Derbyshire v Hampshire 7th September 1975
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.