A trio of Queen's Park memories

Tuesday 16th June 2020
Photography by: David Griffin

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Nick Parkes emailed the club about several memorable moments at Chesterfield.

Nick wrote; “I always used to love the week at Chesterfield. Certain games really stick in my mind. Peter Bowler’s 200, Reg Sharma’s 100 and Ole’s top score and then Andy Brown’s first century against Northants, mostly against Curtley Ambrose with Nick Cook piling on the pressure as he neared the hundred and giving him a big slap on the back as he ran passed him having nudged the all-important run. Somehow Chesterfield always produced a memorable game.”

Our Heritage Officer, David Griffin, writes;

Nick has selected some interesting memories which, although it seems as though they happened yesterday, take us back 30 years, and beyond.

Reg Sharma and Ole Mortensen

Taking these recollections chronologically, it’s back to August 1987 and a County Championship game against Yorkshire.

Phil Carrick won the toss and inexplicably decided to bat first, a decision he was surely regretting at 38-4, Michael Holding having claimed three of the four wickets, bowling from the Pavilion End, and generating genuine pace and lift.

Phil Robinson and Neil Hartley saw Yorkshire through until lunch and extended their partnership to 138 before the fifth wicket fell. Wickets then fell regularly before Yorkshire closed on 248 all out.

Derbyshire lost Bernie Maher for nought and Barnett for 22, but Bruce Roberts stood firm as Derbyshire ended the day on 121-3.

Day two belonged to Rajesh ‘Reg’ Sharma and Ole ‘Stan’ Mortensen.

Sharma had passed 50 on five occasions and was batting in his 41st first-class innings; Mortensen, who began his Derbyshire career with 21 consecutive first class single figure scores and had only reached double figures 8 times was batting in his 79th first-class innings.

Sharma was a stylish batsman who also bowled off spin, but his opportunities were restricted by the quality of the batting line-up – there was no place for him in the top six, but his bowling was not of the class of his immediate predecessors, Geoff Miller and Dallas Moir. Nonetheless he still played 70 first-class games for the county as well as 56 in one-day cricket.

Mortensen was a high-class fast-medium bowler. His record in first-class cricket for Derbyshire – 434 wickets at an average of 23.88 – was outstanding, and his 219 wickets in one-day cricket are the fourth most for Derbyshire.

He scored 207 not out for the Danish Youth XI against Skanderborg, although he never really looked as though he enjoyed batting.

Sharma batted at number seven and was partnered briefly by Roger Finney and Holding but when Mortensen joined him with the score on 222-8, most Derbyshire supporters were hoping for nothing more than a modest lead.

However, as the day progressed, Sharma, calm and collected, and Mortensen, less calm, less collected, but accumulating runs, blunted the Yorkshire attack, seemingly equally happy against pace  and spin, until when play ended for the day Derbyshire were 351-8 with both players poised tantalisingly on the brink of historic landmarks – Sharma 99 not out, Mortensen 49 not out.

I grabbed a shot of the pair as they left the field and there’s more than a look of bemusement on the faces of the Yorkshire fielders.

We may never know how well – or badly – Derbyshire’s batting pair slept that night, but Sharma made it to three figures for the first time in his career before he fell to Arnie Sidebottom having made 111, contributing to a partnership of 151 runs for the ninth wicket in the process.

It remains the only century partnership for the ninth wicket by Derbyshire batsmen ever scored at Chesterfield and is the third-highest in the club’s history.

Mortensen enjoyed his final few minutes at the crease, swinging at everything while his partner at the other end, Devon Malcolm, did exactly the same.

When Malcolm was out, the innings closed on 399 with Mortensen 74 not out.

The game ended in a draw, largely due to the loss of time owing to bad weather, but Yorkshire were only 17 runs in front with seven wickets down when play ended and the loss of 26 overs probably cost Derbyshire victory.

Nonetheless, for those present, and especially for Sharma and Mortensen, the match has remained long in the memory.

Peter Bowler

The summer of 1990 saw Derbyshire finally deliver on the promise of the preceding couple of years as they saw off all-comers to win the RAL Sunday League, winning 12 of their 16 games, with three defeats and one no result.

They were a formidable one-day side and at the heart of the batting between 1988 and 1993 were three outstanding English-born batsmen, Kim Barnett, Peter Bowler and John Morris. In 1990, all three scored more than 2,000 runs across both formats of the game, and in that hot summer, the trio played many entertaining and important innings. They remain the only three English-born batsman to average more than 40 across their career in first-class cricket for Derbyshire. To see them in full flow, batting in the same side was a genuine pleasure, enhanced even more once Chris Adams came of age and joined them.

On reflection, one could convincingly argue that there has never been a better quartet of English batsmen playing for Derbyshire at the same time.

