General News | 29th May 2007

Looking back on Leicestershire v Notts

Peter Wynne-Thomas looks back on past meetings between Leicestershire and Notts.

This game represents a fresh page in my ledger. Nottinghamshire will begin their first ever Championship match at Oakham School on May 30. Leicestershire’s initial game on the School ground was in 1935. The County played once that summer at Oakham and then returned once in each of the three subsequent years. There was a 62-year break before Leicestershire came back to Rutland’s county town in 2000.

In 2001, Nottinghamshire visited the ground for a Sunday League game. We will remember a typical Paul Johnson innings, but the final outcome of the meeting is best forgotten.

Unlike Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire have looked very favourably on ‘out’ grounds. Trent Bridge was established as Notts’ headquarters in 1840 and not a single major inter-county game was staged away from headquarters until 190l, when the Duke of Portland persuaded the county to come to Welbeck Abbey. Even after 166 years, Nottinghamshire have only used five ‘out’ grounds for Championship matches, whereas Leicestershire, who weren’t granted first-class status until 1894, have had two grounds for headquarters and in addition used 13 others for Championship cricket.

Members will recall the dramatic events and unusual happenings the last time the Notts team were moved from Grace Road. Hinckley ring a bell? It was the famous Championship summer of 1981 and in fact the first time Leicestershire had used the relatively new Hinckley Club venue in Leicester Road.

Leicestershire began with an opening partnership of 206 by Chris Balderstone and John Steele; both scored hundreds, as did the Rhodesian cricketer, Brian Davison, so Leicester declared with a comfortable 431-8. The Notts innings was a disaster, only a fighting innings by Derek Randall prevented an utter rout. The follow on was enforced. Randall again played with exceptional skill adding 101 to the 77 he made in the first innings, but his hundred was not without incident.

Chris Balderstone noticed Randall was backing up too enthusiastically and as Balderstone came up to bowl, he took off the bails, instead of delivering the ball. The umpire judged Randall ‘run out’, but as he trudged back to the pavilion, Roger Tolchard, the home captain, over-ruled the umpire and called Randall back. Sportsmanship isn’t really dead!

Batting at the other end was a total unknown, Neil Weightman. It was just his second Championship game. He scored 105 and with Notts 255 for one, the match appeared to be drifting to a draw. However the dismissal of the pair produced another total collapse. Leicestershire required 124 in 14 overs – they won with a leg-bye off the penultimate ball.

Notts had been to Hinckley before, but that was on the Town ground, Coventry Road in 1952. By coincidence Notts’ first innings, like the one in 1981, was built on a solo effort. Only Reg Simpson could fathom the chinamen and spin of Australian and former Cahn cricketer, Jack Walsh. Simpson made 163 out of the Notts total of 294. Rain washed away the last day and the match.

In between those two trips to Hinckley, Notts went twice to the Brush ground at Loughborough – now part of the University. In 1954, Leicestershire were set 173 in 108 minutes but crumbled to the spin of Ken Smales and Bruce Dooland - Jack Walsh then arrived and saved his county. On Notts’ second and last visit to the Brush Ground, it was Notts who were given the run chase - 312 in 250 minutes.

In today’s terms it seems a generous target and even more so when 46 were needed in the final half hour with five wickets in hand, with an in-form Cyril Poole still batting. However Poole was then dismissed and with the fielders spread round the boundary, the game was drawn.

Notts had of course been to Loughborough for Championship cricket before the 1950s. In 1913 the game was played on the Loughborough Town Ground in Park Road. Once more, it was the first time Leicester had played there and it proved very popular with 5,000 coming on the first day and 3,000 on the Monday.

They saw the hurricane hitter Ted Alletson hit 55 in an hour and William Riley take nine wickets, as Notts won with ease. Notts won again on the same ground in 1919. Global warming was in evidence, as Notts keeper Tom Oates was forced to retire with 49 to his name, due to reports of the “intense heat.”

I’d better not forget the Snibston Colliery ground, where Leicestershire entertained Notts in 1959, especially since this piece might be read in Spain. Resident there is John Springall. The 107 he scored for Notts on June 3rd was destined to be the highest of his career – Johnny Clay also hit a hundred. The high scoring game was drawn.

Finally for those who are advocates of fitness through walking, the first three matches between Nottingham and Leicester were all played in Loughborough, but only because that town was mid way between the two county towns and cricket spectators could easily walk to Loughborough. Those were all 18th century matches - people were much fitter then! 

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