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45 years since Surrey’s first Lord’s final win

Published: 20th July, 2019

It’s 45 years since Surrey enjoyed their first victory in a Lord’s final, squeezing past Leicestershire by 27 runs on July 20 1974 under the captaincy of John Edrich. Richard Spiller takes a look back.

One-day cricket is generally punctuated by a welter of fours and sixes nowadays, bowlers happy if they evade being hit for more than a run-a-ball.

Back in 1974 it was a different game – and much closer to first-class cricket. Players wore white, used a red ball and took lunch and tea intervals in most matches. Fielding circles, powerplays and coloured clothing were still some distance away and would probably have provoked a shudder of disgust from many of the participants.

Surrey had only reached a single one-day final since limited overs cricket had been introduced to help pay the bills in 1963 – the Gillette Cup, in 1965 – and been utterly trounced by Yorkshire, losing by 175 runs. The county had made little impact in the John Player League, inaugurated in 1969, while the Benson & Hedges Cup was added in 1972. That had meant the County Championship was reduced to 20 three-day matches (plus tourist and university matches), but it was still a hectic season, starting in late April and ending in early September.

The B&H, played over 55 overs-per-side, took up a chunk of May for the group stages – played in four groups – before the knockouts. Wins over Essex, Sussex and Cambridge University, against only defeat by Kent, left Surrey second in the south section and resulted in a home quarter-final against Yorkshire.

Geoff Howarth’s 80 at the top of the order, backed up by all-rounder Stewart Storey (43) and Intikhab Alam (30no) led the hosts to 225-5, Surrey’s hopes given an immediate boost when Robin Jackman bowled Geoffrey Boycott for five early in the reply. Barrie Leadbeater made 62 and Phil Sharpe 50 but only Chris Old, who had earlier taken 3-51, kept up the visitors’ interest with a quick 26 before being bowled by Geoff Arnold as his side were dismissed for 201.

Having beaten one Roses side, Surrey now had to travel north for a clash with the other. Lancashire were famed for their one-day expertise in the 1970s but found themselves outplayed this time. A seaming pitch limited scoring and Edrich batted through the morning session for 62, Jackman’s aggressive 32 seeing the visitors to 193-8.

Hero with the ball this time was Alan Butcher, then a medium-paced left-armer batting down the order, who removed soon-to-be England opener David Lloyd, Harry Pilling and Frank Hayes in his 3-11 from 11 overs. Even West Indies giant Clive Lloyd’s 50 was unable to prevent Lancashire being finished off for 130.

That set up Surrey for a return to Lord’s and the chance to earn the first trophy since winning the County Championship three years earlier. As a decade, the 1970s was a difficult one for Surrey, much of their troubles based on how to improve a famous but increasingly decrepid headquarters at The Oval, several schemes to update the ground either refused permission by the authorities or lacking financial backing. There was a sizeable group within the club who felt the future might be best served by moving to a new location altogether.

The shadow of the all-conquering 1950s side still hung over the team and enterprising cricket was made much harder by the low and paceless pitches.

For now they could forget that and concentrate on their opponents in the final, Leicestershire, winners in that inaugural B&H year of 1972 and led by Ray Illingworth, sacked as England captain in 1973 but keen to remind everyone of his enduring qualities. They finished runners-up in the midlands group, toppling Kent – led by Illingworth’s Test successor Mike Denness – in the last eight and then crushing Somerset in the last four.

A crowd of 20,260 were at Lord’s to see Surrey having to fight hard for runs again on a low pitch, Edrich staunch as ever in making 40, of which 18 came off the first 24 overs, and Younis Ahmed finding more freedom as he stroked 43.

Illingworth manipulated his attack and field with his usual expertise, Surrey’s hopes of a late flurry lifted by Jackman’s enterprising 36 but torpedoed by a hat-trick from Ken Higgs. He had Butcher caught behind, bowled Pat Pocock and saw wicketkeeper Arnold Long snick to counterpart Roger Tolchard – leaving Higgs with 4-10 – as the innings was terminated for 170.

Long still remembers being the third victim: “It was right at the end. I think Pat Pocock talked his way above me as a hitter and then I tried to whack it but the ball didn’t quite go where I wanted and that was it. Obviously it wasn’t a great score but we knew it wasn’t easy batting on it either.”

Could it possibly be enough, even on such a grudging surface?

Optimism was lifted when Arnold trapped Barry Dudleston leg-before with the first ball of the reply and just 46 came off 19 overs. Then Graham Roope, best known as a stylish batsman and wonderful catcher but also a handy seamer, struck two vital blows. He had Mick Norman leg-before for 24 and then trapped wicketkeeper Roger Tolchard the same way, even though he was several yards down the pitch.

Bill Alley, the umpire, was known as an ‘outer’ – in sharp contrast to Dickie Bird at the other end – and Roope later admitted he only appealed in an attempt to dissuade Tolchard from running a leg-bye and was astonished to see Alley raise his finger. The Australian umpire’s decisions in that match so enraged Leicestershire that he was given a decidedly frosty reception when he officiated in a John Player match at Grace Road eight days later.

“He certainly wasn’t very popular with them,” chortled Edrich, looking back. “We thought we might be able to defend it, particularly after taking a few wickets, and in those days you didn’t have to worry about batsmen reverse-sweeping and that kind of thing.”

John Steele’s run out after struggling to 18 in 25 overs might have brought mixed feelings for the Foxes, not least when Brian Davison began to unfurl a series of drives which threatened to turn the match. But the Zimbabwean tried one too many and holed out in the covers at 65-5.

Illingworth’s side was nothing if not experienced and with Chris Balderstone (32) the Ashes winner almost doubled the score. Butcher’s 11 overs for 23 maintained the pressure and Pocock delivered 11 miserly overs to claim 3-26, Illingworth hampered by a leg injury and last out for 23 when he was castled by Arnold, Leicestershire all out for 143 and Edrich adding to his gold award in the semi-final by being anointed again adjudicator Freddie Brown, who praised his astute tactics.

“We had a bit of luck with a couple of decisions but after losing to Yorkshire so badly it was much nicer being on the winning side,” recalled Long, who was to lead Sussex to an unexpected Gillette Cup success over hot favourites Somerset four years later.

The mid-season day out at Lord’s became a fairly regular date for Surrey, reaching four more B&H finals, finishing runners-up in 1979 and 1981 but relishing the taste of victory in 1997 and 2001.

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