A strange year in which Notts improved their red ball game but still find themselves in Division Two for the next season, 2021 also afforded an opportunity to look back forty years to triumph in the County Championship.
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 in September 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.
The tenth-wicket duo of Eddie 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 deficit at home.
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.”
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”.
That year was aptly summarised by Hemmings who took 90 first-class wickets in the season: “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.
In his end-of-season report, then Chief Executive, Philip Carling, said it was ‘a truly memorable year for Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. I must add straightway my wholehearted congratulations to Ken Taylor, Clive Rice and all the players on a really magnificent effort in carrying off the Schweppes Championship. For the traditional cricket follower the County Championship remains the one to win and it certainly requires the hardest work over a long period of time.
‘To win the competition from the front for the last few weeks required professionalism of the best kind and speaks volumes for the determined and settled atmosphere in the dressing room.
‘Nicest of all though, was the joy that the winning of a trophy brought to our members, in particular to those who have been with us for a very long time’.
Forty years on this group were welcomed back to Trent Bridge with a celebratory lunch and plenty of time to reminisce about that ‘long, hard’ and ultimately successful campaign.
1981 County Champions – reunion on Wednesday 22 September 2021
Back row: Chris Scott, Mike Harris, Roy Dexter, Paul Todd, Kevin Saxelby, Eddie Hemmings, Mark Fell, Peter Hacker; Front row: Bob White, Basher Hassan, Derek Randall