Friday, March 21, 2014

Remembering one of the glory days from the 1970s, and this was one Kent didn't win !

They were the Glory days of course - the 1970s. Has a team so dominated a decade in any sport as that great Kent team? There was the memorable County Championship win in 1970 - to be followed by two more in 1977 and 1978. There were Gillette or B&H wins in Lord's Finals in 1973, 1974, 1976 and 1978. And Sunday League wins in 1972, 1973 and 1976. That's ten trophies in nine years! But my memory is of a glorious failure not of one of these successes. In 1971 Kent reached their second Gillette Cup Final ( they had won the competition in 1967 - the first bit of silverware for 54 years!). Kent had beaten Northants (Cowdrey 98), Yorkshire (Shepherd 4-26), Leicester (Denness 85, Woolmer 4-37) and Warwickshire (Luckhurst 84) on the way to the final where they were to face Lancashire.

I was born in Orpington in West Kent in Cowdreyland. Colin went to the same church from his home in Bickley. I was never going to support any other County than Kent. But my Dad was a Lancastrian who as a schoolboy and young man had been a regular at Old Trafford in the inter-war years. Lancashire were the holders of the Gillette Cup and had a formidable side in what was still the early days of limited overs cricket. Almost every player in that Lancs side was a star. "Bumble" Lloyd and his maestro namesake Clive. Harry Pilling, knee-high to a grasshopper but gritty and determined. Farouk Engineer - wicketkeeper and explosive batsman. "Jolly Jack"Simmons who bowled flat and miserly and a top class pace attack in Lever and Shuttleworth. They were led by the shrewd Jackie Bond - worth a place in the side for his captaincy alone.

My Dad hadn't seen much of his beloved Lancashire for years so a Lord's final would be special. My membership of Kent allowed me to get tickets - hard to come by in those days of packed houses for every match, especially a Final. We sat together in the top of the Warner Stand, me discreetly wearing my Kent colours and Dad sporting a Red Rose. 

Lancs won the toss and batted. There was an early wicket when John Dye bowled Wood for a duck. Though Pilling hit out a bit Bumble was slow and Asif Iqbal controlled, as of course was Deadly Derek Underwood. Between them Deadly and Asif bowled 24 overs for only 62 runs. Shep (1-38) was economical as well. Clive Lloyd hit 66 but it was only really a late assault from Jolly Jack and his spin partner David Hughes that gave Lancashire a respectable total of 224. My Dad looked gloomy. The Kent batting line up was strong even though Cowdrey was missing from it. Luckhurst, Denness (the new captain), Asif, Knott, Shepherd, Woolmer, Julien...Formidable.

So Kent needed 225 at 3.75 an over. It didn't look too difficult a task. But early wickets fell and when Kent were 68-4 it looked a tough ask. Asif and Knott restored things but a crazy run out saw the back of Knotty 105-5. At which point Asif upped a gear and played with the freedom that on his day made him one of the best in the world. When he was 89* it looked that he would carry Kent home but then Bond took one of the catches of all time. Simmons bowled a bit wide. Asif's eyes lit up and he played an expansive lofted cover drive. Bond leapt in the air and took it one-handed to his right. My Dad, quite a taciturn man usually, leapt to his feet "I think we'll win now". He was right. Kent folded in fourteen balls and Lancs won by 24 runs.

The sun shone throughout that glorious day. The cricket was at times sublime. The tension was palpable. The crowd was engaged - and my Dad had a story to tell, and didn't he love telling it! Kent were to have many an equally happy day over the rest of the1970s so I can't complain. Anyway "I was there" - and as the years pass that memory will never fade.

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