Heritage Insight: International cricket in Derby

Friday 11th March 2022
& News

International football took place at what was then known as The Derbyshire County Cricket Ground in 1895  when 10,000 people paid match receipts of £295 to see England demolish Ireland by nine goals to nil.

It would be a further 88 years before international cricket arrived at the ground; Heritage Officer looks at the history of international cricket at Derby.

Tour games at Derby meant that international sides had played cricket – against Derbyshire – in a total of 42 first class games, and Derbyshire provided the opposition at Derby against Zimbabwe in a 1983 World Cup warm-up match. However, it wasn’t until later that summer that an international cricket match took place at Derby.

In 1983, the third ICC World Cup was once again held in England – and Wales – with almost all counties hosting at least one fixture.

Derbyshire’s allocated group game was between New Zealand and Sri Lanka on 18th June and a large crowd gathered, many supporting Sri Lanka, and a significant number of Derbyshire members who were able to purchase tickets at the reduced price of £1-50.

Compared to how international matches are staged nowadays, the game was not dissimilar to a well-attended Sunday League match, with no allocated seats or reserved areas – indeed, the game was not even televised.

John Wright, at the time an overseas player with Derbyshire recorded a duck on his return with the New Zealand side which included Glenn Turner, Martin Crowe, and Richard Hadlee. Their total of 181 all out was insufficient as Sri Lanka, coached by Sir Garry Sobers, and with half centuries from Kuruppu and Dias, got home by three wickets with more than seven overs in hand, despite Hadlee’s 1-16 from 12 overs.

It was a further 16 years before the World Cup returned to the UK and once again New Zealand were in town, with their opponents this time being Pakistan.

Derby city centre played host to an event on the day before the game, as the Pakistan squad gathered near the Assembly Rooms to sign autographs and pose for photographs. Traditional Asian fare was also served, with members of the public invited to share the food with the cricketers.

The following day, 28th May, Pakistan made 269-8 off 50 overs, with Inzamam-ul-Haq scoring a splendid and enterprising 73 not out off 61 balls.

Although Stephen Fleming made 69 and Chris Harris (later to play for Derbyshire) 42, New Zealand could only muster 207-8 in their 50 overs as Pakistan’s stellar bowling attack kept them behind the run rate from the off.

Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Azar Mahmood, Saqlain Mushtaq and Shahid Afridi provided excellent variety, with extreme pace, swing and seam, plus high class spin.

This was another game which Derbyshire members could attend at a reduced rate, but the ground was largely populated by several thousand Pakistan supporters whose over-exuberance saw them invade the pitch on several occasions.

The County Ground had never seen such scenes with hundreds of flag-waving spectators racing onto the outfield at the fall of a wicket, often embracing one of their heroes before reluctantly returning to their position behind the picket fence.

Following this World Cup, the ICC exerted greater control of all future international events, meaning that for the men’s competition Derby was deemed to be unsuitable as an international venue as the ICC – understandably – sought to maximize their income from the larger attendances which could be accommodated  at the UK’s Test venues.

Nonetheless, England Women had played an ODI at Derby in 1998 against Australia Women and this game was just the start of Derby being a lengthy and fulfilling staging venue for England Women’s cricket.

To date 18 Women’s ODIs have taken place on the ground (with two other scheduled games abandoned), and eight T20 internationals (with one scheduled game abandoned).

In June 2009, Derbyshire’s T20 game against Lancashire was preceded by an England Women’s T20 game against Australia. As the teams lined up prior to the start, a group of paratroopers from the Parachute Regiment descended onto the outfield, carrying the match balls; possibly a first in world cricket.

However, the highlight for Derbyshire came in 2017 when Derby was selected as a host  venue for the Women’s World Cup.

When the bid to host was submitted to the ICC, Derbyshire had to demonstrate that the facilities were suitable for an international event, so the Pavilion was renovated and extended, the players were provided with new dressing room and associated facilities in The Gateway, and a new Media Centre was built.

When the ICC delegation arrived at Derby in 2016, only the steelwork and concrete platforms were in place for the media centre, but they were reassured by the proposed completion date for the building.

Opening on time late in the 2016 season, facilities for 32 members of the written press, plus photographers and the television broadcasters were in place when the opening ceremony took place on 24th June 2017.

Hundreds of local children took part in the ceremony before England played India in a high scoring match which saw India win by 35 runs.

A further seven World Cup matches were scheduled for Derby, mostly attracting capacity crowds. The game between India and Pakistan on 2 July  saw an even more animated crowd than the one which watched the 1999 game between New Zealand and Pakistan.

Supporters of both sides danced, often arm in arm, waving their countries’ flags, singing loudly, and applauding and cheering every run and wicket.

The result – a comprehensive win for India – had no negative impact on the atmosphere as a Sunday afternoon party atmosphere enveloped the ground.

Derby was also the venue for the semi-final between Australia and India which featured a remarkable 171 not out by Harmanpreet Kaur which eased her side to a 36 run victory.

The summer of 2020 saw Derby used as an international venue once more and England’s women were again in action in both ODI and T20 cricket, and in 2021, The Incora County Ground was the site of an ODI series-clinching victory over New Zealand, with captain Heather Knight scoring her second century in the format.

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