Match from the Day

Shepherd, Majid and Glamorgan leave Gloucestershire second-best again

Glamorgan went unbeaten through the 1969 Championship as they steadily chased down their rivals

Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards
Majid Khan in his Glamorgan days  •  PA Photos

Majid Khan in his Glamorgan days  •  PA Photos

Cardiff, July 22, 1969
Glamorgan 337 (Majid 65, Cordle 54, Nash 52, Lewis 50; Smith 4-69, Brown 3-55, Allen 3-64) and 143 for 6 decl. (Lewis 62; Procter 4-13) beat Gloucestershire 117 (Cordle 6-21) and 155 (Williams 5-30) by 208 runs
Cheltenham, August 14, 1969
Glamorgan 283 (Majid 69, Davis 67; Procter 4-63, Mortimore 3-61) beat Gloucestershire 73 (Nash 6-37) and 160 (Allen 52; Walker 3-41) by an innings and 50 runs
In the early years of this century the best cabaret in the kingdom was David Green's performance in a county press box. Unencumbered by a need to tweet or blog, not that he would have obeyed any injunction to do so, the former Lancashire and Gloucestershire batsman would stroll around the room during a morning's play, reminiscing about his days as a professional and occasionally commenting on the efforts of his new colleagues. "Ah, I see Edwards is attempting to win the Booker Prize before lunch," was one observation that amused most occupants of the box at Old Trafford.
Rain allowed Green even greater freedom. He would make a series of phone calls, sometimes to berate sub-editors and occasionally to suggest to bank managers that, judging by their investment decisions, he would have been better off leaving his money in the mattress. Cold callers were never so foolish as to ring again. Old players were recalled, assessed and sometimes mocked, although rarely without affection. Anecdotes were told that can never appear in any cricket book. When Green's copy appeared in the next morning's Daily Telegraph it would be accurate, perceptive and exactly the right length, but it would reflect none of this burlesque. On the other hand, it had plainly been written by a former cricketer and it was intriguing to discover that its author had played in the side that fought a mighty battle with Glamorgan for 1969 County Championship. Yet we never asked Greeny about the season his team nearly brought the pennant back to Bristol for the first time in Gloucestershire's history.
Hindsight suggests we are stretching things a little. Glamorgan won the County Championship in 1969 and their 31-point margin over Tony Brown's second-placed team appears substantial. They won their two matches against Gloucestershire very comfortably: by 208 runs at Cardiff in July and an innings and 50 at Cheltenham in August. Twenty years later Green was to write a history of Gloucestershire cricket and his judgement remained clear-eyed: "Nor could there be any complaint about this [Glamorgan's title] in terms of weather, injuries or anything else, for on the two occasions the sides had been opposed Glamorgan's superiority had been overwhelming."
So Gloucestershire finished runners-up for the fifth time in their history. (They managed the same trick when Essex won the Championship in 1986 and have thus sprinkled their six second places across five decades. By contrast, Somerset, one of the two other teams never to have won the title, have been the bridesmaids in half a dozen Septembers since 2001.) The celebrations stretched deep into winter in the principality, for no one thought Glamorgan fortunate to be champions. In Alan Jones, Majid Khan and the skipper, Tony Lewis, the Welsh side possessed three batsmen all of whom scored well over a thousand runs. The bowling attack was almost perfectly balanced with the spin of Don Shepherd and Peter Walker backing up the fire of Lawrence Williams and Tony Cordle and the medium pace of Malcolm Nash. Just as significant was the close catching of Walker, Majid, Roger Davis and Bryan Davis, a quartet fit to rank with any in the Wilf Wooller era. "It had become increasingly obvious in 1968 that Lewis's team were finally fulfilling their potential after several years of rebuilding," wrote Andrew Hignell in his centenary history, "and there was a growing belief that a Championship-winning team was taking shape."
