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The Changing Face of Derbyshire Cricket: 1992

Thursday 13th January 2022
& 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.

1992

Part three sees us arrive in 1992, a season which began with significant expectation in all competitions after Derbyshire’s strongest all-round side for some time had been assembled. As we shall see, as the season progressed the county’s best hopes of success lay in the County Championship, but the lack of a top-class spin bowler didn’t help their cause.

Formats

With the addition of Durham as a first class county, 1992 – finally – offered a completely balanced format of every county playing each other once over four days in the Championship. The lottery of playing everyone once and others twice had been dispensed with and a much truer reflection of each county’s strengths could be identified with this format.

The Benson and Hedges Cup was still a 55-over competition played in a qualifying group format ahead of the quarter finals and Derbyshire’s opponents included Combined Universities, Durham, Glamorgan and Worcestershire.

In an early sign that the boom years of domestic sponsorship were possibly drawing to a close, the TCCB (Test and County Cricket Board) could not attract a sponsor to the Sunday League which retained the 40-over format, while NatWest were still the backers of the principal knock-out tournament played over 60 overs per side.

Pakistan toured the UK and participated in a five-match Test series preceded by two ODIs with a further three ODIs after the Tests. Derbyshire faced them in a drawn three-day match at Derby in July.

Although the one day league matches still took place on Sundays, the start days for first class matches were all over the place. After more than a century of matches beginning on Saturday or Wednesday, 1992 saw Derbyshire’s first class matches starting on Monday (two), Tuesday (six), Wednesday (two), Thursday (two), Friday (seven) and Saturday (three). Small wonder that many county cricket followers found it more difficult to attend matches, especially those with full time jobs.

A minimum of 110 overs were to be bowled on each day of Championship cricket, a stark contrast to the 96 required to be bowled today.

Grounds

Derby hosted the lion’s share of home matches with eight first class games and nine one day fixtures, and Chesterfield staged three first-class and three one-day games. Ilkeston returned to the fold, hosting a first-class match – against Leicestershire  – for the first time since 1980, and Leek attracted a splendid crowd for a Sunday League game against Warwickshire.

Away from home, there were some wonderful opportunities for supporters to visit lesser-used grounds with Blackpool, Fenner’s, Harrogate and Portsmouth on the first class roster, plus one day matches at Eastbourne, Jesmond and Pontypridd.

The County Ground had undergone some additional building work since 1982 with a Tea Bar and two concrete stands erected on the southern and western sides of the ground, and also a new scoreboard situated further around the western side towards the racecourse end. The pavilion provided a steady stream of income from a wide range of activities having been extended within a year of it opening in 1982.

One recurring issue over the last 50 years of Derbyshire cricket has been that of public toilets and it’s revealing to note that the Derbyshire Year Book editor, Honorary Scorer Stan Tacey remarked in his editorial of 1992 that; “…hopefully new toilets will be constructed…”

Membership

Membership numbers were still around the 3,000-mark, but were beginning to decline, anecdotally because of the changes to the scheduling of first class cricket, although the cost – £75 for a full membership – still wasn’t prohhibitive. After a generation of cricket-watching which had included a Championship game beginning on a Saturday with a 40-over Sunday League game taking place the  next day before the first class game resumed, things were changing rapidly, and confusingly.

For example, Derbyshire played a four-day game against Worcestershire at Derby in May, pausing after three days to play the Sunday League match; two games later they met Northamptonshire in a four-day game, but played the Sunday League match after the opening two days.

What had been given with one hand – the sensible four-day structure of everyone playing everyone once in the Championship – was taken away with the other as spectators, and probably players, were often unsure of what format of the game would be on offer when they arrived at the ground.

Personalities

Kim Barnett, in his benefit year, was still captain, having been appointed in early 1983, but since 1982 a number of senior players had retired or left, including Tony Borrington, Colin Tunnicliffe, Peter Kirsten, Bob Taylor, John Hampshire, Alan Hill, Geoff Miller, Iain Anderson, Roger Finney, John Wright, Michael Holding, Paul Newman, and Bruce Roberts.

