In 1972 the weather was almost as bad as last summer. Over 70 hours of first class cricket were lost and the county finished 15th in the championship – 8th in the John Player League – and went out of the Benson & Hedges Cup a the quarter final stage. The Gillette Cup provided some memorable cricket in Jack Bond’s final year at the helm, with the semi final a game to remember.
Let me set the scene. Bond’s team had won the cup in 1970 and ’71 and his players had determined to send him into retirement with a unique hat-trick of Lord’s wins.
Lancashire had a bye in the first round and met Somerset a Old Trafford in the second, when a Merv Kitchen century had almost clinched a Somerset victory. In the quarter final against Hampshire at Bournemouth, Barry Richards made a superb 129 but Lancashire prevailed by four wickets. Then Kent, beaten in the previous seasons final, arrived at the county ground looking for revenge.
August 7th dawned with rain falling from leaden skies. A cheerless Manchester morning if ever there was one. The covers were protecting the pitch, with both teams were confined to the dressing rooms, while the twenty-thousand spectators found shelter where they could and watched for a break in the clouds.
It did stop raining and umpires ‘Dickie’ Bird and George Pope, after a series of inspections, decided play would start after lunch. Bond won the toss and David Lloyd and Barry Wood went out to bat. The outfield was extremely damp and shots which would normally have sped to the boundary, slowed up and were cut off. The two England players put on 59, but fell shortly after. Lloyd to Underwood for 33 and Wood became a Woolmer victim for 29.
Little and Large’ (Pilling and Clive Lloyd) then added 46 for the third wicket. Lloyd dominated the partnership scoring 32, before he swung Underwood to deep square leg where Graham Johnson ran in and to the dismay of the majority of the crowd, hung on to the catch.
Frank Hayes joined Pilling but could not find his touch on the slow pitch. He became frustrated and becalmed, although a short ball from West Indian John Shepherd was pulled powerfully through mid-wicket for four. Woolmer dropped him off Julien at deep mid off, but another lofted drive was brilliantly caught by Asif Iqbal. He departed for 13.
David Hughes strode to the wicket and started quietly. Pilling by then was batting superbly with his trademark square cut working perfectly. All the bowlers suffered and his half century came up after an hour and fifty minutes. He received a massive round of the applause.
With over beginning to run out Hughes found his timing and for the first time the scoring rate crept above three and a half runs per over. The light which was never good deteriorated further, but the two batsmen intimated they would carry on. A few rustic shots, an inside edge for four, a swiftly taken bye (Alan Knott was the ‘keeper) and three magnificent Hughes boundaries (mid-wicket, cover point and mid off) took Lancashire to 217 for 4 as the 60th and final over began.
During it Pilling was dismissed for 70 (he was later made Man of the Match) and Jack Simmons perished first ball as Lancashire finished on 224 for 6. Kent required to score at 3.75 per over to reach the final, but the weather continued to have its say as the clouds lowered and brisk showers blew across the ground and disappeared towards the Pennines.
Jack Bond asked his bowlers to take a couple of early wickets, and they obliged. Peter ‘Leapy’ Lee and Barry Wood sent Luckhurst and Johnson back to the pavilion, but then two Kent stalwarts took control and seemed to be forging a match winning partnership.
Colin Cowdrey, all easy grace and timing persuaded the ball into gaps and scored all round the wicket. His captain Mike Denness unleashed several perfectly timed drives on both sides of the wicket, and Lancashire’s fielders had to work extremely hard to stay in the game.
Seventy-six were added for the third wicket, and like Pilling and Hughes earlier the batsmen turned down an offer to go off. As the light became funereal, Bond summoned Lee and the former Northamptonshire player did the trick. He got one past Cowdrey’s broad bat and his lbw appeal was upheld by ‘Dickie’ Bird. 110 for 3 and as the Cowdrey walked towards the pavilion, play was abandoned for the day.
When it resumed the following morning, Kent required 115 off 25 overs with seven wickets in hand. Immediately, and before he had scored, Asif Iqbal was dropped by Ken Shuttleworth at mid off. Denness picked up where he had left off and moved serenely to his half century. Iqbal made a swift 23 before attempting to launch Simmons into orbit and only succeeded in lofting a catch which Engineer took with aplomb.
155 for 5 as Bernard Julien joined his skipper. He, as almost all the other batsmen, struggled to time the ball and Lancashire’s fielding went up several notches. The run rate continued to rise. As he tried to accelerate, Denness played across the line to Simmons and departed lbw. Alan Knott swiftly followed lbw, again to the off-spinner – three wickets to Simmons in 15 deliveries. Julien responded to the ever increasing challenge by taking 17 off the next Simmons over…including two leg-side sixes.
46 were needed off the last 12 overs and Kent were favourites while Julien and Woolmer were at the crease. Woolmer though had little of the strike and when he did face Hughes, he drove a gentle catch to Bond at mid off.
The tension was rising by the minute as runs were added and the overs came down. Shepherd and Julien took the score to 202 – 23 off 6 overs was the equation- when Bond recalled Shuttleworth. Julien swung at his first full length delivery and became another lbw victim.
The ninth wicket pair added eleven and as Hughes prepared to bowl the final over from the Stretford End, Kent wanted 12. Shepherd attempted to halve that target with one blow, but Simmons judged the catch perfectly at long on and threw the ball skywards in celebration.
Norman Graham, one of county cricket’s famous number eleven’s, paired up with Underwood and four runs were scrambled to leave the quickie needing to score boundaries off the final two balls of the match to deny Lancashire. A single off the penultimate delivery finished the game as a contest and off the last ball, Engineer swiftly stumped Underwood for 5. Lancashire victors by seven runs.
The spectators flooded on to the field and batsmen, fielders and umpires were submerged, as jubilant Lancashire supporters released their pent up emotions and began planning for another Lord’s final appearance.
A month later, Clive Lloyd’s brilliant 126 destroyed Warwickshire and helped clinch a famous hat-trick as our picture shows Only thirteen players were involved in the three winning finals : Jack Bond (Captain three times); Clive Lloyd; Farokh Engineer; Frank Hayes; David Hughes; Peter Lever; Jack Simmons; Ken Shuttleworth; Peter Lee; John Sullivan; David Lloyd; Harry Pilling and Barry Wood.
Lancashire 224 for 6 (60) Harry Pilling 70, David Hughes 35n.o.
Kent 217 (60) Mike Denness 65, Colin Cowdrey 44, David Hughes 3 for 39, Jack Simmons 3 for 48