OId Trafford, May 1-2, 1963
Lancashire 304 for 9 (Marner 121, Grieves 57, Booth 50; Pratt 3-75) beat Leicestershire 203 (Hallam 106; Statham 5-28, Marner 3-49) by 101 runs
Hove, June 12, 1963
Sussex 292 (Parks 90, Langridge 56; Nicholson 3-84) beat Yorkshire 270 (Boycott 70; Thomson 3-52, Bates 3-76) by 22 runs
Lord's, September 7, 1963
Sussex 168 (Parks 57; Gifford 4-33) beat Worcestershire 154 (Snow 3-13) by 14 runs
Sexual intercourse did not begin in 1963, as Philip Larkin well knew. That was partly his point in the poem "Annus Mirabilis." However, a "new Knock-Out competition", as Wisden primly described it, did get under way that summer and it pounded to a sweaty climax on the first Saturday in September, when Sussex beat Worcestershire by 14 runs at Lord's. The final ended in twilight and there was heavy drizzle falling when Bob Carter was run out for 2 with only ten balls left in the match. Carter's team had needed just 169 in 65 overs but Tony Buss's 3 for 39 in his 15-over allotment had removed both openers and shown how testing batting would continue to be on the damp pitch. Then the three late wickets taken by the callow 21-year-old fast bowler John Snow
had appeared decisive before Roy Booth's hitting forced Ted Dexter
, the Sussex captain, to put all his men on the boundary. As revolutions go, it might not seem much to write home about, but that is often the way of it in England. We don't storm Bastilles; we start a new cricket competition with odd rules and celebrate with a cup of Earl Grey.
Some readers might query how far-reaching the changes were. What was this malarkey about 65 overs, all the men on the boundary and a 15-over allotment? And surely not even Psalm 55's raging wind and tempest could prevent a side overhauling 168 at only 2.6 runs an over. The answer, of course, is that you had to watch cricket nearly 60 years ago to see how difficult it was for players who had only known three-day championship cricket to adapt to the new competition. One or two counties barely tried; they thought the thing beneath their professional dignity.
Sussex succeeded and won their first ever trophy because the whole affair appealed to Dexter, whose raffish unorthodoxy rather reflected the atmosphere in Brighton on a lively Saturday evening. The Sussex skipper thought about the tactics that might be required in a match where 170 for 9 would always beat 165 for 3 and instructed his attack accordingly, although even those directives sound quaint today: "As for the bowlers I asked nothing more of them than to bowl every ball to hit the stumps. Wide on the off side was a no-no. Short of a length with the ball going over the top was a no-no. Up and straight allowed me to set fielders according to the strengths and weaknesses of all the different batsmen."
Snow, who was playing his first limited-overs match, followed those instructions fairly precisely, castling both Doug Slade and Norman Gifford as the evening faded into murk. But the vital wicket of Tom Graveney had been taken much earlier when Ron Headley had been tied down by Alan Oakman's off-spin and a frustrated Graveney had holed out to Dexter at long-on off Oakman, who finished the match with figures of 1 for 17 from 13 overs. Yes, it was a foreign country.
Yet if much of this looks very strange and staid when viewed from our momentary modernity, one-day, knock-out cricket was plainly an appealing novelty to many of the game's supporters in 1963. A brief glance at the structure of the previous season suggests why this was so. In 1962 Yorkshire won the County Championship and were one of eight counties to play 32 three-day matches; the other nine played 28 and the title was decided on average points per game. There were no other competitions of any note at all in the English summer, nor had there ever been. However, Yorkshire also played first-class matches against MCC (twice), the ancient universities and the Pakistan tourists, whose own 35-match programme had begun at Arundel on April 28 and ended in Sunderland on September 10, three weeks after the end of the final Test at The Oval.
Now much of this cricket was of very high quality and many games were well-attended, but they did not pay the bills. Since this was England a series of committees had been set up over the previous decade to investigate the situation and by the early 1960s it was discovered that the counties' expenditure was exceeding normal cricket income by an average of £120,000 a year. The new competition was, in part, an attempt to deal with this shortfall by staging games that could be finished in a day and in which the number of runs scored was the sole determinant of victory. What was more, the competition was to be sponsored by Gillette, whose name the 1964 Wisden could not steel itself to print. The shaving company underwrote the competition with £6,500, with £50 (about £900 now) going to the man of the match in each game and £1889 (£33,500) to the winners. But even in the year following the abolition of the distinction between amateurs and professionals, much of the old authority remained. Earlier in the week of the final the Sussex players had been told by the Club secretary, Lt. Col. George Grimston, that he would be trousering the prize money as the county needed the cash. In fairness, it probably did. Dexter's men received a bonus in their salary instead.
