Clarence Park, Weston-super-Mare

Somerset versus Hampshire,  August 9-11th 1978

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.

 

 

The Scoreboard

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Lord’s

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Old Deer Park, Richmond

Middlesex versus Kent, T20 Blast, 20th July 2017

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.

Kent take to the field.
Brendon McCullum, 9 4’s and 6 6’s
Tim Southee, bowled around his legs for Matt  Coles’ hat-trick ball.

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.

Jimmy Neesham giving Kent a chance.

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.

 

The Oval

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.

Gordon Greenidge and Barry Richards batting for Hampshire for a final time in  a Sunday League match. Intikab fielding.
Andy Roberts and Richard Gilliat.

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.

John Edrich the non-striker, umpire Tom Spencer. Benches for spectators.

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.

The Bedser Stand to the right of the pavilion, a redevelopment is planned after the 2019 World Cup.

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.

George Bailey and Jimmy Adams making runs in the sunshine.
Dominic Sibley lbw Kyle Abbott, Hants confer.
Some lively spells from Fidel Edwards.
Hampshire’s future promise, Mason Crane and Lewis McManus.

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.

The Royal London One Day Cup 2017

Nottinghamshire both popular and worthy winners this year, having played the extra game and scored 1100 runs in total in their defeats of Somerset (429-9), the record-breaking run chase in the semi-final at Chelmsford (373-5) on the way  to the final itself (298-6). The chief contributors with the bat,  Brendan Taylor, Steven Mullaney,  Samit Patel and Alex Hale, were different players in different matches.

Surrey perhaps did not get enough runs in the final: the average score in the tournament as a whole for teams batting first was just under 300 and the ‘good score’ has probably advanced to around 350 for many games;  certainly the epic run chase at Chelmsford was arguably the most entertaining 50 over cricket during the Champions Trophy, helped in its own way by some excited and nervous commentators on Sky.

The final had 18 out of 22 England qualified players take to the field, two of whom dominated the game and the winning captain, Chris Read, a Devonian, was a popular figure. In this respect the final was a fair reflection of the backgrounds of the players throughout the competition, over three quarters of whom were England qualified.

David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd commentating on Luke Fletcher’s bowling was the essence of county cricket on a Lords finals day. As to the less good, the ground was less than full and the Pavilion was not well populated at all.  While the blocking of competitions in the calendar and the late notice that it gives supporters is likely to be a part of the explanation,  it was also noticeable that in a week when TV and reach were the ECB headline, there was a near general silence  among  twitterati on the availability of tickets. In the ‘final’ played between Middlesex and Yorkshire in the Championship at the end of 2016, the crowd grew by some thousands in the afternoon and it is difficult to see why tickets are not sold for after the innings break when it is not a sell-out.

The media orchestrated celebrations which take place at one end of the ground, while the winning team’s supporters are at the other end empties out what should be a moment of triumph. The trophy presentation could surely be done in the middle, if not in front of the winning supporters, without risking the image of the media personalities in charge.

 

Summer’s Crown by Stephen Chalke

A beautifully illustrated book, written with great clarity by a hugely well-informed author; part social history, although as much as anything the strength of the book is the character portrayals of the players who played the game in different eras, individuals as different as Brian Close and Shane Warne for example. The format of the book, picking out particular performances and matches, teams in particular seasons works well; it is just a pity that many of the grounds that appear in the book are no longer in use by county teams.

It is the story of a competition which in the parlance of modern analysts is not particularly well-balanced; Surrey, Middlesex and Yorkshire have been champions in roughly half the years it has been played, three counties have still to win it and a fourth, Derbyshire, won  it once, before WWII. To some extent this seems to have been rectified in the modern era with the arrival of one-day competitions in the 1960s, and the history of the competition has surely been more interesting, happier, as the number of winners has increased over the years.

Quite how much the Championship and one-day competitions have fed off each other and in quite what ways is an interesting question, and is touched on in the book: a ‘grounded’ club like Essex, for example, first champions in 1979, six time winners now and have now won sixteen trophies in all. The likelihood of three counties still to win the Championship actually doing so at some point in the future, has also probably been generally helped by them winning their share of  limited-overs competitions; although not always, Gloucestershire in 1977 denied by Hampshire who they had earlier in the season narrowly defeated in a one-day semi-final en route to winning that trophy.

Deck chairs, trees at the county ground, Hove.

It is striking that the photographs in the counties section has just one, Trent Bridge, which is a test match venue and one that is a current county ground, Worcester. The view that county cricket is often at its best for spectators when sitting in deck chairs at tree-lined out grounds is well-represented in this book: Colwyn Bay or Cardiff, Aigburth or Old Trafford; Scarborough or Headingly? Hopefully at some point more matches will be played away from the centres.

The book comes with  handy stats for reference, some extras on the scorers and umpires.  There is also a contender for a gremlin on page 274, but nothing that  detracts from the pleasure of reading this book.

 

 

Champions Trophy 2017

As England neared their victory over Bangladesh in the opening game Michael Atherton commented that he expected more runs to be scored than was the case four years ago, observing that the game has ‘moved on’; the influence of heavier bats,  changing boundary ropes and mindsets at work amongst all other things. If he is right, and it is harder to know what ‘a good score’ is, then winning the  toss and fielding first seems likely to be an advantage.

As to the actual scores four years ago; overall almost 6000 runs  in the 15 matches played, an average rate of  5.3 runs per over, although these total figures are distorted rather by the four games affected by rain in 2013. Of the 11 games that weren’t, the average first innings total was around 230 and a score of 300 plus registered just once. Scores of under 200 were made four times. If the weather holds fair this month the question seems to be by how much will the numbers rise, although quite how exciting and/or interesting the cricket will be another matter again.

Forty-two years ago in the summer of 1975 England also hosted the first Prudential World Cup, sixty overs a side in a fifteen game tournament, with the West Indies the winners in a memorable final. Memorable because of the fluctuating fortunes of bat and ball , the early West Indian wickets, the brilliance of Clive Lloyd’s innings and late in the day the efforts of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson to retrieve a seemingly lost cause, in an innings that was to end with five run outs. 565 runs in all, at less than five an over; if it had been 50 over cricket perhaps the target would have been around 230 rather than the actual total of 291, but as to whether it was both exciting and interesting? Certainly was.

Postscript 19th June A win by the underdogs, Pakistan, who having lost to India by 150+ runs in a group match got to the final and reversed the outcome. An epic performance by them even if there weren’t any particularly epic matches taking the tournament as a whole.

A 1000 more runs were scored than in 2013, approaching half of all runs scored came in boundaries; the average  score of those batting first  up from around 230ish to 270ish. As to the entertainment it produced, pictures for the TV with the ball heading into the crowd, although the pressures when a team batting are not  making the runs they were expecting to seems to have help  produce some very one-sided matches as well.

A blog about English cricket