A brief history of Leicestershire

Sam Collins

Formed 1879
First-class debut 1894
Admitted to Championship1895
County Championship 1975, 1996, 1998
Gillette/NatWest/C&G Best- Runners-up 1992, 2001
Benson & Hedges 1972, 1975, 1985
Sunday League 1974, 1977
Twenty20 2004, 2006

Cricket in Leicestershire can be traced back as far as 1776, when a notice in the Leicester journal of August 17 made reference to the game. The Leicestershire and Rutland Cricket Club was prominent from 1781, and played several matches between then and the beginning of the 19th Century that are now considered to be first-class. Leicestershire CCC as we know it was not created until 1879, and they made their first-class debut against Essex in 1894. With Warwickshire both these teams were admitted to the County Championship in 1895.

Much of their early history was spent mired in the lower reaches of the table, and it was not until 1953, when they finished third under Charles Palmer, that the county mounted a creditable Championship challenge. This proved something of a false dawn as the county returned to the bottom half of the table. Change was needed, and it came in the form of Tony Lock, the former England off-spinner who captained the team to second place in 1967. Ray Illingworth joined the club from Yorkshire soon after and it was under his captaincy that they won their first County Championship in 1975, the middle of an impressive decade in which the county never finished lower than 9th position.

The 1990s were a golden era for Leicestershire, as they claimed the title twice in three years, in 1996 and 1998 under the captaincy of James Whitaker. After Whitaker's retirement in 1999 the club fell away again but re-emerged as a force in one-day cricket early in the next millennium, winning the Twenty20 Cup in 2004 and 2006.

Sam Collins is a freelance journalist based in London