November 1983

Floodlit North-East

Chris Dixon

The Pyjama Game came to the County Ground, Jesmond, Newcastle, in September, when the NatWest Trophy winners, Somerset, met a Northumberland Invitation XI in the North-East's first floodlit fixture.

The match, played under John Player League rules, was part of Somerset skipper Brian Rose's benefit year. It was sponsored by Dry Blackthorn Cider, and Somerset included Test stars Botham, Richards, Garner and Marks.

A crowd of over 2500 packed tightly into the county ground, and there were black sightscreens, a white ball, coloured pads, and the umpires sported a nice line in brown coats. The floodlights, four sets of panelled lights, were suspended by 85ft cranes, and there was an air of anticipation as everyone waited for the 'Northern Lights' to flicker into action.

For the visitors, Roebuck and Denning raced to an opening stand of 70 before 'Dasher' departed. But Roebuck strode impressively on. Even the swift exits of Richards for 12 and Botham 33, to the obvious disappointment of the crowd, were soon forgotten as Roebuck reached a splendid 106 (three sixes, 13 fours), Somerset eventually totalling 251 for 8.

During the break a specially-imported calypso steel band 'beat out that rhythm on the drum'.

Northumberland were 102 for 1 from 24 overs (Halliday 65 not out) when the rain, no respecter of this historic occasion, poured down and the match was abandoned. In the warmth of the pavilion, reviving glasses of cider in their hands, the local players reflected on their first experience of floodlit cricket:

"Absolutely tremendous. The ball comes onto you a lot quicker; it doesn't swing very much." All agreed how exciting and enjoyable it had been. Brian Rose declared himself to be "very impressed with the set-up". Somerset won the match on a faster scoring rate. But the result wasn't really important.