Country Images Magazine North Edition November 2017 - Page 38

When rain stopped play at Queen’s Park By John Shawcroft QUEEN’S PARK was a disappointing end to Derbyshire’s home programme, a waterlogged outfi eld causing the match against Kent to be abandoned without a ball being bowled, despite periods of blue skies and September sun. It was doubly irritating because three of the four days of the previous home fi xture against Glamorgan at Derby had also been lost to weather. At least the season ended on a high note with Championship victories at Hove and Bristol to enhance the T20 exploits earlier. Rain stopped play is an occupational hazard for most cricket lovers and winter memories tend to dwell on glorious summer days spent with family and friends at Derby, Queen’s Park or at a Test match ground. It is ironic that one of my outstanding recollections from decades of watching Derbyshire concerns a rain-aff ected match that became an exercise in futility. Four matches remaining It occurred at Chesterfi eld in the wet summer of 1954 and, even allowing for teenage romanticism and distance lending enchantment, it produced county cricket which, under the conditions, was of the highest quality. Derbyshire, captained by Guy Willatt and with Les Jackson and Cliff Gladwin in their pomp, mounted a genuine challenge for the Championship. Indeed, the evening of Tuesday 17 August, found an early edition of the Derby Telegraph justifi ably proclaiming that Derbyshire, aft er the previous day’s victory over Worcestershire at the County Ground, had taken over as new favourites for the title, particularly as Yorkshire had lost to Middlesex. Th is had to be qualifi ed later when Surrey sensationally pulled off victory at Cheltenham ten minutes before a downpour saturated the ground. Nevertheless, the mathematics were straightforward. Derbyshire had four matches remaining: if they won them they would be champions. Th e next one was against Middlesex at Chesterfi eld, due to start on the following day. 38 | It was not lost on a crowd of 3,000 which packed Queen’s Park despite the leaden skies which followed six hours of overnight rain. Derbyshire’s side was Arnold Hamer, John Kelly, Guy Willatt (captain), Alan Revill, Donald Carr, Derek Morgan, Bert Rhodes (emerging from retirement for three games in August to help in the fi ght for the title), George Dawkes (wicketkeeper), Cliff Gladwin, Edwin Smith and Les Jackson. Th e visiting captain, Bill Edrich, decided to bat aft er winning the toss. Edrich was a man who lived life to the full. In the Second World War he attained the rank of Squadron Leader, operating as a pilot for RAF Bomber Command. He took part in an audacious low level daylight attack by 54 Bristol Blenheims against power stations in the Cologne area, twelve aircraft being shot down. Edrich, who was awarded the DFC, had an immense relief that he survived the war and as a result loved to party and lived for the day. Such courage extended to his cricket, notably against the Australian fast bowlers Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller and in 39 Test matches he averaged 40. Always well in line, his most productive strokes were the hook and the pull. In the ‘Edrich and Compton’ summer of 1947, his 3,539 runs smashed the previous record – only for Denis Compton to exceed it with 3,816 and 18 hundreds. Conversely that year Edrich was one of Eddie Gothard’s victims in an unlikely hat-trick at Derby. Middlesex opening batsman John Dewes plays on. Th e bowler is Les Jackson and Bill Edrich is at the non-striker’s end. Donald Carr is at slip and the umpire is Sam Pothecary.