the visitors, seven to follow in July; 16 days more than in the 2018 Championship, in a season 25 days longer now. It was also a time when the cricket season had a rhythm to it which is simply absent in 2018, the then 17 counties played most of their limited-overs fixtures on Sunday afternoons, when a new audience, younger members included, were most likely to be able to (and did) attend.
Happily Hove has retained the character of a cricket ground over the decades since: more comfortable seating for watchers in 2018, a better view looking up from the public stand built adjacent to the pavilion, an accommodation made with hospitality boxes and deckchairs there remain at the Cromwell Road end. A ground enhanced by its development, although anyone who can see something of the essence of English cricket in the photos here, or the way the ground is now, would surely see more of it with more balanced fixture scheduling.
In their book ‘Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket’, Stephen Fay and David Kynaston argue that the changes in the game in the 1960s and 1970s were more fundamental and far-reaching than any for a century, and that ‘it was essentially money that drove change’; changing its nature, as distinct from the variety of formats. In other words cricket started to become less like a game.
This seems like a reasonable comment on the way of things then. On his retirement at the end of the 1980 season John Arlott wrote of his ‘abiding nostalgia’ for the county cricket circuit and the considerable charm the way of life gave its participants, at a time when the jobs available to many outside the game had little or no charm, or much in the way of holidays to recommend them. It could however also be said that more money comes with its advantages, which at the time included helping to attract many of the world’s finest cricketers to come and play in England.
The Hants team that played in this match had three ICC Hall of Fame cricketers, were led from the field at the end of it by Keith Stevenson, an ‘honest county pro’; appropriate to a reflection on the Arlott era. As for the financial rewards for playing then, the Hampshire players’ salaries in 1973, the year of their last Championship, amounted to somewhere around £450K in all (£2018); county cricketers have plainly been beneficiaries from the greater sums of money coming into the game since, although it could be fairly added, not the principal ones.
Sundays in the 1970s were quiet days, pre the relaxation of the trading laws and with restrictive licensing that meant that pubs were open for two hours at lunchtime, before closing until the evening. Televised sport in the winter meant Ski Sunday, with its iconic signature tune, and, in the summer months, the Sunday League; a game a week broadcast on the Beeb, commentary by John Arlott and Jim Laker and bat and ball games on the outfield during the tea interval helping to breathe new life into the game.
The then 17 counties played each other once with the matches in 1975 being played at over 50 venues: county grounds, outgrounds and outer outgrounds which that year included the Somerset team of Viv Richards and Ian Botham playing in Torquay, and Colin Cowdrey and Derek Underwood playing for Kent in Long Eaton. When Hampshire defeated Leicestershire at Bournemouth in the penultimate round of fixtures they were a win away from claiming the title that year. Interest was sufficiently high among supporters that a coach undertook what was, on the road network of the time, the long haul from Swanage to Darley Dale, ably organised by Joe Goodwin. Joe went on to become the chair of CAMRA, the body championing consumer choice in beer matters, at the time choice for many was often bitter or mild and the ‘big six’ as they were known were standardising production. CAMRA today still give an award to local pubs in Joe’s name.
Darley Dale Cricket Club played host to an estimated crowd of 6,000 (more than the population of Darley itself), and the scorecard for the day shows an era when county sides included Test cricketers, supported by decent county pros. Hampshire made 222-8 and won by 70 runs, in large part due to the dominance of their opening pair who put on 90, backed-up by John Rice who took 4-14 in his allotted overs.
In 2018 the T20 Blast is scheduled to be played at 23 venues and with the new city-based competition from 2020 on the horizon (“the future”) the number of venues it uses may well be down to just 8. The game of cricket, it could be fairly said, has contracted in some important respects since the 1970s, while happily the nation’s choice of beers has widened considerably, and in many cases, gone local. There are voices in the game suggesting that only the new standardised manufacture should be played in the height of summer in two years time; a message in a bottle, maybe, for cricket goers about the need to exercise their voice.
Many thanks to Gary Sanford, who watched much Hampshire cricket at Dean Park for the photographs of the ground that prompted this post. Mark Nicholas in his book A Beautiful Game gives a very readable account of his time playing for the county at the time, as to the spectators who took pleasure watching, they had the good fortune to see high level cricket played on the county’s outgrounds of which Dean Park was the most picturesque.
