I’ve spent a lovely day today with my wife Elaine and my parents Anna and David, taking Dad back to his home town, Darlington. One port of call was Feethams, home of Darlington Cricket Club, where he had played in the 1950s before progressing into the Durham minor counties side, earning a Cambridge University “Blue”, and finally becoming Leicestershire County Cricket Club captain in 1962.
It was Dad’s first visit to Feethams in well over half a century, and although there have been plenty of changes, you could sense the memories were starting to flood back as he stepped onto the outfield.
Later in the day, we were chatting about cricketing times gone by; in particular a game played between Cambridge University and Leicestershire in July 1961.
Although Dad had already represented Leicestershire, he was skippering the University in this fixture, which was played at Loughborough.
The county won the toss, batted first and made 283, with opening batsman (and captain) Maurice Hallam top-scoring with 115. Dad came on first change (as you could when you were skipper...) and took 5-76, his career-best figures and only first-class five-wicket haul.
As you will soon see, however, the bowling honours were destined to belong to one of his team mates....
The University replied with 337-5 declared. Eddie Craig made 101 and Tony Goodfellow 81, the openers sharing a stand of 185.
It was uncommon for a first-class county to lose to university opposition, but at 154-9 in their second innings, the Foxes were in very real trouble. Their last man was Brian Boshier, whose reputation with the bat was such that the Grace Road groundsman would regularly start up his tractor as the tall medium-pacer strode out to the wicket.
What made the situation even more noteworthy was that the Cambridge opening bowler, Tony Pearson, had taken all nine wickets and the right-arm quickie was just one victim away from a rare and remarkable feat. Leicestershire obviously didn’t want to lose, but Dad knew only too well that they would want to avoid being on the wrong end of a “ten-for” at all costs.
He therefore brought himself onto bowl...
The first five deliveries were aimed well outside the off and leg stumps; wide enough to be essentially unplayable, but not wide enough to interest the umpire. However Boshier connected with the last ball of the over, and sent it sailing high towards mid-off....
The fielders all had clear instructions... catch nothing; but as the ball slipped through mid-off’s fingers, it started rolling towards the stumps. Boshier had perhaps unwisely started to run a single, but was hardly sprinting to make his ground as the ball continued rolling....
Eventually, the ball trickled past the stumps... Pearson handed the umpire his jumper (metaphorically, I have no idea what the weather was like)... and Boshier (career batting average 4.32) was on strike. Just three balls later, Leicestershire were all out (for 160), as Michael Willard claimed the catch to give Pearson figures of 10-78 from 30.3 overs.
At the time it was the joint 48th best analysis in the history of the game; fifty-four years later it is still ranked joint 60th. Unsurprisingly it was, and would remain, Pearson’s best-ever bowling figures, but it is interesting that he had never taken five wickets in a first-class innings before that extraordinary day.
Cambridge University, whose line-up included two future England captains in Tony Lewis and Mike Brearley, comfortably reached their victory target for the loss of four wickets, with Eddie Craig smashing an unbeaten 80 out of a final total of 109-4....
Time moves on I suppose, but it’s great that the memories remain... today has been a very good day!
As a postscript, here is Dad leading out the Cambridge side to face the Australian tourists at Fenners in 1961. He is flanked by Tony Lewis (left) and the tall figure of Richard Jefferson to the right. Jefferson (whose son Will also became a first-class cricketer) was a quick bowler capable of using his height to extract bounce from even the most placid of pitches. On one occasion, whilst bowling at Lord's, Jefferson produced a delivery that hit the famous ridge and flew at the batsman, hitting him in the face and dislodging a couple of teeth.
The batsman? In my Dad's eyes the best cricketer ever to have played the game... Sir Garry Sobers.