Cheltenham

Gloucestershire versus Hampshire 13th August 1978

One week after Portsmouth the 1978 Sunday League fixture list took Hampshire on to Cheltenham, home to the oldest county cricket festival, in their quest for the Sunday title that year. Gloucestershire-Hampshire matches at that time had edge: the previous season Mike Proctor had taken four wickets in five balls in an epic limited overs semi-final at Southampton, which Gloucestershire  won by the margin of seven runs before going on to defeat Kent in the final. A match that in recent interviews Mike Proctor remembers as the high point in his time with his county.

The last day of that season also saw Gloucestershire in a position to win the  Championship at Bristol for the  first time, with Hampshire the visitors. A trio of Dean Park regulars, the blogger included, took advantage of BR’s ‘premier’ slam door service to attend and watch from the top of the Bristol pavilion, which  provided  a fine view from behind the bowler’s arm when pavilion views among several counties did not. Hampshire were set 271 to win, and although Stephen Chalke’s account of the day in his book  Summer’s Crown recalls two drops in the field, the scoreboard  didn’t really show in favour of the home side at any time, and from mid-innings on, it was pretty apparent that Hampshire were heading for a relatively comfortable win. Cricket history would have been different, kinder perhaps, if the two counties had exchanged home wins that year.

 As to the Sunday League fixture in the 1978 Cheltenham Festival, there had been much rain over the  days leading up to it, and the Hampshire Handbook of that year credits the ground staff  that a game was played at all. Certainly more  sawdust than sun in evidence in the snaps taken as Hampshire’s opening partnership of Richard Gilliat and Gordon Greenidge again gave them a good start, seeing off the challenge of the opening spell from Mike Proctor who,  bowling off a restricted run, still finished with the impressive  figures of 2-9 off 7.4 overs.  Trevor Jesty helped give the innings some impetus, but Hampshire declined from a score of 153-3 at one point to be bowled out for a relatively modest looking 169, bearing in mind that the home team’s top order included  Sadiq Mohammad and Zaheer Abbas, as well as Mike Proctor.

 The home team’s response however never really got going that afternoon, Sadiq, Zaheer and Andy Stovold gone by the time the score reached 22; two wickets for the then newcomer, Tim Tremlett, who also finished the match with figures of 2-9, from 5 overs in his case. Mike Proctor and Andrew Hignall joint top scored with 29 as Hampshire ran out comfortable winners in a low scoring match by a margin of 47 runs. An important win for Hampshire in the context of that season, it also remains their only limited overs  victory on the ground.

In recent years the Cheltenham Festival has attracted some 20,000 spectators and in 2017 it was expanded to include two Championship fixtures and three T20 matches. In a decade when books are written about lost cricket grounds and lost cricket festivals, a case of well played.