It having been a good week for red ball cricket, to the Oval to see the final afternoon of the London derby. A Middlesex rear guard action and a game heading for a draw after tea, when the players suddenly and unexpectedly left the field. No announcement was forthcoming although after a few moments some sort of security alert seemed very probable.
Time and other things are suspended rather in these situations, two security staff walked round the boundary edge on the Harleyford Road side of the ground, up the steps, passing by this spectator, being good enough to indicate an arrow being carried by one of them, onwards in the direction of the hospitality custom above, where (presumably) they thought they might find a bow. I gather they didn’t.
Meanwhile members in the pavilion looked around at each other awaiting communication as did other spectators; after a period of 10-15 minutes, perhaps more than that, a plainly nervous gentleman on the PA apologised for the delay in making an announcement, but would spectators please take cover now, which being sensible people they did. The BBC commentary team spoke of lockdown although this spectator and others simply headed out of the ground and down the road to Vauxhall Station.
From a distance of about two feet the arrow certainly looked like it would have done a serious damage to someone had it struck them; luckily as well as happily this day it didn’t.
The individual response by the security staff was good; as for their managerial co-ordination there was a rather long delay in telling spectators to take action and before the episode is passed into the filing cabinet, mental and otherwise, what could be done to shorten it on any future such occasion should be somewhere near the top of the list of priorities.
If T20 is the future of cricket what to make of the data analysis that comes with it? Performance stats help decide how to bowl at opposing batsmen, set markers for the number of wickets during a powerplay and so on. Win the toss and bat? Time was when this amounted to something like a conventional wisdom, although the Guardian newspaper this summer reported that 72% of teams in T20 matches in 2016 batted second and that 55% of teams chasing won; a conventional wisdom overturned maybe.
Underpinning much of this is the belief that T20 cricket produces a limited number of variations and, given many games, what statisticians measure will be stable for long enough to introduce an element of predictability. While games may mimic some of the features of an experiment, it would be fair to add that data analysts have not solved what the 18th century philosopher David Hume called the problem of induction. So, if scientific methods in T20 cricket might be useful up to a point, the question is which point or points?
The new wisdom of win the toss and bowl seems to have permeated well in the T20 Blast; the bat: field first ratios being approximately 30:70 both last year and this. Prior to Finals Day, the number of games won batting first:second in 2016 was 52:63, something very similar to the (presumably more general) numbers given in the Guardian.
As to why there might be an advantage batting second, uncertainty about how the pitch will play and what constitutes a par score may be part of it. Limited overs games may be ‘moving on’ all the time, the effects of changing bat sizes, boundary ropes and mind sets that play the game. The average score of those batting first in games this year was 172, seven more than in 2016; given this background, playing wait and see after winning the toss is an understandable decision.
This seems believable enough for some games, although the numbers in 2017 after the quarter finals for those winning batting first:second were 58:53; which raises the question of whether the new wisdom has moved on to the point where it tilts the odds in favour of the opposition. Perhaps winning streaks in high profile matches have a disproportionate influence on thinking: in the 2016 T20 World Cup the West Indians won the toss, fielded first and won all six matches. Less commented on, maybe, was the experience of the 2016 T20 Blast winners, Northamptonshire, who won the competition on a losing streak of eight coin tosses.
It is, of course, possible that a more sophisticated look statistically, controlling for (measurable) other influences on winning might retrieve support for the current fashion for fielding first. It might do the opposite. It might also just be that statisticians have been making available the benefits of a sugar pill, or a data placebo, for those minded to swallow one.
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.
While the main interest for Hampshire and their supporters in 1978 was the Sunday League, three Dean Park regulars in a Hillman Imp also went to Clarence Park for the second day of the Championship fixture during the Weston-super-Mare cricket week that year. A delayed start, time enough to visit a hostelry, arriving to see David Turner and Trevor Jesty resume the visitors’ innings on 111-2.
Wickets soon fell on a difficult surface, which brought together the Taylor twins: Mike (MNS, the batsman) and Derek (DJS, the wicketkeeper). There have not been that many twins who have played first class cricket, those playing against one another fewer still, although the Taylor brothers did so on several occasions during the 1970s; including a fixture in 1974 when Mike was caught by his brother and Derek was caught off the bowling of Mike. They played a part in dismissing each other on several other occasions as well, although as it happened not in this match as Mike was caught by Vic Marks off the bowling of Colin Dredge.
Clarence Park is a municipal ground and the wicket could, in the language used then, be spiteful. Four years later a Somerset innings was to last for 85 balls against Middlesex, one of the shortest in the history of the game in England. The Hampshire Handbook for the 1978 season pointedly commented that it was necessary for Richard Gilliat to take a precautionary visit to hospital after being hit in the face, and the Somerset innings also produced some moments of concern for Peter Roebuck, although he was able to resume.