Of the four, Bowler was considered the more obdurate, or the less flamboyant. However, he once said to me that he could; “…play the shots when I need to, it’s just that the other guys do that, so I play the anchor role…”

When Kent arrived at Chesterfield in early August 1990, Derbyshire were only three weeks away from securing the RAL Sunday League title, and two key bowlers, Mortensen and Warner were omitted. This hardly disadvantaged Derbyshire; coach Phil Russell and Kim Barnett had long operated a rotation system for their fast bowlers and so were able to field Ian Bishop, Devon Malcolm, Simon Base and Martin Jean-Jacques.

Kent won the toss and batted first, and another captain was left to rue the decision as they subsided to 40-4 having been 3-2.

Barnett must have relished the chance of revving up Bishop and Malcolm – arguably as quick an opening pair as any in world cricket at that time – on a pitch renowned for being pacy and bouncy.

Sure enough, Bishop dismissed Kent’s openers Simon Hinks and Mark Benson both for 0 and Malcolm removed Graham Cowdrey.

Trevor Ward then played one of those innings for which Chesterfield was well-known – an attacking batsman prepared to take on fast bowlers generally produced entertaining cricket, and very quick runs. Everything went for 1, 4 or 6 as the bowlers bowled faster and the ball flew off the bat that little bit faster, too. With contributions down the order from Richard Ellison, Steve Marsh and Richard Davis, Kent reached 303, with Ward making a superb 124.

Bishop ended with 6-71, just reward for 22 overs of high pace and hostility and when Derbyshire’s first innings began there were 22 overs remaining in the day.

Cue Barnett and Bowler to cut lose. Fanie de Villiers and Alan Igglesden were simply not anywhere near as quick as Bishop and Malcolm, and both opening batsmen tore into the pair from the off.

When the close came, Derbyshire were already on 110-0 with Barnett 49 not out and Bowler unbeaten on 57.

Day two belonged to Peter Bowler. He would arguably make an even better double-hundred in the win over Hampshire at Portsmouth in 1992, but his 210 on a delightful day at Queen’s Park, was a pleasure to watch.

He continued in attacking vein, losing Barnett with the score on 138, timing his off drives exquisitely and pulling powerfully though the leg side whenever the Kent bowlers dropped short. Igglesden was expensive – 25 overs for 113 runs, as was spinner Davis who conceded 152 runs in 39 overs.

Adams (52) played a cameo, as he and Bowler added 113 for the fourth wicket and then Bruce Roberts joined in, scoring an even 100 not out, adding 145 with Bowler for the fifth wicket.

Bowler had taken part in three century partnerships during the innings before he was the fifth man out with the score on 449.

The crowd rose to Bowler as he left the field, all present recognising an innings of high quality against an attack containing four Test match bowlers.

The declaration came overnight with Kent requiring 212 runs to make Derbyshire bat again.

This time it was Jean-Jacques who grabbed the headlines, taking 6-60 with only Richard Ellison (62) offering any resistance, leaving Derbyshire requiring just 22 to win and Barnett and Bowler duly knocked the runs off inside seven overs.

Andy Brown

Andrew Brown played 22 first class games for Derbyshire between 1985 and 1992. He was a prolific run-scorer in the Second XI and league cricket, making more than 4,000 second team runs.

His good form in the Second XI, however, was not matched by good fortune, in that his way to a first team place during his period with Derbyshire was blocked by some of the finest batting talent ever to play for the county. Between 1985 and 1992, Barnett, Bowler, Morris, Adams, O’Gorman, Azharuddin, Kuiper, Goldsmith and Roberts all occupied the batting positions from 1-6, meaning that opportunities were limited.

He made his first-class debut in 1985, playing two games towards the end of the season. Two more games followed in 1986 and another two in 1989 after a period in between away from the county staff.

When Derbyshire played Northamptonshire at Chesterfield in August 1990, it was Brown’s eight first-class match of the summer and there was a feeling that he was on the verge of securing a regular place in the side. Morris had been selected for England and there was a logical belief that if he were successful at Test level, Derbyshire would require a replacement more often than not.

While not setting the world on fire, Brown had made scores of 34 not out, 54, 44 and 42 during the lead-in to this game and when Northamptonshire won the toss, he found himself sitting on the pavilion balcony, pads on, watching intently as openers Barnett and Bowler negotiated the early overs from the great West Indian fast bowler, Curtley Ambrose.

At 45-1 Brown walked to the middle and he didn’t return until the team score was 320-7 and he had made 139 not out.

It was a grafting innings, as it had to be. Ambrose was one of the finest fast bowlers in the world and Mark Robinson was no slouch. Richard Williams was very experienced while Nick Cook was one of the best spinners in the country and an England Test cricketer.

Brown, though, played with exceptional determination and despite a slightly perilous spell in the nineties he finally reached three figures to the delight of the crowd, pleased to see a local cricketer – he was born in Heanor – doing well.

Sadly, his season ended when a delivery from Ambrose hit him on the hand and he was forced to retire hurt. He played one further first-class game for Derbyshire in 1991 and seven in 1992 but was then released.

The game itself ended in a draw, despite the efforts of both captains to force a result. Derbyshire set their visitors 269 to win, and they ended the match on 250-8 off just 50.5 overs with honours just about even.

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