In their stead, John Morris, Ole Mortensen, Devon Malcolm, Allan Warner, Karl Krikken, Peter Bowler, Chris Adams, Adrian Kuiper, Dominic Cork, Mohammad Azharuddin and Ian Bishop had all come into the side, confirming the view, that other than the 1936 Championship-winning side which contained seven England Test cricketers, this early 1990s version was probably as good as any in the county’s history. Of course, the 1950s and 1960s saw Derbyshire field strong sides, but the batting in that era was never as prolific as the line-up assembled in the early ‘90s.

The Chief Executive was Bob Lark and Chris Middleton was Chairman of Committee while Steve Birks was Head Groundsman. In the Committee Room, former players Charlie Elliott, Eric Marsh and Guy Willatt were offering superlative cricketing advice to their Coach Phil Russell and skipper Barnett.

The Honorary Scorer was Stan Tacey and a change in the rules allowed Rear Admiral Sir David Haslam to be elected President. Prior to 1991 there had been no time limit on the position – the 11th Duke of Devonshire was President between 1951 and 1990 – but it was felt by the committee of the day that a short, one or two year, tenure, would allow for a larger number of worthy individuals to be elected to this prestigious position. As a result, there have now been 18 Presidents since that rule change, amongst them 11 former players.

Playing Performances

Fifth in the County Championship was a creditable effort, but after finishing third in 1991, hopes were high of a tilt at the longer-form title. Mohammad Azharuddin’s seven centuries in 1991 had helped Derbyshire to their highest finish since 1954, but fast bowler Ian Bishop had always been expected to return in 1992 and so he took his place in a strong Derbyshire squad which featured high quality in all departments, bar one.

Barnett, Peter Bowler, John Morris and Chris Adams formed a powerful, dynamic and fast-scoring top four, and Bishop, Devon Malcolm, Dominic Cork, Ole Mortensen, Simon Base and Allan Warner made up a high class and pacy bowling attack, which alongside Karl Krikken behind the wicket, plus Tim O’Gorman and Steve Goldsmith ensured that all bases were covered with the exception of high quality spin bowling.

Ever since Geoff Miller’s departure Derbyshire struggled to find a bowler to replace him, despite trying many different options. Richard Sladdin, a slow-left armer took 32 wickets in 1992 but relatively expensively at 37.25. Moreover, he bowled just three balls short of 500 overs in taking those 32 wickets.

In 2020, Barnett commented on the subject in an interview for the Derbyshire website; “We were searching for a slow bowler, but nobody wanted to bowl spin on our green pitches at home, so recruitment of a spinner was difficult. We played on some deserts away from home, but we could never get a quality spinner to come and bowl on our green pitches. At times, Miller actually bowled really well on green decks at Derby. But we never managed to get that spinner to replace him.”

Nonetheless, third in 1991 had been achieved without a major spin bowler and so expectations were high in the four-day game. Poor weather in the opening weeks of the season didn’t help Derbyshire and neither did a nine-wicket defeat at the hands of Warwickshire in the opening match of the campaign.

But when the weather did improve, Derbyshire’s policy of creating a sizeable pace attack within the squad, allowing for player rotation, meant that the bowlers remained fit for the majority of the summer and were able to produce high quality performances on a regular basis.

Two players, Peter Bowler and Ian Bishop, were the stand-out cricketers, with the former producing a record which stands to this day. Only Donald Carr (2,165) in 1959 and Azharuddin (2,016) in 1991 had ever scored 2,000 runs in a first-class season for Derbyshire but Bowler joined their ranks with 2,044 in 1992. These three remain the only players to score 2,000 first class runs in a single season for the county. However, even more remarkable was Bowler’s overall all formats totals; in adding 837 runs in List A cricket to his formidable first class tally, he ended the summer with 2,881 runs, a number never bettered in the club’s history.

A measure of his achievement can be seen in the calibre of the names who sit behind him in the top ten of seasonal run-scorers – Barnett (three times), Kirsten (twice), Dean Jones, John Wright, Azharuddin and Michael Di Venuto.

From his debut season at Derbyshire in 1988, Bowler had always been prolific, but occasionally obdurate. By 1992, he had adapted his game and could play as dynamically as his colleagues at the top of the order. In scoring six hundreds plus 11 fifties and averaging 65.93 in first class matches, Bowler had now earned the right to be considered a Derbyshire ‘great’, and his 147 not out at Taunton followed in his next innings by 241 not out at Portsmouth merely confirmed his class.

