The Changing Face of Derbyshire Cricket: 1982

Tuesday 14th December 2021
& News

As cricket followers across the UK will have noticed, it seems as if the game changes with the wind, although change has been part of the domestic game for decades.

As Derbyshire approach the 2022 season with renewed optimism following the appointment of Mickey Arthur as Head Coach, our Heritage Officer, David Griffin, is going to examine five cricket seasons – 1972, 1982, 1992, 2002 and 2012 – over the course of the close season, looking at how the game was structured, where Derbyshire played, how the team performed, the standout individual achievements, and even how much it cost to be a Derbyshire member.


Part two brings us to 1982, a season which will forever be associated with two cricketers, Peter Kirsten and John Wright, both of whom created batting records which still stand today. It was also the season which followed Derbyshire’s remarkable NatWest Trophy win at Lord’s in 1981 and hopes were therefore high going into 1982.


The County Championship still contained seventeen teams and each county played twenty-two matches, two more than in 1972. As we have seen throughout almost all of the hundred and more years of formalised county cricket, the balance of matches played was never really fair and whilst all games were played over three days – playing every county once – Derbyshire also played Essex, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire twice.

The Sunday League (40 overs) was still sponsored by John Player, and the Benson and Hedges Cup (55 overs) still featured a group format in the early part of the season before the knock-out rounds in June and the final in July. Derbyshire’s group included Leicestershire, Minor Counties, Worcestershire and Yorkshire.

The NatWest Trophy (60 overs) had replaced the Gillette Cup in 1981, but the knock-out format remained with the final at the start of September.

India and Pakistan both toured the UK although only Pakistan played Derbyshire, in a 3-day fixture at Chesterfield.

Hours of play in the Championship had settled down with 11am starts on all three days and since 1977 the competition had a sponsor – Schweppes. Of the 22 Championship matches, thirteen began on a Saturday and eleven of them were followed by a John Player League game on the following day, before the three-day match resumed on the Monday. The other three-day matches began on a Wednesday.

On reflection, one of the more startling statistics from 1982 was the over rate. Counties were expected to bowl 114 overs in six hours play, a rate of nineteen per hour. Twelve counties managed to achieve that rate, and although five failed, even they averaged over eighteen per hour, falling just short of the prescribed number. Lancashire and Leicestershire both averaged over 20 overs per hour throughout the season; Derbyshire’s average was 19.11. The modern requirement is to bowl sixteen overs per hour.


Derby was at the forefront of hosting duties with eight Championship games as well as seven one day matches, while Chesterfield featured four first class matches as well as three one day games, but the other outgrounds were precluded for accommodating Derbyshire for a variety of reasons, although chiefly because of the poor playing surfaces. The addition of the new pavilion at Derby also meant it was considered more desirable for the club to make use of those new facilities.

To the delight of many, cricket was played on the Spring and August Bank Holidays – in both cases against Nottinghamshire, at Chesterfield and Trent Bridge. Today, Chesterfield would rarely be considered as a venue for a match between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, but crowds were always excellent when these two sides met there in any format.

Away trips included the usual headquarters grounds, and Derbyshire also played their one and only match at Coalville, against Leicestershire, and played Essex at Southend and Yorkshire at Scarborough in the Championship.

The John Player League offered delightful visits to Portsmouth (Hampshire), and Milton Keynes (Northamptonshire).

However, the most important news coming out of Derbyshire in early 1982 was that the stone-laying ceremony for the new pavilion at Derby had taken place. Known initially as the Cavendish Pavilion, the Mayor of Derby, Councillor Flo Tunnicliffe was the guest of honour in the absence of the President, the Duke of Devonshire who was ill. Several members attended the ceremony as well as other club officials.

Finally, after so long – the pavilion on the old ground had been demolished in 1955 – Derby had a pavilion with modern changing rooms for players and umpires, plus facilities for functions and other events which offered revenue-raising opportunities for the club.


A Patron Membership (TWO tickets and car parking) afforded guaranteed access to the new pavilion and cost £35, while a Full Member paid £16 plus £7 for a car park pass. OAP membership was priced at £7 and Junior membership was just £6.