Those by the sightscreen at the end of the ground from which the photograph here was taken were collectively known as the ‘Winton End committee’; individuals that came from well beyond the county’s borders each year for the Bournemouth week as well as those who lived locally; an annual pilgrimage of sorts for some, the member for Woking declaring ‘this committee meeting open’ each year.
On a wall of the pavilion there was a photograph of WG Grace at the turn of the 20th century when on the ground, and two distinctive bearded members of the aforementioned committee certainly did their bit for English heritage over the years; one who became the chair of the Campaign for Real Ale in its formative years, Dean Park a convivial place to organise and also a place of informed opinion on ales. By the time the photograph above was taken a decade or so later, ‘Tony’ remained a prominent figure, often immersed in the cricket seen through his binoculars, to the side or at times just in front of the sightscreen, a prime spot from which to watch the game. He was also a natural with a cricket bat.
Despite the very English idyll suggested here, the 1980s were in some respects also very different; a decade in which, for example, Viv Anderson and John Barnes were at different times booed by sections of the crowd when they played at Wembley. Sunday League fixtures at Dean Park had spectator numbers increased by ‘football supporters’ and when Gordon Greenidge’s wife approached a group of about 20 or so sitting by the sightscreen collecting for her husband’s benefit, her face betrayed genuine uncertainty as to the nature of the response she was about to receive. Courtesies followed and £1 for the raffle tickets was collected about 20 times over.
As for the ‘actual committee’ Gary’s photos show the mayor’s tent and other hospitality tents, the forerunner of today’s corporate boxes; seemingly natural homes for some of its members. Socially very different, the two worlds did intersect on occasion, the expeditions to distant outgrounds organized at the Winton End being instances of such, most memorably perhaps the trip to Darley Dale in 1975; those who went returned a full 24 hours later after traveling on a very different road network.
About the time these photographs were taken those who held offices on the main Hampshire committee first mooted the prospect of a new ground with the aim of hosting Test Match cricket, and also alleviating the parking problems at the Northlands Road ground in Southampton. While it would be fair to say that the county game as a whole has become more centralised over the years, Stephen Chalke’s book, Summer’s Crown, also makes it clear that Hampshire have been the only county that has relocated away from a town or city centre. The wisdom of this decision in relation both to the county’s heritage, and its future, escaped the blogger at the time, the photos here are a reminder that it still does.
Middlesex versus Hampshire, 12-15th September 2017
To every Hove its Arundel, although to Uxbridge in September when it would have been better were it Lord’s was a test of patience. After a blank first day, a start was made on the second morning, although when some rain came the players did not delay in leaving the field, a reminder of times of old, before the arrival of T20 cricket and the changed attitudes that have come with it. To be fair, given the problems with the covers it was probably of some help to the ground staff as well.
In a nice touch after lunch the PA informed that Felix Organ from the Hampshire academy, who had travelled to the ground after James Vince withdrew in the morning, was present in person making his debut for the county; alas a quick deluge followed after a few minutes and whereas at a major ground coverage, drainage and a resumption in an hour or so would have probably followed, that was it for the day. Middlesex 76-3.
The blogger renewed his enthusiasm for spectating on the third day by listening to the BBC commentary, a job well done by them as it usually is. Play resumed on time on the Friday morning, some warm sunshine, free admission and a sprinkling of spectators to witness proceedings. The Middlesex innings closed on 204 and in reply Hampshire made 146, no-one really batted with any sense of permanence at the crease on either side, although Joe Weatherley, Felix Organ and Ian Holland played attractively for the visitors. A pleasant few hours to watch and a reminder of the charm of watching at outgrounds.
Middlesex play much of the time at Lord’s, ground preparations by the MCC, their outgrounds, prepared in high summer by club/school; it came to light that they do not have their own ground staff and it seems that more time was lost in this match than might have been as a result. The 2016 winners of the Championship go into the final two rounds of matches with Yorkshire and Somerset their chief rivals to avoid the drop, the tables turned on a year ago and some added spice to the end of season given the way the title was won last year.
Elsewhere, Essex became Champions for 2017, a title won at Edgbaston with a team that had seven players born in what might be termed the historic cricketing county. It was the seventh time in all and their first win since 1992. To use Stephen Chalke’s phrase they are a grounded club; other counties have mortgaged their futures, gone prospecting for prestige since then, while Essex, it could be said, have played the game.
