Looking back to 1980: Surrey & The Oval

Published: 30th June, 2020

Richard Spiller goes back 40 years to recount the events of 1980 in terms of Surrey County Cricket, The Oval and the wider world.

Surrey’s season

How do you measure success? Two years earlier, in 1978, Surrey had finished one place off the bottom of the County Championship. In 1980 they were runners-up, improving on their dizzying rise to third 12 months earlier, and once again reached a one-day final only to be beaten at Lord’s.

It meant Roger Knight’s side finished with nothing to show for their efforts, despite a superb season in which they also reached the quarter-finals of the Benson & Hedges Cup and were fifth in the John Player League thus achieving all the targets set by manager Micky Stewart.

Unfortunately for Surrey, their rivals north of the river Middlesex had assembled one of the most formidable line-ups in their history. Driven by Mike Brearley, who had handed over the England captaincy to Ian Botham (albeit not for good), they had a bowling attack spearheaded by West Indian speedster Wayne Daniel and South African seamer Vintcent van der Bijl – originally signed as replacement for Daniel in the expectation he would be included in Clive Lloyd’s squad – and which included spinners Phil Edmonds and John Emburey.

Middlesex won the title by 13 points but Surrey pushed them, also taking 10 wins but losing four games to two. One of those was at Lord’s in June, where the hosts won by an innings and 58 runs, the return soon after finishing in a draw. Brearley’s men had gone top the day before that first meeting and were never topped after that. Surrey closed the gap to four points at one stage, having played one more game, and never gave up the chase in finishing with six wins in the last eight games.

Surrey’s own attack was formidable enough, led by Sylvester Clarke – also ignored by West Indies – who claimed 77 wickets and frightened the life out of many batsmen, and Robin Jackman. His 114 Championship wickets – plus another seven in first-class games, all costing less than 14 each – was appropriate reward for a bowler who had slogged through the hard times when he had little support and on moribund Oval pitches, described by Stewart as “going from one superhuman performance to another”.

Although Jackman made the England one-day side, a Test place continued to elude him, although it seemed he might celebrate his 35th birthday a few days late when he was named in the squad for the Centenary Test against Australia at Lord’s. His hopes plunged, though, on checking into the team hotel when the receptionist pointed out his reservation was for just two nights.

The pair off them were assisted by fine work behind the stumps by Jack Richards, claiming 60 dismissals, while Graham Roope’s superb reflexes in the slips earned him 26 catches, Knight claiming 21.

Harry Brind’s programme to relay the square at The Oval was now coming to fruition, new fast and bouncy surfaces breathing new life into Surrey’s cricket in much the same way as Stewart had done on his return as manager a year earlier. “The increase of pace and bounce from the pitches was possibly the most vital ingredient in Surrey’s cricket,” reckoned Stewart.

Three batsmen passed 1000 runs – Knight plus openers Alan Butcher and Grahame Clinton – while Roope just fell short.

Off-spinner Pat Pocock (43), leg-spinner Intikhab Alam (34) and Knight (30) supported the opening pair, Stewart noting that the latter made “giant strides forward both as a player and a captain”.

Although Surrey’s hopes of another trip to Lord’s in the Benson & Hedges Cup – they had lost to Essex in the final in 1979 – were wrecked in the quarter-final by another defeat to Keith Fletcher’s men by 86 runs at Chelmsford, they avenged it in thrilling style seven weeks later in the Gillette Cup.

Northants and Gloucestershire were overcome in the early stages and in the return clash at New Writtle Street opener Clinton’s 58 was the main reason they 195-7 in 60 overs on a pitch encouraging bowlers. Jackman’s 6-32 had destroyed Northants and now he claimed 5-22 to dismantle the Essex top-order. Yet Brian Hardie’s 70 ensured the hosts needed only 11 from five overs with four wickets left, Surrey holding their nerve and the run out of Ray East from the penultimate delivery dismissing their opponents for 195 to claim a win on fewer wickets lost.

That set up a semi-final against Yorkshire at The Oval and John Hampshire’s men were rocked by a ferocious spell by Clarke, who earned a warning for intimidatory bowling in his 4-38 from 11.5 overs.

Manager Stewart recalled: “When we had played up at Hull the previous year, Sylvester was in tears in the dressing room after our Sunday game. He’d suffered racist abuse, including a couple of bananas being thrown at him. He wasn’t going to forget that and Yorkshire suffered for it.”

Dismissed for 135 in poor light, Knight claiming 3-20, Yorkshire did not have the advantage of such helpful conditions when the match spilled over into a second day as Clinton (33) and Monte Lynch (25no) guaranteed a four-wicket win.

The match spilling into a second day also cost Surrey the opportunity to play West Indies in a floodlit match at Stamford Bridge, Essex deputising for them.

A return to Lord’s brought with it a chance to finally get the better of Middlesex, who had inflicted defeats in the other three competitions. It was not to be, though, Surrey being sent in and never managing to break free of an attack in which Mike Selvey’s 12 overs yielded 2-17.

