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The 1984 Championship was not decided until the second last ball of the last over of the last game. Simon Lister interviews the key players
Interviews by Simon Lister
The 1984 Championship was not decided until the second last ball of the last over of the last game. The contenders were Essex and Nottinghamshire. Essex had won their final game against Lancashire in two days. Now all they could do was wait to see what would happen at Taunton. If Somerset were beaten, the title would be heading to Trent Bridge
Richard Ollis (Somerset substitute fielder): I was often 12th man that season and never minded getting on the pitch because it meant you didn't have to run the baths, make the drinks and help with the lunches.
Ollis's captain was Ian Botham. Nottinghamshire had declared 52 runs short of Somerset's firstinnings total of 274. It now looked as if Botham would return the favour.
Pringle: We were all saying, "Botham won't declare; he won't give Nottinghamshire a chance," but he set them a very gettable target. He always enjoyed a good joke on his mates at Essex.
Ollis: I fielded in both innings. When Viv Richards and Joel Garner were in the side, you tended to get on quite often.
Vic Marks (Somerset): Botham made a clever judgement, wanting to keep the game open. I think he also wanted to declare slightly earlier because he couldn't be bothered to have a bat. I was thinking, "We haven't got enough."
Clive Rice (Nottinghamshire captain): Botham said, "I'll give you a chance, I'll set you a target and our spinners will bowl all the way through." Old Skid Marks bowled from one end and the young left-arm spinner Stephen Booth came on from the other.
Marks: I may be making this up but it's possible there could have been a conversation where I said "We need more runs" and Both said something like "Well, you go out there and get them then".
Marks added a few more and Botham did declare. He set Nottinghamshire a target of 297 for the game and title. The time left meant that 60 overs would be bowled. It was a very different finish from the one Essex had just enjoyed, a 10-wicket victory. The trip had featured a memorable contribution from the Lancashire and England batsman Frank Hayes, who was not even playing.
Pringle: We'd being staying at a pub on Portland Street in Manchester and Frank, who had been forced to retire earlier in the season, was desperate to meet up with his great pal Ray East and have a few drinks.
Rice: We had played Sussex in the previous game and their captain, John Barclay, had decided that, because we had beaten them to the Championship in 1981, he was not even going to give us a game. So it ended in a draw. He gave us a pathetic declaration figure. Clearly he still had a chip on his shoulder.
Pringle: Keith Fletcher was having none of it and Ray was told to stay in his room. "You're not going out with that madman Hayes," Fletch kept telling him. Frank did not give up, though, and very late he erected a pile of fire extinguishers outside Ray's door. In the middle of the night they crashed down and sprayed all over the hall.
Marks: Botham was good in those situations because he liked Essex; they were a fun side to play against. But he felt obliged to get the balance right and he did that day. A lot of skippers would have killed the game.
Pringle: The landlord said: "Right. That's it. You lot aren't ever coming here again." Fletch pointed out that it was hardly our fault.
Down in Taunton Botham was true to his word. He and Martin Crowe took the shine off the ball before handing it to the spinners Marks and Booth.
Rice: Botham's target was outstanding. How can you judge it so well?
Marks: Everyone got some tap. It was a frenetic run chase because they had to go for it come what may. I've a feeling I got Derek Randall caught and bowled with a horrible full toss he hit straight back to me.
Chris Broad and Tim Robinson put on 70 as Notts chased down their target. Paul Johnson, Richard Hadlee and Bruce French weighed in with 20s in the middle order. They were giving themselves a chance.
Rice: Hadlee holed out on the boundary. It was a bit controversial because the guy who caught it fell through the advertising boards and in those days I think that was still out. Even so there was all sorts of hoo-hah over the decision because it was such a tight game.
Marks: I got Clive Rice caught for 98, did I? Well, knowing Clive it would not have been a dolly popping up at short leg.
Ollis: I was at long on when I caught Rice. I was just to the left of the old pavilion in front of all the Nottinghamshire fans. They were getting a little bit agitated and Both said to me: "Look, if you get another catch at the death, I shouldn't hang around but leg it straight over to the dressing rooms."
Marks: Ollis was a young batsman and a good goalkeeper and fielder, a good athlete, in fact. One other thing I remember: his father ran a transport business in Frome.
Nottinghamshire continued to hit out bravely but wickets fell. The ask became 79 from 10 overs then 36 from the last three. The Notts No. 10 was Mike Bore, a specialist bowler who would end his playing days with a first-class batting average of 8.24.
Rice: If you knew Mike, then believe me, every run he made was an unexpected bonus. I wasn't daring even to watch. No one was allowed to move inside the dressing room. Everyone stayed in their seats as we got closer and closer.
Mike Bore (Nottinghamshire): If it was pitched on the off stump, I thought, I'll hit it straight. If it's on my legs, I'll sweep it.
His plan was working. He had made 17 before the last over started. Another 14 would mean he would never have to buy a drink in Nottinghamshire again.
Marks: Mike Bore was a Yorkshireman, not renowned for the power of his batting. If he pulled this off, it would have been the innings of his life.
Booth to Bore. The last over of the season. First ball, four. Second ball, four. Third ball, two. Bore: They were calculated slogs. Four needed from three balls. Nine wickets down. Five months of toil and hope compressed into half an over. Bore blocked the next delivery.
Bore: The non-striker and No. 11 Andy Pick came down the track and said, "What did you do that for?" I replied: "It wasn't in the right place."
The next delivery was in the right place. Bore gave it all he had and the ball sailed towards the stands.
Bore: As soon as I hit it, I thought, "That's it, we've won."
Rice: He really got hold of it nicely and, if Ollis doesn't grab it, it's six and we win.
Ollis: It came over and I caught it 10 feet in from the boundary, just above my head.
Marks: He took a good catch. Another few feet and the hit would have gone for six.
It was all over. Notts had lost by three runs and the title belonged to Essex.
Rice: So we'd gone the whole season and we end up with a one-ball-hit to decide the Championship. It was really tough. We'd been fighting for the title and it came down to this. How depressed could you get? Afterwards, well it was shocking. All that hard work and that's how it finishes.
Ollis: Winning the match didn't make a great deal of difference to our position in the Championship, so it was sad for Notts. For me as a young lad it was a chance to pick up a win bonus.
Bore: We were stunned. We got in the car and I don't think we spoke a word until we were well past Gloucester. No matter how many times I lie in bed and replay that ball I never score those four runs.
In the President's room at Chelmsford the cheers rang around.
Pringle: We had a very strong side. Norbert Phillip and Ken McEwan were fine overseas players and everyone in the team knew what their roles were. It was a great dressing room - a lot of fun - but we would turn it on when we went on to the pitch. Keith Fletcher was the best captain I played under.
Rice: Whoever Upstairs mapped this game out hellishly well.
Ollis: The next season I was picked for the game against Essex and John Lever did me for a duck. As I walked off Derek Pringle said with a smile: "That's no way to treat the man who won us the title."
This article was first published in the October 2006 issue of The Wisden Cricketer.
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© The Wisden Cricketer
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