History

A brief history of Worcestershire

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Formed 1865
First-class debut 1899
Admitted to Championship1899
County Championship 1964, 1965, 1974, 1988, 1989, 2003 (Div Two)
Gillette/NatWest/C&G 1994
Benson & Hedges 1991
Sunday League 1971, 1987, 1988
Twenty20 Best - Quarter-finals 2004

Worcestershire County Cricket Club was formed officially at The Star Hotel, Worcester, on the 4th March 1865.

There had in fact been clubs representing Worcestershire on the cricket field prior to 1865. In the 1840s a Worcestershire team played a Shropshire team at Hartlebury Common - and were beaten, and at around the same time XXII of Worcestershire played William Clarke's All-England XI at Powick Hams.

During the period from its official formation in 1865 the club undertook a number of fixtures but few of them we would recognise today as being major county matches. Towards the end of the century there became associated with the county a man by the name of Paul Foley. He was from a family of iron masters in Stourbridge, and he also owned an agricultural estate at Stoke Edith in Herefordshire (the estate is still run by one of his successors).

Paul Foley clearly had great ambition for the county and he established, with others, the Minor Counties Championship which Worcestershire won in 1895 (tieing with Norfolk), 1896, 1897 and 1898. So, emboldened by their success the county applied for first-class status. This meant it had to gain fixtures against six of the other first-class counties. These fixtures were arranged, although Sussex required a guarantee for their away match with Worcestershire as well as for their home match.

The county at that time was playing its home matches at Boughton Park, but Foley felt that with first-class status a new ground was required, so he rented from the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral three sheep fields, and brought in a young groundsman, Fred Hunt, who proceeded to turn the sheep pasture into the cricket ground now known as New Road.

Important to Worcestershire's success in those days was the presence of the Foster Family in the team. Seven sons of the Reverend Harry Foster, House Master at Malvern College, all played for the county at various times. H.K. was the first-ever captain of the county and his was an immense contribution. His partnership with Paul Foley was very decisive in the establishment of Worcestershire as a first-class county. His brother, R.E.("Tip") was perhaps the most gifted of the brotherhood. Tip played for England (as an amateur) at soccer and also played for England in Test matches.

The early years for Worcestershire were something of a struggle as the county sought to establish itself as a first-class county and its only success (or near success) came in 1907 when the county came second in the County Championship.

The 1912 season was deplorable in terms of results with the county winning only one of its Championship matches and although its cricket fortunes improved in the following season it was during the 1913 season that the club's finances plummeted. There was a move, for financial reasons, to wind-up the club in the middle of the season and only a public appeal headed by Lord Cobham, Lord Dudley, Lord Plymouth and Judge Amphlett headed off that potential early demise of the county. The investigation of the club's financial health indicated that the club had lost money in every year since it had gained first-class status. It became apparent also that Paul Foley, for many of those years, had underwritten the loss himself.

Among the first-class counties Worcestershire could be regarded as one of the smallest, if one thinks in terms of the population it serves and the geographical area it serves, but they prefer not to see themselves in such a light.

In addition to names previously mentioned New Road has been graced by the talents of Tom Graveney, Ian Botham, Graham Dilley, Jack Flavell, Kapil Dev, Glenn Turner, Basil D'Oliveira, Tom Moody, Graeme Hick, and fleetingly Glenn McGrath.

Before World War Two Worcestershire were never really competitive in the County Championship. Since then, they have enjoyed two golden periods in their history, the first under the captaincy of Don Kenyon when they won back-to-back Championships in 1964 and 1965, and finished runners-up in 1966. The second was in the late eighties, when, with the backing of Duncan Fearnley the county signed Dilley from Kent and Botham from Somerset, adding them to a talented team including a young Hick , and again won back-to back-titles in 1988 and 1989. Since then success has been sparse, with a Nat West trophy in 1994 their only major triumph in recent times.

The bulk of this text is taken from the Worcestershire CCC website.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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