Fully fit, and bowling extremely fast at times, Ian Bishop played 20 Championship games taking 64 wickets at an average of 17.46 and a marvellous strike rate of 45. His 7-34 against Hampshire at Portsmouth – rivalling Bowler’s 241* for the man of the match award – drew comparisons with the genuine West Indian greats of the era, Michael Holding included.

Tall and with a very high action, to my eyes at least, Bishop bowled quicker during the 1992 season than any other Derbyshire bowler I’ve seen.

Despite a damp and slightly lethargic start to the season, Derbyshire gained revenge over Warwickshire at Derby, winning by an innings as Bishop and Base both took seven wickets and then should have completed back-to-back home wins as they chased 311 on the final day of their game against Gloucestershire. Half centuries for Bowler, Morris and O’Gorman took Derbyshire close but in a frantic finish, wickets fell and Derbyshire ended the game eight runs short with just one wicket in hand.

At the time there was a sense of an opportunity missed because the visitors were missing Courtney Walsh leaving their attack shorn of their usual spearhead.

The wins over Somerset at Taunton and Hampshire at Portsmouth shunted Derbyshire up the table and there was a definite air of anticipation as the second half of the season loomed into view. Draws against Middlesex and Worcestershire stalled progress but hundreds from Barnett and Morris on the county’s return to Ilkeston saw Leicestershire well-beaten, Frank Griffith coming into the side and taking 4-33 and 2-44.

Despite the next three matches all looking winnable, Derbyshire’s Championship chances were ruined by a defeat to Sussex at Eastbourne when Derbyshire never really competed, and then by two draws, one rain-affected against Kent and then Glamorgan, both at Queen’s Park, Chesterfield.

More frustratingly for everyone was the manner in which the side won the next two matches, against Somerset at Derby and Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. Cork took ten wickets across the two games, and Bishop eight, while Barnett carried his bat in scoring 156 not out at Nottingham, one of the finest innings of many played by the Derbyshire captain during his long career.

These two matches demonstrated just how competitive and formidable Derbyshire could be and there was a consensus among Derbyshire followers that but for the poor showing at Eastbourne and the failure to beat Gloucestershire minus Walsh, Derbyshire could have been challenging the eventual champions, Essex, at the top of the table.

However, the final nail in the Championship coffin came in the next – home – game against Essex. Paul Prichard won the toss and invited Derbyshire to bat and 226 all out with fifties for Morris and O’Gorman was probably par for the course on the opening day.

Bishop then bowled a devastating spell during the evening session, taking 6-18 in 11 overs to bowl the visitors out for 96. Batting at number six, Graham Gooch scored 53 with 8 Essex players registering single figure scores.

Derbyshire’s second innings of 309 included a splendid 135 by Adams and when play concluded on day three, Essex were 283-5 chasing 440 to win.

Essex reached their target comfortably and Gooch’s innings of 123 not out lasted more than 6 hours; a tremendous match-winning innings, even if to this day, many observers thought that Bishop had him plumb lbw in the opening over of the final day.

This game was Bishop’s last for the county and Alastair Richardson and Timothy Tweats were handed debuts in the final game against Glamorgan at Cardiff. The home side fielded a very strong batting side which included Steve James, Hugh Morris, Matthew Maynard and Vivian Richards and they eased their side to a 63 run win.

Ultimately, fifth position in the Championship was commendable but weather, the lack of a top class slow bowler, and a couple of slipshod performances meant a title challenge couldn’t be maintained.

One day cricket in 1992 can really only be described as poor. The generally consistent nature of the 4-day performances was never replicated in any of the other competitions.

Derbyshire eased into the Benson and Hedges quarter final after missing out during the previous four seasons, to take on Kent at Canterbury. The home side were dismissed for 193 as Bishop 4-30 and Warner 3-39 ensured that no Kent player reached 40. Ole Mortensen, a model of consistency took 1-17 from 11 overs.

Kim Barnett made a typically aggressive 73 at the top of the order, but Bowler, Morris and O’Gorman all made ducks and Derbyshire never recovered from 10-three despite a flurry of late runs from Bishop and Warner, succumbing to a 33-run defeat.