This period saw Derbyshire’s membership reach a peak it has subsequently never managed to attain. In the post-war years numbers rose to a high of around 4,500 but dropped significantly in the early 1970s. Eddie Barlow’s resurgent side took membership back up to almost 4,000 and the total hovered in the region of 3,500 for most of the 1980s and into the 1990s.


Barry Wood, having captained Derbyshire to their historic NatWest Trophy win a year earlier was once again the captain, but his side lost Mike Hendrick for whom the NatWest final was his last game for the county. He moved across the border to Nottinghamshire with Peter Hacker, a left-arm pace bowler coming the other way.

David Steele returned to Northamptonshire, and such was the expectation of Geoff Miller leaving, that his ‘Farewell’ was published in the Derbyshire Yearbook! However, Miller remained, and the side was bolstered by the arrival of John Hampshire, a seasoned veteran from Yorkshire who had also played 8 Tests for England. Although a powerful and consistent performer in the middle order throughout his career, he was nonetheless 41 years old just before the season began.

Peter Kirsten and John Wright were the overseas players, Bob Taylor was still an expert in his craft behind the wicket and Alan Hill, Paul Newman and Colin Tunnicliffe were expected to remain as regulars in the first eleven.

Walter Goodyear retired early in the year and was replaced as Head Groundsman by Barry Marsh, and Roger Pearman began the season as the new Chief Executive. The Chairman of Committee was David Robinson and the Honorary Scorer was Frank Rasmussen.

Cricket was well catered for in the Committee Room, with two former players, ex-captain Guy Willatt, and a 1936-champion, Charlie Elliott, while Phil Russell was the coach.

Playing Performances

Eleventh position in the Championship was not a disaster, but 13th in the John Player League for a side that had finished fourth in 1981 was hugely disappointing when set alongside the defeat in the opening game of their defence of the NatWest Trophy title.

In the Benson and Hedges Cup, Derbyshire topped their group with three wins from four matches but were beaten by four wickets in the quarter final by Sussex at Derby.

However, the final outcomes could not detract from the batting performances of Kirsten and Wright which paradoxically sometimes reduced Derbyshire’s chances of winning three-day games. Often asked to bat second, few opposing captains were willing to set Derbyshire any reasonable target on the final day because of the sheer weight of runs scored by this prolific pair. And with the loss of Hendrick to Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire simply lacked the high quality pace attack necessary to bowl sides out twice.

Steve Oldham, the former Yorkshire seamer, did take forty-two wickets in first class matches and an excellent thirty-five in one day cricket, but the support was not up to the quality of the departed Hendrick.

Spin bowling, however, was in safe hands with Dallas Moir, a six feet eight inches tall slow left armer taking seventy-six first class wickets at an average of 27.31, and Miller, admittedly in fewer games due to Test calls, taking thirty-one at 30.25.

Wins were possible – they managed four – and only two counties lost fewer than Derbyshire 3 defeats. On 13th July they were third in the table but too many draws (15) hampered any effort to remain in contention for the title.

The greatest frustration for supporters was watching the season disintegrate after that fine start. Derbyshire won four and drew eight of their first 12 Championship matches, the run culminating in a win at Coalville when Miller took 8-70 and 4-68 to condemn Leicestershire to defeat. What followed, three defeats and seven draws, combined with the poor efforts in the Sunday league and the NatWest Trophy meant that the season fizzled out. After a Sunday League win over Middlesex on 18th July, Derbyshire didn’t win another game in any competition in 1982.

But the spectacular batting by Kirsten and Wright kept everyone talking on the boundary from start to finish of that summer, and beyond. The county record of six first class centuries in a season had been set by Les Townsend in 1933 and equalled by Kirsten in 1980. In 1982, like Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett swapping athletics world records a year earlier, this pair of young cricketers chased each other, reaching and then passing the previous mark before Kirsten ended the summer with eight hundreds and Wright seven.