The revolution appeared a relatively modest affair. The Gillette Cup would comprise only 16 matches, with a preliminary game reducing the 17 first-class counties by one and a straight knockout format being followed thereafter. Peter Marner became the competition's first centurion and followed his 121 against Leicestershire with 3 for 49 to win the man-of-the-match award and a gold medal, which was presented to him by Frank Woolley on the Old Trafford outfield. Marner may have appreciated the fifty quid even more; this was still an era in which some professional cricketers travelled to their work by public transport.
Most of those 16 matches in 1963 resulted in relatively comfortable victories. Eleven were won by the side batting first and only three of those by a margin of fewer than 20 runs. It was hardly surprising that teams had yet to master the intricacies of an over-limit run-chase. On the other hand, setting a target was proved tricky as well. The biggest total chased down was the 159 Yorkshire overhauled in 55 overs to beat Nottinghamshire in the first round at Acklam Park, Middlesbrough. Fred Trueman made 21 batting at No. 4 in that game but Brian Close forsook such off-the-wall antics when he took his side to Hove for the quarter-final, a game which encapsulated all that was vibrant and successful about the new format.
"While talking to the Lancashire players earlier in the season about how they would approach the game, they said that first of all they would go to Raymond's Revue Bar in Soho"
There were 15,000 people crammed into the County Ground when Close chose to field first, his decision perhaps influenced by the sea-mists which drifted in throughout the day. Jim Parks, though, saw matters with perfect clarity and made 90 in his side's 292 all out in 64 overs. Trueman finished with none for 40 from 14 and Tony Nicholson, one of the most highly regarded seamers on the circuit, went for 84 runs in 15 overs, in one of which Parks twice smacked him over the covers for six. The new format was proving a midwife to innovation.
But Yorkshire were not out of it. Struggling at one stage on 100 for 5, they were rescued by Geoff Boycott
, who batted superbly for 71 before being run out when trying to keep the strike. Some might think both the innings and its ending in Boycott's first List A game offered a pithy portent of his whole career but Ian Thomson's hard, flat throw from third man was a tiny sign of the improvement in fielding that one-day cricket would bring. Sussex got home by 22 runs and there is a photograph of Parks being presented with his medal by Alec Bedser. Another wave of mist is covering the ground.
So to Lord's and the first of the September occasions that were to become a poignant highlight of every summer. For those watching on television, the Gillette Final always marked the end of summer's lease. In later years some teams would prepare for such occasions by getting an early night but such strictures were not in place in 1963.
"While talking to the Lancashire players earlier in the season about how they would approach the game, they said that first of all they would go to Raymond's Revue Bar in Soho," recalled Oakman. "Don Bates, Ken Suttle and I agreed…and we were watching the show when a half-naked dancer walked up the aisle with a large snake hanging round her neck. She stopped by Don Bates and asked if he would like to stroke it. He nearly passed out."
Next morning there were 25,000 spectators in Lord's, one of them the nine-year-old future Sussex captain, Johnny Barclay. The banners and favours appalled some MCC members but when the Daily Mirror's chief sports writer, Peter Wilson reported on the match he marvelled that "Lord's, the temple of tradition" could have become "a reasonable replica of Wembley…a sell-out with rosettes, singing, cheers, jeers and counter-cheers. This triumphant sporting experiment… may not have been cricket to the purists but by golly it was just the stuff the doctor ordered."
Whatever some thought, there was no going back. Perhaps the patient became a trifle addicted to their medicine but by 1972 there was another one-day competition, the Benson and Hedges Cup, and the 40-over John Player Sunday League. Captains learned the value of spinners, fielding regulations prevented blanket defence of boundaries, the revolution gathered pace. And it may be that the wheel is still in spin but those who seek to saturate cricket with such matches might remember Dexter's observation in 2013 that Sussex's Gillette Cup victories in 1963 and 1964 "were as nothing compared to the three Championship wins in five years". Perhaps Ted was being a shade hard on himself but it's important to note the trophies the players prize most highly. "Sweet moderation / Heart of this nation" observes Billy Bragg in one of his finest songs. Damn right.
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Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications