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Five decades of hit and giggle

The one-day game in county cricket is unrecognisable from 1963, when it first appeared. A look at 50 years of evolution

Tanya Aldred
Tanya Aldred
Back where it all began: Ted Dexter is caught in the 1963 Gillette Cup final  •  Playfair Cricket Monthly

Back where it all began: Ted Dexter is caught in the 1963 Gillette Cup final  •  Playfair Cricket Monthly

The cricketer of 1963 wore a woolly jumper, collected his wages in old money, and tidied his short hair to the side with a neat parting. But he was also a revolutionary. On May 1 - a year after the experimental four-county Midlands Knock-Out Cup - Lancashire and Leicestershire stepped out for the first match of the Gillette Cup at Old Trafford. It rained, and the one-day game had to be finished on day two, with Lancashire winning by 101 runs and Brian Statham taking five for 28. But something had changed for ever: that September, 23,000 attended the first Lord's final, where Sussex squeezed out Worcestershire.
Fifty years later, domestic one-day cricket has pulled on a bewildering number of costumes: 65 overs, 60, 55, 50, 45, 40 and 20. There have been coloured clothes, floodlights, pinch-hitters, Jacuzzis and miked-up fielders. Revitalised, endangered, usually a muddle, it has given immense pleasure.
Five men who loved playing it share their memories here, one from each decade. Norman Gifford, now back as Worcestershire's spin-bowling coach, is lyrical about the 1960s; David Hughes clever on Lancashire's golden 1970s; Clive Radley modest about Middlesex in the 1980s; and Paul Smith idiosyncratic on Warwickshire's dominance of the 1990s. Jeremy Snape completes the story as he recalls his time at Gloucestershire and Leicestershire.
The 1960s - Norman Gifford
When the Gillette Cup started, we just played it like a normal three-day game, with three slips and a gully. Worcester had a strong side, and it wasn't until we reached the final that we came up against a team doing anything different. The Sussex captain Ted Dexter would put some thought into who he wanted to bowl, and what field he was after. It was a bit of a shock: for someone of his stature to do that was significant.
Being at Lord's for that first final was a tremendous experience. For those of us who hadn't played Test cricket, it was a completely new experience: there weren't many watching the Championship in the 1960s. I was Man of the Match, even though we lost, and picked up a gold medallion.
During the decade, totals got bigger, and the game evolved. Batsmen became more inventive. When it started, they valued their wickets above all. The need to get runs on the board was foreign to them - they had demons to overcome. Similarly, line-and-length bowlers found it difficult. People assumed medium-pacers and fast bowlers would be the most effective, but it soon became clear we spinners were important too.
People remember the '60s as a dull time for Championship cricket, although for us - winners in 1964 and '65 - it was exciting. But for sides at the bottom it could be run-of-the-mill. The one-day stuff suddenly gave them an opportunity to win something.
Standards of fitness are far greater now, but the equipment is better too. The boots for the quick bowlers used to be heavy and awkward, and the bats smaller. We certainly weren't acrobats. When the 40-overs John Player League was introduced in 1969, it was viewed by players as Twenty20 was in 2003.
But I loved all the one-day competitions, and wouldn't have played as long as I did without them. I went to five finals - but lost all bloody five!
Gifford played for Worcestershire and Warwickshire between 1960 and 1988. He took four for 33 against Sussex in the first Gillette Cup final.
The 1970s - David Hughes
A lot of our guys had come out of the Lancashire and Yorkshire leagues, which were real cut-throat jobs, so we were steeled in one-day cricket. Most of our pre-season training involved visits to RAF Sealand in north Wales, and the instructors used to put us through it.
We had lots of all-rounders, whereas many counties were picking the teams they had done in the 1960s, full of specialists. The quality of our fielding kept us apart: we didn't carry anyone, we all had strong arms, and we were quick. We won a lot of games by saving runs. And in Farokh Engineer and Clive Lloyd we had two of the best overseas players in the business.
Under Jack Bond's captaincy we won five one-day trophies, including a hat-trick of Gillette Cups from 1970. We had huge crowds - maybe 25,000 - for most of our games. Other teams were getting 5,000, and some were intimidated by the Old Trafford atmosphere. Lancastrians can be a noisy bunch.
We were one of the few sides that looked in depth at who we were up against, where they scored their runs, what sort of bowling they had. We didn't have the technology, but we did have a great camaraderie with the umpires, and we used them to find out what other pitches were like, who didn't fancy the short ball, and so on. One of the first things Jack introduced was a lengthy team sit-down to discuss the opposition.
Jack retired in 1972, and David Lloyd took us to three successive finals in 1974 - 76. Half of that great team then retired, and we never really recovered. But we were there at the beginning of tactics in one-day cricket. Mind you, we didn't have all the background staff they have now. We always had trainers, a doctor and a physio, but no one for the mind. We didn't need people telling us what great players we were.
The 1971 semi-final against Gloucestershire is one of my most precious memories. The nine o'clock news was postponed, and it was really dark. In fact, the more I talk about it, the darker it gets! There were 25,000 people there: our late chairman Cedric Rhoades took the sightscreens out to fit in more spectators, and the kids on the grass pushed the rope in. It was such a dramatic climax.
Hughes played for Lancashire between 1967 and 1991. He hit 24 in an over from off-spinner John Mortimore to win that 1971 Gillette Cup semi-final.
The 1980s - Clive Radley
We were a little bit ahead of our time in one-day cricket, without really knowing it. But it certainly wasn't through any deep thinking about the game. Mike Brearley preferred to cajole - or possibly bollock - players on an individual basis. He was less formulaic than those who had gone before. Don't give him too much credit, though: we had a great side.