The highlight of the afternoon for most spectators was, of course, to see Viv Richards bat. The following year he was to captain the West Indies in their successful defence of the World Cup at Lord’s, this particular afternoon he helped solidify the position of the home side by making 49, before being stumped at the wicket by Bob Stephenson. Somerset finished the day on 86-3. Home time, and, as was the way of things then a chance to listen to the reading of the cricket scoreboard on Radio 2 at 7.30.
The Lord’s museum in 2017 has been holding an exhibition on West Indian cricket, of some interest here is the contract letter between Somerset and Viv Richards for the 1981 season in England. The accepted offer was more, but not much more, than a recent graduate might have been paid at that time.
The letter also incidentally shows just how careful Somerset, not the most prosperous county then, were with the husbandry of their office stationary. As elsewhere the county has ended the festival weeks at outgrounds, Weston (1996), and Bath (2006), developing the county ground to the point where Taunton in 2017 is quite unrecognisable from the way it was when Hampshire visited at the time of the match remembered here.
Of Somerset it seems fair to comment that they have not had the problems of underfunded rebuilding projects, and declining interest in areas where outgrounds were once in use; in respect of T20 Blast attendances in 2017, quite the opposite. As seen on TV of the three grounds used for the T20 matches between England and South Africa this summer, Taunton, both on the ground and from the air, was showing well.
Whither the cricket scoreboard? Time was when spectators would look at the scoreboard a lot: a single taken, a glance, end of the over reached, another glance, many glances over the course of a game. When the Beeb covered test cricket at the end of an over a shot of the scoreboard would often appear. Then came the 21st century, Sky and, at least at some grounds, free Wi-Fi; electronic boards replaced mechanically operated ones to some advantage, which is not to say that they are always easier to see from a distance.
The photo to the right was taken this summer at the Oval during a county game. The blogger’s take is that the information from the scorers has been well-filtered, for those taking a glance what else might they reasonably expect to see during the first innings of a Championship match? For other details the BBC website, cricket archives and Wikipedia; a good job done, as usual, at the Oval.
As for T20 cricket, the scoreboard at Old Deer Park, Richmond on the left, also this summer, doing scoreboard essentials in a manner of speaking; gleaning from somewhere the batsmens’ squad numbers would be useful for spectators, but for a board at a club ground doubling as an outground nothing more expected.
T20 cricket at the Home of Cricket, a large crowd come to see and make the game’s future. The scoreboard for action replays, umpiring decisions and the faces in the crowd whose Thursday night just got better giving thanks for being in receipt of a (sponsor’s name) hamper. As for spectators keeping an eye on the score as well, the scoreboard(s) were doing something suspiciously like information overload; a distant second in terms of clarity to what Sky show during their coverage of matches and not obviously helping newcomers take more interest in the game. If the board just showed the score, batsmen runs (balls), the bowler bowling overs/runs and the target to win/off, it could be made a whole lot more visible to those who come without a camera with zoom.
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.
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.
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.
The first match Cricketarchive records as being played at ODP was a fixture in 1867 between Richmond and a United South of England Eleven, a team of travelling cricketers taking the game around the country. It was the second USEE match of that season, having lost a few days earlier in Southampton with the Hampshire county team finishing 95-13. They won at ODP by an innings, and their itinerary that summer was to take them round southern England including Harrow, Islington and Southgate in Middlesex and Ashford and Maidstone in Kent, the games being played with 11 against between 15 and up to 22 on occasion.
150 years later, Middlesex were taking games to outgrounds and the Kent team that took to the field was made up of players born in Ashford, Maidstone and elsewhere. There were globe travelling cricketers available to showcase their talents on both sides; Brendon McCullum, one of the game’s major figures, and Dawid Malan, from Roehampton to Richmond via Paarl in a manner of speaking, opened for Middlesex and gave them a good blast with a partnership that made 92 for the first wicket; ‘ain’t no stopping us now’ accompanied Dawid Malan back to the pavilion. Brendon McCullum went onto make 88, 72 of which came in boundaries, and together with a rapid 28 from Eoin Morgan, over 200 was possible for a time, but the innings was checked by a hat-trick by Matt Coles in the final over.
Kent went in search of 180, but were soon two wickets down, the second over being a wicket maiden bowled by Steven Finn and Middlesex fielded with three slips at one point; but Kent rallied with a fourth wicket partnership between Sam Northeast and Jimmy Neesham, the New Zealander, hired by the visitors for the tournament; Alex Blake kept the visitors hopes real until a boundary catch at the end of the 18th over. They finished 16 short.
The Pagoda in Kew Gardens was under wraps this year, and the vantage point of the London Welsh rugby stand was also closed, but ODP, home to a cricket club that was established in the middle of the 19th century and with the oldest rugby club around the corner does sporting history; a place in which the T20 Blast felt like a descendant of the 40 over Sunday League, cricket a bit more like cricket and comparisons with baseball more distant.
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.