Together, We Are All Derbyshire: 1981 semi-final vs Essex

Friday 27th March 2020
Photography by: David Griffin

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Gary Millward contacted us about the 1981 NatWest Trophy semi-final between Derbyshire and Essex at Derby.

Gary said; “Everyone remembers the Final with the scores tied but the even tighter semi-final gets overlooked. I was at both the semi-final and final with my friend Rob and for tension and excitement these back to back matches rival any recent game, even the 2019 World Cup!”

Our Heritage Officer, David Griffin, writes;

This game was scheduled to be played at Derby on 19th August.

The two sides had met 15 times in one day cricket up to this point with Derbyshire winning just four games and losing comfortably by 32 runs at Chelmsford in a John Player League match 17 days earlier.

Hendrick and Miller returned to the side having missed the quarter final win over Nottinghamshire, and Newman stayed in the side with Oldham and Borrington omitted.

By this time, Wood had taken over the captaincy from Miller on a permanent basis and after winning the toss was happy to give his bowlers the first use of a green pitch in cool, cloudy conditions.

An even larger crowd than the one for the quarter final was expectant as Hendrick and Tunnicliffe attacked with a plethora of close fielders. They were helped by the regular breaks for rain which allowed Wood to keep his quick bowlers fresh and they rewarded him handsomely; Hendrick 2-21 off 12 overs, Tunnicliffe 2-20 off 12 overs and Newman 3-26 off 12 overs. The captain’s own 12 overs yielded just 24 runs and although Steele was relatively expensive – nine overs for 35 runs, Miller took 2-16 in only 3 overs and the Essex all-out total of 149 was considered well below par.

Norbert Phillip top scored with 42 while Bob Taylor – five catches and one stumping – became the first wicketkeeper to claim six victims in a Gillette/NatWest game.

The light was awful when Derbyshire’s reply began although Wood had appealed to umpires Oslear and Evans to suspend play even as Hill and Wright were making their way out to bat.

Derbyshire’s start was as bad as the light; 13-2 at stumps with Kirsten and Wright – and much hope – already gone. The conditions were scarcely better on the second day and Derbyshire were again in more trouble – 30-4 with Steele and Miller out cheaply.

For the first time, but certainly not the last, Kim Barnett produced a match-winning innings. Batting at six, he scored 59 in over two and a half hours of watchful defence combined with attractive and dynamic stroke play.

Nonetheless, Derbyshire needed 11 to win off the final over, knowing that ten would be enough providing they lost no more than nine wickets.

The final over took forever to bowl with fielding positions being changed constantly, as Essex skipper Keith Fletcher utilised all his experience backed by John Lever, Graham Gooch, Ken McEwan and Derek Pringle.

Norbert Phillip bowled the final over with Newman and Taylor at the crease. Taylor managed three off the first two balls, and then both scored singles. Newman was on strike and struck a powerful boundary to mid-wicket off the 5th ball of the over – one to win.

Newman dabbed at that last ball and set off, as did Taylor. Brian Hardie took up a position at the non-striker’s end, awaiting Phillip’s return after the bowler had set off in short pursuit of the ball.

Had Phillip under armed the ball to Hardie, it’s likely that Essex would have won. Instead, however, the bowler took aim at the stumps, threw, and missed everything and everybody.

The crowd – virtually all of them it seemed – invaded the pitch and the batsmen were carried from the field. This was before the pavilion had been built and the players still changed in the former Jockey’s Quarters. The gathering point was therefore on the grassed area now occupied by the Pavilion with supporters chanting, hugging, shouting, and asking when final tickets would be on sale.

Derbyshire won by virtue of losing fewer wickets with the scores level although, interestingly, had Derbyshire been all out for 149 the countback would have seen Essex go through to Lord’s as they had scored 65 runs off their first 30 overs with Derbyshire scoring just 55.

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