Our bowling was capable of both getting wickets and keeping batsmen quiet: Philippe Edmonds, John Emburey, Wayne Daniel, Mike Selvey and Vintcent van der Bijl. The seamers were very good at the death, too.
Things got more athletic as the decade went on, and we started doing a bit more in the gym in pre-season. Fielding circles arrived in 1981. Before that, we could put everyone back on the boundary in the last ten overs and close the game down. Seam bowlers used to be hidden in the field: they'd stick out a size 11, or let someone else chase. Now, they had to start putting in a dive.
I was fairly fit even in my forties, and the slide I used in order to ground my bat between runs just developed naturally as it seemed the quickest way to get back down the other end; it didn't damage the old knees because I didn't bat in studs. My forte was nicking and nudging. Mike Gatting and Roland Butcher were good at smacking the ball, so if they were going at five an over and I was going at three, we were doing well.
The first person to play the reverse sweep in county cricket must have been Mushtaq Mohammad, against Fred Titmus. He told me he'd got fed up with six-three leg-side fields. It was a great stroke, and I must have batted with Gatt while he got 300 runs with it. But after he got out in the 1987 World Cup final, he didn't play it for another two years. I wish I'd played it myself, but I had my method, and there wasn't much time to practise.
I never took part in any game that matched our Benson and Hedges Cup final against Essex in 1983. They were 127 for one chasing 197, and the Middlesex supporters had left the ground. We had given the game up, and everyone was round the bat. I caught Keith Fletcher at silly point off Edmonds, and the rest collapsed. It was just one of those days.
Radley played for Middlesex between 1964 and 1987. He won the match awards in the 1983 Benson and Hedges Cup and 1984 NatWest Trophy finals.
The 1990s - Paul Smith
Warwickshire's one-day success wasn't a fluke. We had every character and skill imaginable, and then this bloke came along with a massive passion for what he did: Bob Woolmer. Chalk and cheese were Woolmer and Dermot Reeve, our captain. Woolly would say: "Why don't you go to bed at ten o'clock, like I do?" Reeve wanted to go out and enjoy himself. But it worked.
Tactically, we were miles ahead of the rest. We had the balls to do what they could have done but didn't want to. In the 1990s in general, you had to be in people's faces, and we played a different type of cricket, with lots of reverse sweeps and tip-and-run. And we had big strikers of the ball. It wasn't popular. I remember our batsmen reverse-sweeping, and the commentators saying it wasn't in the spirit of the game. Brian Lara said we should look at where the gaps were, not the fielders. It made you think very differently.
Woolmer provided a sprinkling of gold dust. People think of his computers, but they forget about the hours he spent in the nets, in the middle, in restaurants - all that time with the guys, talking to them, thinking about them.
We turned up at Old Trafford once, and Woolly took out a tennis racket and hit catches to us. The crowd were shouting: "Aww, don't you want to hurt your hands?" But they didn't realise that, from 50 feet up, a tennis ball will bounce out, so it was teaching us about soft hands. He also introduced warm-downs, even though they were the last thing we wanted to do.
Woolly said to us at the start of the 1994 season that we could win all four competitions. I thought he was barking mad. But we nearly did. Shortly after, Jason Ratcliffe moved from Warwickshire to Surrey, and he reckons it took other counties five years to catch up with us.
Smith played for Warwickshire between 1982 and 1996. He was part of the winning team in four Lord's finals and won the Gold Award in the 1994 Benson and Hedges Cup final.
The 2000s - Jeremy Snape
During my time at Northamptonshire, the focus was on talent. But at Gloucester we trained as a team - and to a different intensity. The fielder went from being someone who defends the ball to someone who attacks the batsman. We would stand in a ring, like fishermen tightening the net. The batsman would hit it hard to point, and the fielder would return the ball just as hard to Jack Russell, who would take it in front of the batsman's face. It was oppressive and claustrophobic. Our coach John Bracewell shifted our mindset, from cricketers to athletes who play cricket.
We saw ourselves as underdogs. We worked exceptionally hard, and there was me, Martyn Ball and Kim Barnett trying to take pace off the ball, on slow, knee-high wickets, with big outfields, and batsmen caught in the deep. We played ugly cricket - but we won.
When I moved to Leicestershire before the 2003 season, we weren't challenging in the Championship, so we focused on Twenty20. We worked out how to pace the initial impetus phase of an innings, the building phase, and the crescendo. We caught other sides out. Everyone was thinking fast bowlers should bowl as fast as they can, but that creates pace and angles. And batsmen thought they had to be ultra-aggressive, whereas we'd worked out the value of players like Darren Maddy and Brad Hodge - one a hitter, the other a rotator.
It was a time of innovation, too. I was in the nets with H. D. Ackerman when he asked me to help him practise his six hitting. So I pulled out the pin and bowled a looping hand grenade. He said: "Don't be stupid, I can't hit that!" A light bulb went on, and the moon-ball was born. Batsmen would think: "I can't get out to that, it's only 40mph..."
Twenty20 has definitely benefited the wider game. In my early career, a yorker could land anywhere under a batsman's feet. Now, it has to be on the white line of the batting crease to compensate for batsmen's power and scoop shots. And people are much more comfortable in high-pressure run-chases: they get 250 in 50 overs easily. In the 1990s and early 2000s, it was all about protein shakes and bleep tests; in the last six to eight years, it's been more pitch-maps and Hawk-Eye. There are no secrets now. The only competitive advantage is what goes on inside players' heads.
Snape played for Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire and Leicestershire between 1992 and 2008. He won four Lord's finals with Gloucestershire, and the Twenty20 Cup twice with Leicestershire.
Tanya Aldred writes about sport for the Daily Telegraph

Tanya Aldred is a freelance writer in Manchester