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 four brings us into the 21st century, to a time when Derbyshire’s ability to mix it with the best on a regular basis had passed, and when a whole host of innovations, and some degree of re-invention, had arrived in domestic cricket.
Wooden spoonists in the second division of the County Championship, the second division of the Norwich Union League, and in the Second XI Championship in 2001 meant that hopes were assuredly not very high when the 2002 season began, but as we shall see, the summer turned out to be far better than most observers anticipated.
At the end of 1999 the County Championship split into two divisions, Derbyshire taking their place in Division One, but immediate relegation and an awful 2001 meant they were taking their place alongside Durham, Essex, Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Middlesex, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire in the lower tier of the four-day game.
The 45-overs per side competition, played largely on a Sunday and known as the Norwich Union League, was another form of the game divided into two divisions. Derbyshire, in the second division were teamed with Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Lancashire, Middlesex, Northamptonshire, Sussex and Surrey.
In both of these formats, Derbyshire played each county twice.
However, although County Championship cricket is now routinely described as being played at the margins of the season – April, May and September, in the main – in 2002, whilst there were still four first-class matches in both July and August, the start days really began to impact on who could watch the game. For decades, two thirds of Championship games had begun on a Saturday, and healthy attendances could be expected on the opening day; in 2002, not one first class match began on a Saturday (13 out of 18 started on a Wednesday) and thus began the inexorable decline in numbers watching the four-day game. Children and young people, plus working men and women, all of whom had previously been able to watch weekend cricket, now lost interest in watching the game, at least in person, as most were unwilling or unable to take time off to watch mid-week matches.
The Benson and Hedges Cup, now reduced from 55 overs to 50 saw five matches played in 10 days at the end of April and the beginning of May against Durham, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire. The knock-out rounds followed in May and June with the final on 22nd June, exactly one month earlier than in 1978.
The former Gillette Cup/NatWest Trophy competition was now branded the Cheltenham and Gloucestershire Trophy and was also played over 50 overs per side. First round ties – actually third round, following rounds involving minor counties – took place in late May with the final on the last day of August at Lord’s.
Sri Lanka (three Tests) and India (four Tests) were the principal touring sides and Derbyshire played India in late August at Derby as well as West Indies A, also at Derby, in June.
And in a sign of the times, the daily County Championship overs allocation – 110 in 1992 – was now 104.
Derby hosted every home fixture in 2002.
Sadly, and in cricketing terms, tragically, Queen’s Park, Chesterfield was consigned to history at the end of 1998 when Derbyshire decided that the facilities were simply no longer acceptable for first-class cricket.
Queen’s Park had hosted Derbyshire since 1898 and a successful dinner at the Winding Wheel in Chesterfield to celebrate the centenary ended up being a rather valedictory affair. For generations of players and spectators who had enjoyed the magnificent parkland splendour of Queen’s Park it was tantamount to criminal that Derbyshire would no longer play there.
Common sense, a grant in excess of £4 million, some ground improvements and the willingness of the General Committee to engage with officials at Chesterfield Borough Council saw cricket return to the park, although not until 2006.
For now, Derby was the sole home venue and a changing one. A hotel and gym now occupied the grassed area which had variously been used as the main ground until 1955, nets, club cricket, football and car parking, and The Grandstand, the best-known and most obvious feature on the ground for the preceding 90-plus years had gone, bulldozed into oblivion with plans afoot for a new development on the same site. In due course, The Gateway would be built on the old Grandstand footprint, but that was to come.
The upside of these changes was financial – the sale of land brought Derbyshire £675,000 – half of the amount realised on the land sale, with the club’s landlord, Derby City Council also receiving the same amount. In 2004 this would fund the installation of floodlights at Derby.
From a spectator perspective, nothing at Derby at had changed since 1992, other than the aforementioned reduction in parking on the south and south-east of the ground, and the installation of white plastic seats on the Grandstand Terrace, replacing the worn-out old wooden benches.
Variety could still be found away from home although other than a 4-day game against Durham at Darlington, every other fixture was played at a headquarters county ground, another sign of the times. Extensive, and expensive, developments at the majority of headquarters grounds meant that counties tended to focus all their cricket on just one ground, with many now including new indoor cricket facilities.
As mentioned previously, the changes to scheduling took its toll on the numbers of spectators watching Championship cricket, and membership suffered too. In 2002, the Membership Register showed 2,019 members at the end of the summer, a far cry from almost double that number 10 to 15 years earlier.
Still, for less than £100, an adult could become a full member with 49 days of scheduled cricket at Derby, always assuming they could find the time to actually go and watch.
Since 1992, and the Benson and Hedges Cup-winning season of 1993, a large number of players had departed.
Barnett, Bowler, Morris and Adams – statistically the best top four in the club’s history – left between the end of 1993 and the end of 1998 – while Malcolm, Rollins and DeFreitas were also plying their trade elsewhere by 2002, as were Andrew Harris and Matthew Cassar.
Daryl Cullinan, Dean Jones and Michael Slater had all served as overseas players, in Jones’ case, at least in 1996, for one glorious season.