At one stage of the season, Wright led Kirsten by five hundreds to two before the latter had a run of four consecutive tons to go 6-5 ahead. Wright drew level at six apiece before both scored a seventh and then Kirsten an eighth against Yorkshire in the penultimate match of the summer. In his final innings of the season – and for Derbyshire – Kirsten was stumped for ninety-two against Glamorgan at Derby. He was 27 years old and would never grace a Derbyshire side again.

They were not just prolific, however; three of the four wins in the Championship came from run chases in the fourth innings, including the monumental 350-3 against Northamptonshire at Derby when Wright made a superb 185 not out and Kirsten 68.

John Hampshire also made a thousand first class runs and, in all formats, Kim Barnett scored 1,068 runs offering a foretaste of what was to come. He also scored his first hundred, against Warwickshire at Edgbaston.

As the season drew to a close it was apparent that all was not well off the field. Kirsten – publicly at least – was given permission to look at potential business ventures in South Africa and would therefore not return for 1983, but captain Barry Wood found himself in conflict with players and he was openly critical of the Committee who offered him a playing contract for just one year while retaining him as captain. This was merely a prelude to the upheavals of the early part of 1983 when Wood would resign the captaincy and leave the club before May was out.

However, 1982 will be remembered as the season when two of the finest talents ever to represent Derbyshire came together on the fields of the UK, and batted sublimely, always seemingly at the crease whenever Derbyshire were batting.

Leading Statistics

Wright, a tall and elegant left-hander scored 2,557 runs in all formats while the diminutive right-handed Kirsten, dubbed ‘The Don’ by David Steele (or Bob Taylor, although others also take credit for applying the moniker too!) for obvious reasons, scored 2,751. Kirsten’s tally was a record at the time, with Wright’s aggregate putting him second on the all-time list for Derbyshire. Almost 40 years on, they still sit in third and fifth place, respectively.

As for Kirsten’s eight first class hundreds, that feat remains at the top of the pile, while Wright’s seven tons has only been equalled by the Indian maestro, Mohammad Azharuddin, in 1991.

Oldham was the leading all formats wicket-taker with eighty-three, with Moir in second place on seventy-nine.

Competition Winners

County Champions                                     Middlesex (Derbyshire 11th)

NatWest Trophy Winners                        Surrey (Derbyshire first round)

John Player League Winners                   Sussex (Derbyshire 13th)

Benson and Hedges Cup Winners          Somerset (Derbyshire Quarter Final)


Derbyshire were unable to build on the NatWest Trophy win of 1981. In many ways that side came together at just the right time to win a competition, and then dissolved. Indeed, the eleven players who won the trophy at Lord’s on fifth September 1981 never played together again.

The departures of Hendrick and Steele affected the side despite John Hampshire’s runs, and without a high class quick bowler, as we have seen, the batting, regardless of how magnificent it could be, needed more support from the bowling attack.

This was high on the agenda when Kim Barnett accepted the captaincy the following summer aged just twenty-two. His first signing was Michael Holding and his arrival was seen as a statement of intent by the young captain. The next decade and beyond would see Derbyshire enjoy their finest years since the 1930s, winning two trophies and developing into one of the top handful of sides in the country on the back of an outstanding pace bowling attack and a fearless and attacking batting line-up.

But that was still to come; in 1982, supporters just spent the summer counting the runs, never realising at the time that this was the last they would see of two Derbyshire greats batting together.

Wright scored 27 first class hundreds for Derbyshire although many, including me, rated his 96 against the West Indians at Chesterfield on a brute of a pitch as a better knock that any of those three-figure scores. A braver innings has rarely, if ever, been played by a Derbyshire cricketer.

Kirsten always began his long innings in the same fashion – carefully, with a nudge here, and a nudge there. His wonderful advice to Tony Borrington when the South African arrived in the middle following the fall of a wicket was priceless; “Get one” was all he said, the obvious implication being that he would take things from there. And at his peak, as Gerald Mortimer once wrote “…in full flow, Kirsten often invented the game…”

When we resume this series in 1992, Kirsten will have been gone for a decade and Wright for three years and Derbyshire will have won the RAL Sunday League in 1990 and finished third in the Championship in 1991 and would therefore be confident of mounting a  challenge for trophies on all fronts, including a tilt at the Championship title.

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