All the same, any such conviction may have appeared fragile midway through July, by which time Gloucestershire had established a 52-point lead at the top of the table. Though the leaders' batting that season was relatively unimpressive - no batsman contributed more than Ron Nicholls' 1173 runs - Brown's attack possessed two spinners in David Allen and John Mortimore who regularly made the most of turning wickets. Moreover, the new ball was taken by Mike Procter, a hulking but coltish 22-year-old, whose 103 wickets in 1969 were a testament to raw pace and a terrifying run-up. "His bowling was, at first, tearaway fast," Green wrote, "with an odd chest-on delivery, the pace coming from a swift and athletic approach and a great heave off a powerful right shoulder at the end of a whirling double-overarm action." The result of Procter's fury, the spinners' subtleties and Brown's shrewd leadership was that Gloucestershire travelled to Cardiff on July 18 having won seven and lost only one of their 12 games.
But there were another 12 games to play and that lead was less formidable than it might seem from a 21st century perspective. In 1969 there were five bowling bonus points available plus one batting point for every 25 runs a team scored above 150. Such points could only be gained in the first 85 overs of the first innings but once they were added to the ten gained for a win, it was plain that Gloucestershire's advantage could be erased in a couple of matches. And when the teams met at Sophia Gardens Glamorgan were undefeated and had two games in hand…
On the first day the home batsmen compiled a very respectable 337, four batsmen making fifties. On the second Cordle was brought on second change when the score was 78 for 2 but took 6 for 21 in 12.2 overs as Gloucestershire replied with 117. Wisden called their batting "feeble". Lewis declined to enforce the follow-on, instead allowing Majid to make his second half-century of the match and challenging the visitors to score 364 in six hours. They were put out for 155, Williams bagging 5 for 30.
It was a watershed in the summer although it did not determine the destiny of the title. Before the leaders met again, Glamorgan would win two of their four games while Gloucestershire would have to wait three weeks for their next win, an innings victory over Worcestershire at Cheltenham keeping them at the top of the table.
But any thought that the College Ground would fully restore the home side's fortunes in its usual fashion had been abandoned within a few hours of the start of the next match. Gloucestershire were swept away for 73 in 40.2 overs and Glamorgan's 283 in reply set up a victory that was completed ten minutes into extra time on the second evening.
"The game was lost before lunch on the first day," wrote Grahame Parker in Gloucestershire Road. "A psychological paralysis had gripped the leading batsmen but the sum of their collective experience should have carried them through. For too long they had been looking over their shoulders at Glamorgan on the charge behind them."
Eight days later Lewis's players were the ones looking back at the rest and it did not disturb their mental equilibrium in the slightest. They retained their nerve sufficiently to beat Essex by just one run at Swansea in early September, Ossie Wheatley's flat throw running out John Lever off the last possible ball of the game after Lewis had challenged the visitors to score 190 in two hours. Around 12,000 spectators watched the thrilling conclusion to the game at St Helen's and many of them were also present at Cardiff the following morning for the match against Worcestershire. Among them was Wisden's correspondent, JH Morgan.
"Glamorgan entered their last home game happy in the knowledge that if they won they were virtual champions with an unassailable lead," he reported. "And win they did. Sophia Gardens broke out in pandemonium and the celebrations ran well into the evening… It was not only a great day for Glamorgan but also for Don Shepherd, who took his 2000th wicket in first-class cricket."
It was not quite so straightforward but neither was batting as trouble-free a pastime as Majid had made it look in Glamorgan's first innings when he conjured 156 runs out of a total of 265. "The pitch was dry and breaking up," Lewis wrote. "Only three others made it to double figures. I still see him gliding down the pitch to meet Norman Gifford's spinners. Time and again I expected to see him stranded but the Worcestershire captain, Tom Graveney, in the end had to reinforce his cover field with two fast runners on the boundary."
All five of Lewis' bowlers took wickets in Worcestershire's two innings and nine catches were taken at either slip or short leg as the victory was sealed by 147 runs. For the first time in the county's history Glamorgan had won the title in Wales. A draw against Surrey at The Oval would see them finish the season unbeaten. Gloucestershire lost six of their 24 matches and are still waiting for their first Championship.
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Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications