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Snow stopped play

A look back at one of the hottest English summers on record... when snow stopped play in June

Martin Williamson

May 22, 2010

Comments: 10 | Text size: A | A

Snow stopped play in the match between Derbyshire and Lancashire, Buxton, June 2, 1975
The remarkable scene as snow covers the ground at Buxton on the morning of June 2, 1975 © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

While the summer of 1976 has gone down in folklore as the hottest since records began in Britain, what is largely forgotten is that the previous year was almost as hot, with averages temperatures breaking all records. The inaugural World Cup, held during the second and third weeks of June, took place in permanent sunshine. And yet in the week before the opening matches, there was every reason to fear the British weather would tarnish the tournament.

After a warm weekend, the Monday dawned with a bitter wind sweeping across the country. As counties arrived to resume their Championship matches, the prospects of play seemed slight.

The most remarkable events came at Buxton - England's highest town - where Derbyshire were playing Lancashire. What ought to have been an ordinary and low-key day made the front pages of many of the following morning's newspapers.

On the Saturday, Lancashire had raced to 477 for 5 - a big score now, an almost unbelievable one by the standards of the day - before reducing the home side to 25 for 2 by the close. A large crowd, many shirtless, ate ice-cream and sheltered from the fierce sunshine.

Shortly after the teams and umpires arrived at Buxton on the Monday, it started to rain. Within minutes rain had turned to hail and then snow. After a few minutes the ground resembled a Christmas card.

It was almost inevitable one of the umpires was Dickie Bird. "When I went out to inspect the wicket, the snow was level with the top of my boots. I'd never seen anything like it," he recalled. Play was abandoned immediately.

Clive Lloyd, who had hit a big hundred for Lancashire two days earlier, was equally bemused, but that did not stop him scooping up and handful of snow and hurling it at the county's Indian wicketkeeper, Farokh Engineer.

Bob Taylor, the Derbyshire and England wicketkeeper, and team-mates Geoff Miller and Keith Stevenson, ambled to the bowling club next door to see what was happening there. An attempt to play a game ended within minutes when the bowls gathered snow as soon as they had been played.

There was also snow at Colchester but Essex and Kent managed two hours of cricket in wretchedly cold conditions.

At Buxton, the teams returned on the Tuesday and Derbyshire were horrified to be told by Bird that play could start on time. "It were a lovely day," he said. "Don't forget, we had uncovered pitches in those days." While the pitch looked just about fit, it was actually rock hard under a damp skin. Within two overs it was clear to all the day was about self preservation as the ball lifted and seamed viciously and totally unpredictably. "It was a vicious, drying pitch," lamented the Derbyshire yearbook. "No side on earth could have survived against a fast attack and a rearing ball."

Derbyshire were bowled out for 42 in a little over an hour, although they were a man light as 18-year-old Mick Glen was absent with a stomach upset.

There was a rather surreal moment when Ashley Harvey-Walker was batting and his turn came to face seamer Peter Lee. "He took out his false teeth, wrapped them in a handkerchief and asked me to look after them," Bird recalled. "He said not to worry because he wouldn't be in for long. I'm glad to say he collected his teeth three balls later."

Following-on, Derbyshire fared little better, making 87 to crash to their heaviest defeat of the century - an innings and 348 runs. Fast bowler Peter Lever, who earlier in the year had been involved in the incident where New Zealand's No. 11 almost died when struck by a bouncer from him - was reluctant to bowl and did not come on until Derbyshire were 60 for 3. Despite refusing to bowl at anything more than medium pace he took 5 for 12 in 22 deliveries. The game was finished by 3.20pm.

Exactly a week later the Daily Mail sent a reporter back to Buxton to find a different scene - the temperature had soared from 36 degrees to 75 degrees and "spectators stripped to the waist in the sunshine".

Two months later, after weeks of unbroken sunshine, the fourth day of the second Test between England and Australia set a new record for the hottest day at a Lord's Test, as the thermometer reached 93 degrees. It was also notable for the famous streaker.

Is there an incident from the past you would like to know more about? Email us with your comments and suggestions.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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Posted by knowledge_eater on (June 8, 2010, 0:55 GMT)

I have played on snow with Taped ball. True story. And in the country where people will never imagine Cricket there. 5 over match. Opposition scored 15 runs, because obviously hard to play. I scored 8 runs chasing. Two 4's. Won the match. Because we were so damn craving for Cricket. We decided to challenge Mother Nature. It wasn't pretty. Thats why. For all cricket individuals. It is our Human Duty to respect nature more than any other sports. Not even soccer, since they continue match even when its raining. We can't sadly. My take from this article: Let's not take everything for granted, enjoy it while we can. Cheers Peace

Posted by uknsaunders on (June 6, 2010, 21:50 GMT)

I remember a similar situation one April in the late 80's. One Friday in late April it was 75 degrees, by Monday it was snowing and then the following Friday it was back to 75 degrees and Sunny. Altitude in the UK does have a habit of turning rain to snow, especially if the normal South Westerly wind turns to the North.

Posted by   on (June 6, 2010, 11:55 GMT)

I was at school in Cambridgeshire and remember seeing big fat flakes floating down in the afternoon, all the kids ran out of the classrooms to see it as if we'd never seen snow before. Thanks for this article

Posted by CricketisMyPassion on (June 6, 2010, 11:08 GMT)

One can understand why Peter Lever was so reluctant to bowl after the New Zealand incident in which his bouncer almost killed the NZ no.11 Ewen Chatfield.

If I recall right, Peter quit cricket for a while after that traumatic incident.

Posted by george204 on (June 6, 2010, 6:45 GMT)

Yes, it seems amazing that there was snow in June, but the key is in the third paragraph: "England's highest town". Buxton is around 1000ft above sea level - it's perfectly plausible, normal even, for weather to turn rapidly & unseasonally in the mountains.

Incidents like this provide the perfect case against uncovered pitches - through sheer bad luck Derbyshire were caught out on a minefield & had no chance. Not only was the wicket unplayable, it was dangerous. Can you imagine some of today's pace bowlers holding back like Peter Lever did?

Posted by azaro on (June 5, 2010, 20:30 GMT)

I remember this day well...I lived in Zambia then and everytime I flew back to England it would rain on my arrival and so I got the reputation as being trhe bearer of inclement weather every vist. I , of course, cemented my reputation by arriving on the flight from Zambia on this very day!

Posted by rko_rules on (June 5, 2010, 20:28 GMT)

Its lovely article and such a great pleasure to know all those great stories of the past of the great game 'Cricket'. Ian Chappell use to tell these type of stories or the incidents of the past in his commentary. I was born in 1985, but i m always interested in this kind of stuff. One request here i want to make, can someone post fast bowling incidents or miracles of the past, like here in this article, its mentioned about Peter Lever almost killed NZ no 11 batsman. With WI and Australia having such deadly fast bowling line up in the 80s and 90s and there were no helmets, there would surely be some incidents to tell....

Posted by   on (June 5, 2010, 19:35 GMT)

Wow, if there are more pictures from this game, please put them on cricinfo. Thanx.

Posted by lucyferr on (June 5, 2010, 17:26 GMT)

I had to check the date to see if it was April 1 - snow? In England? In June? You cannot be serious. Did the island switch hemispheres that year or what?

Me loves this column... Test cricket is lovely to read about as long as you don't have to actually watch it...

Posted by siva87 on (June 5, 2010, 9:32 GMT)

A good one.This is the first time I am reading,"Rewind to".I hope I will read the upcoming articles.

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Martin WilliamsonClose
Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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