The promising Ian Blackwell had also gone, and so gaps were plugged by Tom Munton, Rob Bailey, Richard Illingworth, Luke Sutton, and from overseas, Michael Di Venuto.
Still in situ, however, was Dominic Cork, captain since 1998 and as effective a cricketer as ever, still capable of winning matches single-handedly. He was supported by fellow capped cricketers Karl Krikken, Paul Aldred, Matthew Dowman, Steve Stubbings, Kevin Dean and Graeme Welch.
John Smedley was the Chief Executive and Trevor Bowring was Chairman of Committee. Neil Godrich was Head Groundsman, having succeeded Barry Marsh a year earlier, while Sir Nigel Rudd held the office of president.
John M Brown had taken over as Scorer from the retiring Stan Tacey, Derbyshire’s last Honorary Scorer, at the end of 2000.
Derbyshire began the season with five wins and one defeat from their opening six matches, and by the time they completed the fifth win, at Trent Bridge, their points tally for the season had already equalled that of the entire 2001 campaign.
Stubbings and Dominic Hewson both made centuries in the second innings of the win in the opening game against Glamorgan at Cardiff where Cork (6-51 in the first innings) and slow left armer Lian Wharton (6-103 in the second innings) were the most successful bowlers.
Two wins at Derby followed, by two runs against Durham in a thrilling match in which Cork again shone with match figures of 10-126. A young left arm fast bowler, Mohammad Ali, also made his mark – with the bat – scoring 53 on his debut when his first seven scoring shots were all fours. Cork took 4-6 in 21 balls as Derbyshire snatched victory from defeat on the final day.
Di Venuto dominated the next win, over Northamptonshire, by 8 wickets. He made a superlative 230 out of Derbyshire’s 538 with the home side making 487-7 on the opening day of the match, the greatest number of runs ever made by the county in a single day.
Progress was halted by a defeat at Chelmsford where Essex won by six wickets, a game which Cork missed having been called up to the England squad to play Sri Lanka – he wasn’t selected – but the captain was released by England to play in the next game against Glamorgan at Derby. The visitors were duly dispatched inside two days as Kevin Dean (10-109 in the match) and another 6 wickets for Cork saw Derbyshire home by nine wickets, Di Venuto making 98 in the first innings.
By the time Nottinghamshire were beaten by four wickets at Trent Bridge in an enthralling encounter, Derbyshire’s players and followers could justifiably have one eye on promotion as the win took them to the top of the table, and deservedly so.
Nottinghamshire made 393 and Derbyshire replied with 392 – fifties from Di Venuto, Andrew Gait and Chris Bassano – before Cork, yet again, demolished Nottinghamshire’s second innings, taking 6-78 to leave Derbyshire needing 177 to win. Bassano’s 79 was a classy innings and Derbyshire’s win was well-earned.
Cork, the outstanding bowler in county cricket to this point now had 38 wickets in five matches – all of which had been won – at an average of just over 15. Derbyshire were not a one-man team, but Cork’s exploits in the opening rounds of the summer exemplified all that made him such an outstanding cricketer.
The loss of 188 overs during the next game against Gloucestershire meant that a result was nigh on impossible and a draw was inevitable despite 8 more wickets for Cork who also scored 67, as Gait and Bassano both registered half centuries too.
Derbyshire then travelled to Darlington to face Durham, but without their talismanic captain. Cork had been called up once more by England, this time for the NatWest Series final against India, another match he was eventually not selected for.
Derbyshire made light of Cork’s absence, dismissing the home side for 191 in their first innings but their disastrous reply of 96 was not helped by three run outs, although Di Venuto’s 57 was a gem of an innings in the circumstances.
Dean took his wickets tally to eight in the match as Durham made 203 in the second innings but Derbyshire fell 89 runs short despite 40s from Di Venuto, Bassano and Welch.
Derbyshire’s second defeat of the season saw them slip to fourth place in the table with Nottinghamshire due next at Derby.
With Cork back at the helm Derbyshire batted first and made 353 thanks to Gait (76), Di Venuto (91) and Bassano (83). Kevin Pietersen gave further notice of his potential with an unbeaten 103 but Derbyshire began their second innings with a lead of 113. When played ended on the third day, the visitors were 39-0 requiring 284 on the final day.
A large crowd gathered during the final session on the Monday as word spread that a great finish was on the cards. At tea Nottinghamshire were 237-5 and favourites to win but three wickets in nine balls after the interval put Derbyshire in the box seats.
In fading light and with the Derbyshire supporters roaring their bowlers on, Nottinghamshire’s Jason Gallian, rock solid at the top of the innings, found himself accompanied by last man, Greg Smith, with 46 runs still required.
With the new ball due, and Cork, Dean and Welch to use it, Derbyshire tried everything to prise out the last wicket. Gallian’s unbeaten 111 took almost seven hours and as he and Smith scrambled every run, fingernails were bitten to the quick behind the boundary fence. When the winning runs were struck there was a collective groan of disappointment, not just at the defeat to local rivals, but also at the likelihood of this loss impacting on Derbyshire’s promotion hopes.
