Cricket Report by Ken Taylor
To imagine we would repeat that remarkable feat was unrealistic although I was confident that we had sufficient talent on the staff to make a creditable showing- and that proved to be the case. Inevitably, it was something of a transitional period as the players learned to live without the influential Clive Rice and Richard Hadlee and there were teething problems along the way. Generally speaking, however, we coped well with the challenge.
Tim Robinson had a very difficult task in taking over the captaincy – not least because he was replacing such an experience and able leader. He will have learned a great deal during the course of last season and will, I’m sure, show the benefits during the months ahead. Captaining a team is very demanding and it takes at least two years to become accomplished at the art.
In the Championship, we gradually built up a good head of steam and eventually finished fifth, winning just one game less than when we won the Championship the previous year. That was a satisfying achievement and ride of place among the individual honours must go to Franklyn Stephenson. To become only the second player since 1967 to complete “The Double” of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets was remarkable- to do it in his first full season in county cricket was nothing short of incredible.
Stephenson was a tremendous addition to the staff, bowling with great determination and guile throughout the season to claim 125 wickets. With the bat, it took him a while to get going but we could only admire the way he applied himself to the task of scoring more than 200 runs in the final match to complete “The Double”.
It was a phenomenal performance and he richly deserved the honour of being crowned Britannic Assurance “Cricketer of the Year”.
Robinson passed 1,000 runs and played a number of valuable innings and as Derek Randall showed with his magnificent double-century against Derbyshire, he can still be one of the finest players in the world.
Paul Johnson topped the first-class runs aggregate and confirmed his immense talent against Yorkshire at Abbeydale Park when, as other struggled, he scored 124 out of total of 195. I would not like to see him change his style but if only he can become more disciplined at the start of an innings, there’s no telling what he might achieve.
By his standards, Chris Broad had a very moderate season and I imagine that years of continuous cricket can lead to staleness. I’m sure he will be back with plenty of runs next season.
Mick Newell did not do as well as in the previous two years and that was reflected in our batting totals. If he is in form, keeping one end going while the stroke players flourish, it makes a big difference to us and we shall be looking for him to provide a sound base during the coming season.
John Birch made his usual whole-hearted contribution and in addition to taking over the captaincy when Robinson was injured, also did a fair amount of bowling. The tag of “Most Improved Player” must go to Kevin Evans. He established himself in the later stages, bowling a good line and length, scoring useful runs and strengthening the slip fielding. Hopefully the best is yet to come.
Injuries were a constant problem throughout the season and virtually every senior player was affected, many of them for long periods. The consolation, however, was that it created opportunities for the younger players to show their capabilities.
For example, when a finger operation caused Bruce French to miss all but the start and finish of the season, Chris Scott relished the chance of an extended run in the first-team and again showed himself to be a fine wicketkeeper.
Despite averaging 77.78 in the Second XI, Duncan Martindale struggled to find his best form in his nine Championship appearances but Paul Pollard underlined his potential – especially when he made 142 against Kent in Dartford.
In the bowling department, Stephenson shared the honours with Kevin Cooper who, although still recovering from a broken leg at the start of the season, reached new heights by becoming the only Englishman to claim 100 wickets.
Although he has tended to live in the shadows of Rice and Hadlee in the past, I have always felt Cooper was capable such feats and now that he has reached the milestone, it can only increase his belief in his own ability. Incidentally, his breakdown of wickets was 48 at Trent Bridge, 48 in away matches and five at Worksop.