Nottinghamshire’s title-winning class of 1981 were welcomed back to Trent Bridge on the second day of the LV=Insurance County Championship fixture against Yorkshire to celebrate 40 years since their landmark triumph.

For the dozen present, and perhaps many supporters around the ground, watching the latest Notts cohort in in pursuit of their own success brought back some memories of a fateful encounter, the penultimate match of the 1981 season against Sussex.

“Because we were winning the game on the last day, they bowled six overs in an hour,” Eddie Hemmings, Nottinghamshire’s off-spinner par excellence, remarked. 

“Then all of a sudden, we lost a few wickets and they didn’t have enough overs to bowl us out.”

The tenth-wicket duo of Hemmings and Mike Bore played out the final ten overs in fading light to ensure the draw was secured, preventing the south-coast outfit from leapfrogging their opponents in the County Championship table. 

Initially, the home side replied to Sussex’s 208 with only 102; it was the only time in 1981 that Notts conceded a first-innings defecit at home.

Ultimately requiring 251 to win on the last day, Notts were 174 for three before Barclay and Garth le Roux took three wickets apiece to pave the way for Hemmings and Bore’s heroics.

Following that dramatic draw Nottinghamshire raced towards the title, comprehensively beating Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire before dispatching Glamorgan by ten wickets to bring the pennant came.

“That Sussex match was the biggest of the lot,” Basharat ‘Basher’ Hassan, Nottinghamshire batter, now Club President, admitted. 

“There was big pressure – we knew we had to draw or win. We watched every ball of that partnership between Eddie and Mike from the balcony. 

“We all stood in one place. Clive Rice and Richard Hadlee were on the left hand balcony, [Derek] Randall, myself, [Paul] Toddy, [Bruce], Frenchy, we were all on the right hand side and we did not move for ten overs, for an hour. Eddie and Mike saved the day.

“The atmosphere was absolutely electric when we won the title. In the dressing room, Reg Simpson came over and he was in tears, it made me realise how much winning the Championship meant to them. 

“We were celebrating upstairs, and a chap brought me a champagne bottle and asked me to sign it and then throw it back to him from the balcony. He caught it – if he dropped it, it would have smashed!”

Led by Clive Rice and aided by Richard Hadlee, the '81 squad ended a barren spell for Notts, who hadn’t won a County Championship since 1929. 

Seam bowler Kevin Saxelby reminisced with glee about his time in the side: “They were the best years of my life. We had fun on and off the field. We had some difficult characters but we got on.

“With Ricey, if you wanted to try something, he would let you try it. If it didn’t work, he wouldn’t give you a rollicking. And he wanted to score at four an over which was very forward thinking at that time.”

That progressive nature ultimately brought about success at Trent Bridge, in a year aptly summarised by Hemmings who took 90 first-class wickets in the year. 

“It was a hard season, long and hard,” he said. 

“We all dug in but everybody enjoyed it. There were really good crowds, especially for that final, and we won in the end. That was the important thing.”


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