A 177-run win at Northampton, mainly thanks to Gait’s 175 and five more wickets for Cork was followed by a 140-run reverse to Essex at Derby. Cork was absent for the Essex match; his remarkable bowling having gained him selection for England against India at Trent Bridge. Injured on the first day of the Test match, neither Cork nor Derbyshire supporters had much to cheer with five Championship matches still to play.
Worcestershire inflicted a nine-wicket defeat at Derby as the home side, again without Cork who had yet to recover from the injury sustained in the Test match, and Derbyshire were back in fourth place once more.
Without their captain against Middlesex at Lord’s Derbyshire produced an outstanding performance. Di Venuto scored 192 not out and 113 and Lian Wharton’s 6-62 in the second innings saw Derbyshire win by a huge 204-run margin. Di Venuto remains the only Derbyshire player to score a hundred in each innings at Lord’s.
Back into third place, there was still a chance of promotion – this was the days of three up-three down – but with Cork back on England duty, a draw was all they could manage against Gloucestershire at Bristol despite another superb 175 not out by Di Venuto. Nonetheless, with two matches to go – Middlesex at Derby and Worcestershire at New Road, promotion was still possible.
Cork was away once more with England, this time selected for the ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka, and Middlesex prevailed by 73 on a very green pitch, deemed unsatisfactory by the umpires, David Constant and Trevor Jesty, and the ECB pitch inspector John Jameson. Derbyshire’s defeat coupled with the loss of 8 points for the unsatisfactory pitch meant promotion was now impossible and despite a terrific effort in the final game, Worcestershire won by 1 wicket, a defeat which meant Derbyshire ended in sixth place in the table.
Cork’s absence for the entire second half of the summer was clearly a factor in Derbyshire’s failure to sustain a promotion challenge, but Kevin Dean stepped up with 80 first-class wickets and once again demonstrated his effectiveness.
In the Norwich Union League, fourth place was commendable (three up-three down applied in this format too), with eight matches won. Steve Selwood, a promising young left-hander scored over 400 runs in 14 matches at an average of almost 40, but defeats at home and away to the title winners Gloucestershire’s probably put paid to Derbyshire’s hope of promotion.
Derbyshire failed to win a game in their Benson and Hedges Cup group and their only game in the NatWest Trophy saw them crushed by 10 wickets by Lancashire at Old Trafford.
Dominic Cork played only eight first-class matches, all in the County Championship and took 57 wickets at an average of just over 16. As such, his selection for England was inevitable but it did reduce Derbyshire’s effectiveness as the season wore on.
Michael Di Venuto scored 1,933 all formats runs, ably supported by Bassano with 1,332 and Gait who made 1,085.
Kevin Dean ended the summer with 99 all formats wickets, his second best season behind the 102 wickets taken in 1998.
County Champions Surrey
County Champions Div 2 Essex (Derbyshire sixth)
C&G Trophy Winners Yorkshire (Derbyshire first Round)
Norwich Union League Glamorgan
Norwich Union League Div 2 Gloucestershire (Derbyshire fourth)
Benson and Hedges Cup Winners Warwickshire (Derbyshire Group Stage)
The 2002 season was mainly all about the County Championship, although Derbyshire were only one place outside the promotion positions in the Norwich Union League. But their other white ball cricket was poor – no wins at all in the Benson and Hedges Cup or C&G Trophy – and so it was the first-class game which held the attention of most observers that summer.
Had Dominic Cork been available for the entire season, and had he maintained his form, Derbyshire might well have secured promotion, but frustratingly for Derbyshire, his call-ups by England, often resulting in Cork carrying the drinks, hampered progress. Ultimately, however, it was a season of progress and younger players like Bassano, Gait, Selwood, Luke Sutton, Tom Lungley and Wharton, all produced good performances during the course of the season.
Derbyshire won seven Championship matches, a tally not matched since, and to give that figure perspective, only in 1991 and 1996 when they won nine matches, had Derbyshire won as many as seven since 1966.
However, the writing was on the wall – Cork would stay for just one more season before leaving the county he had served so outstandingly well – and at the end of 2003 a new post would be created, that of Director of Cricket which would take away from the captain the power and responsibility for cricketing performances for the first time in the county’s history.
The game was changing, in 2003 Twenty20 cricket would arrive, and with Central Contracts for England players, and cricketers looking to play in the first division of the County Championship, recruitment and player retention became harder than ever.
By the time we conclude this series in 2012, however, much, much more will have happened over the preceding decade, on and off the field, and success, in the form of promotion in the Championship would be earned by a combative side containing a fine mix of judicious recruits, two excellent overseas players, and a collection of young, locally-produced cricketers as, at last, Derbyshire and their supporters had something to celebrate.
2022 Membership – One Club, Our County
2022 Membership is on sale now, with supporters able to attend a full season of Derbyshire home cricket for the first time since 2019, along with a host of other great benefits.