The NatWest Trophy first round saw Berkshire welcomed to Derby and hundreds from Bowler and Adams and 5-18 by Cork ensured a 141-run win, but Leicestershire proved to be made of sterner stuff when they came to the County Ground a fortnight later. Derbyshire’s first choice attack – Bishop, Mortensen, Cork, Malcolm and Warner – restricted Leicestershire to 201-9 in 60 overs. With Barnett injured, Morris captained the side and opened the batting, but bad light forced the players off the field with Derbyshire on 9-2.

A terrible batting display on the following morning saw Derbyshire crumble to 103 all out as Winston Benjamin took 5-32 and David Millns 3-29 to end any hopes of a Lord’s final in 1992.

The Sunday League performances were varied, with inconsistency being the main feature, however. After the first 10 games Derbyshire’s record was W-L-W-L-W-L-L-W-L-L, a stark indication of a season which never got going in the shortest from of the game. Three consecutive wins in August brought some cheer but a final place of 13th-equal told the full story.

Bowler and Adams both scored in excess of 500 Sunday League runs with the latter scoring a brutal 141 not out against Kent at Chesterfield. His 10 sixes have never been bettered by a Derbyshire cricketer in a List A innings.

With the ball, Allan Warner took 23 wickets at an average of 21.04 – superlative figures in one day cricket – while Karl Krikken, as in all formats in 1992, revealed himself to be the truest successor to Bob Taylor behind the stumps. Some of his work standing up to the faster bowlers – although understandably he stayed back to Bishop or Malcolm – was of the highest class.

Leading Statistics

Bowler’s remarkable statistics have already been highlighted, but Morris (1,960 all formats runs), Barnett (1,911), Adams (1,793) and O’Gorman (1,449) all made significant contributions with the bat while Bishop’s magnificence wasn’t just confined to first class matches, as his final tally of 91 wickets confirms, although Dominic Cork with 72, Allan Warner 63 and Devon Malcolm 50 provided excellent support.

Peter Bowler’s all formats 7 hundreds helped take the team total to 22 – only in 1982, 1990, 1996 and 2019 have Derbyshire players registered more centuries in a season.

Competition Winners

County Champions                                     Essex (Derbyshire fifth)

NatWest Trophy Winners                        Northants (Derbyshire second Round)

Sunday League Winners                           Middlesex (Derbyshire 13th=)

Benson and Hedges Cup Winners          Hampshire (Derbyshire Quarter Final)

Conclusions

In 1992, Derbyshire were in the midst of a golden period in their history. From the moment Eddie Barlow arrived to galvanise the club in 1976 until 1998 Derbyshire won three trophies, reached nineteen quarter finals and five Lord’s finals. Their fifth position in 1992 was their fourth top six finish in six seasons and four years later they would finish second. And in 1993, Derbyshire would be crowned Benson and Hedges Cup winners after their thrilling win over Lancashire at Lord’s.

Nonetheless, at the end of 1992 there was a sense that the side hadn’t performed to its potential. Granted, in one day cricket, without an Adrian Kuiper-like figure to seize the initiative and finish games, there was probably something missing. That something, or rather someone, was Dominic Cork, of course. A year later, virtually the same side, minus-Bishop – would win at Lord’s with Cork to the fore with a match-winning 92 not out.

But ultimately, this was the era when Derbyshire, if they were ever going to emulate the 1936 side, were best equipped to win the Championship. Barnett, Bowler, Morris and Adams formed unquestionably the best top four since the 1930s, and the pace attack included 3 Test match bowlers in Bishop, Malcolm and Cork, plus Mortensen who was genuinely high class. In 1994, another Test bowler, Phil DeFreitas, would arrive and Adrian Rollins and Dean Jones would further strengthen the batting despite the departures of Morris (1993) and Bowler (1995), as Kevin Dean and Andrew Harris would both develop into fine quick bowlers.

Ultimately, however, that lack of a top-class spinner to complement this high quality squad probably prevented them from taking the ultimate domestic prize.

When we resume the series in 2002 the game will have changed beyond all recognition with the introduction of two divisions in the Championship and One Day League, and central contracts designed to protect England international cricketers from overload.

Derbyshire will no longer be playing any cricket at Chesterfield, the Grandstand will have been demolished, and Dominic Cork will be captain of the county in his penultimate season with the county.

Coloured clothing will feature in all but first class matches and the ECB will have replaced the TCCB, whilst Derby will have hosted its first floodlit game and Neil Godrich will have taken over from Barry Marsh as Head Groundsman.


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