Hampshire won both their county Championships at Dean Park and in 1978 they went on to add the second of their three Sunday League trophy wins there as well. In the weeks since the match at Cheltenham, covered in another post, they had defeated Kent at Southampton, but lost at Northampton, so when Gordon Greenidge and Richard Gilliat walked out to bat in front of a large and optimistic crowd, a win and a Somerset loss was needed.
Their opponents that day were a Middlesex team who were (joint) Champions the year before and who boasted an array of Test players in their ranks. The Hampshire opening pair again got off to a fine start, sharing a stand of a 100 against a bowling attack that included Wayne Daniel and Mike Selvey, Phil Edmonds and John Embury, before two wickets fell quickly. Trevor Jesty, who also had a fine match, then made 47 in another century partnership with Gordon Greenidge as the innings finished on 221-4, a good score, if not more than a good score, at that time. For the Middlesex spin twins it was not the easiest of afternoons, although the scorecard did record three catches by Phil Edmonds.
Three years before on the same ground Barry Richards played an outstanding innings in the penultimate game of Hampshire’s successful Sunday campaign that year; of which it could be said that it anticipated rather the way the game would be played in the T20 era. Gordon Greenidge made 122 in this match, and played the sort of innings, 5 sixes…. those that were one bounce into the hedge and those that went straight over it….that was to become more common decades later in a game played with a different attitude, and with different sized bats; markers of two great players.
The Middlesex reply started well with Clive Radley and Norman Featherstone putting on 76, then with Graham Barlow at the crease the second wicket pair reduced the required runs to under 100 in the evening sunshine. The balance of the game swung again as Trevor Jesty, well backed up in the field and helped by a brilliant catch by David Rock, removed the visitors’ middle order, and, with the game slipping from them, three run outs followed. The Middlesex innings eventually subsided to 195 all out.
As was the norm for such occasions then a pitch invasion followed, as did quite a wait for the result at Taunton. In 1978 Somerset were on the threshold of their ‘glory years’, the era of Ian Botham, Joel Garner and Viv Richards, but happily for Hants that day this was to start in 1979, as Somerset fell two runs short.
Richard Gilliat, Hampshire’s Oxford educated captain, was to play in one more Championship fixture after this game. In an interesting interview he gave to Peter Walker on the BBC that season, he spoke of the sense of pursuing a career in sport, or music, taking a risk in life at least for a time, rather than taking the ‘safe option’ of going to work in a bank or similar; still an admirable sentiment in 2017 in an otherwise much changed world.
As for Dean Park, Hampshire played their last home game there 25 years ago, after a decade in which the county began to rather lose its way off the field. As seen now the available comforts and catering for members, the parking spaces are, of course, of their time. The (partly modernized) ground has since been used by Dorset and is now owned by a private school. As one of the county game’s past outgrounds it is still a place of happy memories for those who were there when Hampshire were.
The Lord’s Tour April 2017, Middlesex versus Hampshire T20 Blast, 3rd August 2017
April and the Lord’s Tour to help welcome in the new season. The star exhibit in the museum for England supporters got its due attention, but absent the activity of a match and as seen within the social etiquette of a tour, the pavilion is not overly large inside nor perhaps all that imposing. There are some fine landscapes of the game’s history in the Long Room and portraits of the game’s greats on the steps to the players’ changing rooms, although the rooms themselves were surprisingly basic: no captain’s place, showers separated by a ‘public’ corridor, the balconies in front bijou plus spaces. The staff in the museum and the pavilion, it would be fair to say, were a model of courtesy and perhaps Victorian interiors will be become more fashionable again at some point.
The Media Centre being closed the tour finished on the upper level of the Mound Stand and looking across to the Nursery End views were invited on the aesthetics of the Centre. What was once thought of as marmite seemed to be taken in somewhere near neutral by those going round. As for those going round: from the subcontinent, a majority, whose numbers included the most enthusiastic and the importance they placed on the game evident; from Holland, in their own way the most respectful; Australia, the most informal, thought the Twickenham tour had more to offer and commented on how much more affordable test cricket was back home. There were two from England, the guide included, who after a little prompting found a moment to mention Old Father Time.
The T20 fixture between Middlesex and Hampshire drew a crowd of over 22,000, Lord’s under lights a stage for a good show. The first half of the home team’s innings started fairly well, after a modest power play Mason Crane’s first over was expensive and they looked on course for a competitive total at the half way point. However the leg-spinner was to get his man, bowling Stephen Eskinazi for 43, and his remaining three overs were tight ones. The second half of the innings subsided badly and the final total of 136 was probably something like 25 under par.