David Smith (50), Roope (35) and Intikhab Alam (34) lifted Surrey to 201 all out but Brearley’s commanding 96no steered Middlesex to an overwhelming seven-wicket victory in company with Roland Butcher (50no).

International matches at The Oval

England v West Indies Test

Tipped to be crushed by Clive Lloyd’s West Indians, the only surprise when the teams arrived for the fourth of five Tests was that England were 1-0 down, although it had more to do with two of them being rain-affected.

Yet Ian Botham’s side held the upper hand until well into the fourth day, Graham Gooch’s rollicking 83 with support from Brian Rose (50) and Geoffrey Boycott (53) taking them to 370 all out. And the tourists were in severe trouble at 105-5 – Lloyd out of the match having torn a hamstring – following a burst from Graham Dilley (4-56).

Two days of heat were terminated by a ferocious thunderstorm which drowned The Oval early just before the Saturday’s play, Faoud Bacchus (61), Malcolm Marshall (45) and Joel Garner (46) narrowing the gap to 105 when the action resumed on Monday. The pressure was back on England as they slumped to 20-4 at the close and at 97-9 with much of the last day left, appearing doomed. But Peter Willey found a staunch partner in last man Bob Willis (24no) to bat more than three hours to reach his maiden Test century and earn a draw at 209-9dec.

England v Australia ODI

With the Centenary Test – celebrating the 100th birthday of the maiden Test in England, which had been played in Kennington – being staged Lord’s, it meant The Oval had to make do with a one-day international against the Australians.

An excellent game saw England inserted and reach 248-6 from their 55 overs, built on an opening stand of 108 between Gooch (54) and Boycott, who went on to make 99 from 159 balls against an attack led by Dennis Lillee (4-35) and including Jeff Thomson and Len Pascoe. The home side included Surrey’s Alan Butcher, who made 14 in his first and only ODI.

In reply, Australia lost Graeme Wood early to Jackman and were in danger of crumbling at 75-5 until a sixth wicket stand of 86 between Kim Hughes (73no) and Rod Marsh (41) but the tourists never got to grips with Mike Hendrick. The seamer had never taken five wickets in an innings in a Test but returned 5-31 from 11 overs to ensure they washed up at 225-8.

The international summer at The Oval included a three-day tour match involving Australia as they warmed up for the Test, Surrey claiming their first win over them since 1956. Alan Butcher’s 88, plus 66 from Geoff Howarth, took the hosts to 338-7dec on the opening day but much off the second was lost to rain. Greg Chappell declared his first innings at 126-5 and Surrey quit at 87-4 to set a target of 300. Jackman made three early breakthroughs and although Marsh’s 56 inspired a fightback, Pocock’s 5-61 finished off the Australians for 240.

And the day before the Centenary Test, The Oval hosted a clash between two teams of veterans. Old England’s 230-5 in 50 overs was built around John Edrich (61) and Ken Barrington (45) on their old home ground, Basil D’Oliveira making 56no. It wasn’t enough, Old Australia winning by seven wickets in the 40th over thanks to Bobby Simpson (75), Keith Stackpole (57no) and Neil Harvey (29no).

What else happened in 1980?

The Rubik’s Cube was launched in January, puzzling and infuriating in turn and giving cricketers something to do during rain breaks for decades to come. Another new arrival, Post-It Notes, ensured many offices were to decorate offices for a generation.

The Iran-Iraq War began, a conflict which would last for a decade. In London terrorists took 26 hostages at the Iranian Embassy, the siege ending six days later when it was stormed by the SAS.

John Lennon was shot dead in New York, aged 40, the first of the legendary Beatles to die.

Zimbabwe was born, black majority rule finally coming to pass as it succeeded the former Rhodesia.

Ronald Reagan was elected the 40th president of the United States, beating one-term incumbent Jimmy Carter.

Spain and the United Kingdom agreed to reopen the border with Gibraltar, shut in 1969.

More than 90,000 steelworkers in the UK launched a national strike, their first since 1926. It was called off three months later with 11,000 jobs lost.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher told the Conservative Party conference that she was “not for turning” despite unemployment having passed two million people and inflation nearing 20%. Labour Party leader James Callaghan, defeated in the previous year’s general election, announced his retirement.

It was Olympic year but the United States boycotted the summer games in Moscow over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. The British Olympic Association overcame opposition from the government to send a team, which returned with gold medals for sprinter Allan Wells, decathlete Daley Thompson, swimmer Duncan Goodhew and middle-distance runners Sebastian Coe (1500m) and Steve Ovett (800m).

England won rugby’s Grand Slam for the first time since 1957, under the captaincy of Bill Beaumont.

Liverpool claimed the Football League title for the 12th time, under manager Bob Paisley. West Ham took the FA Cup, beating Arsenal thanks to a goal from Trevor Brooking. Nottingham Forest retained the European Cup, beating SV Hamburg 1-0.

Bjorn Borg won the Wimbledon men’s title title for the fifth year running, overcoming John McEnroe in a marathon over five sets. Evonne Goolagong Crawley secured the ladies title for the third time, as she saw off Chris Evert Lloyd in straight sets.

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