A routine win for the visitors followed after a good start by James Vince and Rilee Rossouw, the South African who was hit on the helmut early in his innings, went on to make 60 before being caught on the long-leg boundary. By the time Lewis McManus and Sean Ervine knocked off the winning runs the result had been settled, barring the very unexpected, for some time.
As for the occasion, an introduction to the game was provided on the scoreboards for those who need to know that it is eleven a side and the other basics. Sweet Caroline and Hi Ho Silver Lining exercised the crowd’s vocal chords, the ScatterBlast scattered t-shirts into the Grandstand and hampers were distributed amongst those who waved at the camera. The Lord’s fox put in an appearance and found that, despite the advert, cricket does have boundaries. In the years of the Sunday League dull fixtures were without much to lighten proceedings, T20 matches come with some cheer on the surface. The evening was also helped by having the Lord’s Pavilion in view, whatever might be made of its interior, it is a beautiful building from the outside, both during the day and at night.
Surrey versus Hampshire July 16 1978, July 3-6, 2017
To the Oval, about to celebrate staging its 100th test but also a place where the question posed by CLR James in Beyond a Boundary…what do they know of cricket who only cricket know?…still resonates. The book, published in 1963, came after the appointment of Frank Worrell as West Indian captain and the decades that followed were to become a time of Caribbean dominance in cricket; the Oval, particularly in the 1970s, a place where the West Indian team and their supporters made a statement against a background of prejudice and lives being difficult.
West Indian cricketers were also prominent in the domestic English game, Hampshire very much included, although by comparison with the tests, county matches were relatively calm occasions; four days for county cricket then meant a Championship game played on a Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, together with a 40-over Sunday League match. When Hampshire went to the Oval in July 1978 the Sunday saw Gordon Greenidge and Barry Richards open a Hampshire innings for the final time in a Sunday League match, putting on 97; with the help of some late hitting by Andy Roberts the innings totalled 238-7 at a time when 240 was a ‘good score’ in 60 over cricket and heading over the horizon in the 40 over format.
Surrey however, with a team that had John Edrich, Younis and Intikab chased down the runs with a ball to spare, despite economical overs of medium pace bowling by John Rice and Tim Tremlett. A defeat for Hampshire to get over and also the last weekend in which Andy Roberts played for the county; although in a message about winning competitions they went on to lift the Sunday League trophy that September, winning four of their five remaining games played, in large part thanks to Gordon Greenidge who made two centuries, and also perhaps to a changed dressing room.
In the years since the Oval has been largely rebuilt, albeit that it retains much the same ambience for watching the game. Gas holder number 1 is now seen as iconic and has been granted grade II listed building status.
Cricket, of course, no longer holds the place in West Indian culture that once it did; the Oval in 2017, home to Surrey cricket and to much corporate hospitality and event management, a reflection of the prosperity of London in an era in which, broadly, those born in the decades after WWII, those at the top, have done particularly well. The capacity of the ground is planned to rise to 40,000 in time for the 2023 Ashes test; an expression of confidence in the future, although if the current era beyond the boundary is now drawing to a close, the effect on English cricket, the Oval, is really anyone’s guess.
In the 2017 fixture it was Surrey, with their home in the global city, that took to the field with ten England qualified players and Hampshire who were the team of internationalists: four England qualified players, three South Africans, two Australians, one Zimbabwean and one West Indian. The first two days were dominated by Hampshire who posted their 5th highest ever score, 648-7, with centuries from Jimmy Adams, James Vince and George Bailey; but they were also then left with the difficult task of bowling out an opponent twice on the same pitch. Rory Burns led Surrey’s response from the front, but Hampshire stuck at it with Fidel Edwards, now just one of four West Indians on the county circuit, bowling quickly on the third evening and handy support given by Ian Holland who took five wickets on the final day; although, in truth, the Oval was rather becalmed on the fourth afternoon. A draw on a draw wicket.
From the Oval, the pleasures of a county match in an empty cathedral; in a nice touch on the first day there was a presentation made to Surrey members who had passed their personal half-centuries of membership; if other counties don’t do something similar in a better world they would. Hampshire stronger than they were a year ago and they should be playing Division 1 again next year; if they were to win four of their remaining five matches this year they could still be on to something.