Some years ago website editor Ken Grime met up with Lancs' Peter Marner (pictured above), who played a starring role in the match, and Leics' John Savage to recall that historic match.
That first game, in an organised professional competition, between Lancashire and Leicestershire on 1 May 1963, was an eliminator to reduce the then 17 first-class counties down to sixteen for the new knockout cup competition known initially as ‘The First-Class Counties Knockout-Out Competition for the Gillette Cup’. Imagine listening to PA Announcer Matt Proctor keep having to saying that lot today! The Gillette Cup turned out to be a huge success and paved the way for one-day cricket to flourish.
Cricket in England at the beginning of the Sixties had suffered a huge drop in attendances over the previous decade and the cup was part of a review of the whole structure of the game. Not that a cup competition itself was a new idea.
The first time was in 1873 when MCC proposed a ‘Challenge Cup’ but one where both sides had two innings as in the County Championship. In the end Kent played Sussex at Lord’s as an experiment but nothing developed from the idea.
It was 1943 before the idea for a cup resurfaced, but again one where both sides played under Championship conditions. However one-day games were not new by then, indeed some wartime games were played in one day, but to a pre-determined period of time, not one of limited overs. In addition, club cricket was well used to games of one day’s duration and there had been experimental games of floodlit cricket played during the 1950’s, including one at Bury FC’s Gigg Lane ground.
In 1961 MCC finally proposed a one-day competition, ran a series of three trial games in 1962 between Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Northants, and agreed a sponsorship deal with Gillette for the 1963 season.
What was that first Gillette Cup game like? Some years ago I spoke to two players who played on opposite sides that day; Peter Marner of Lancashire and John Savage from Leicestershire (ironically, both players finished their careers playing for the other side).
Paradoxically this first ‘one-day’ match took two days to complete with rain on the first day holding up play until 3pm. Lancashire batted on 1 May, with Leics' reply starting the following morning. And in an attempt to keep costs down in that first year teams didn’t stay in hotels but were accommodated by committee men and friends!
“Games were 65 overs a side then, remembered John Savage (‘Sav’), “and you couldn’t bowl more than 15 overs each.” Matches were subsequently reduced to 60 overs per side the following year.
“We started with field settings as if we were playing a championship match. Two slips, gully, cover, mid off, mid on and so on. Later on you would have to start dropping one or two fielders out to the boundary, but if you came to a match today with the restrictions in place for the first 15 overs, the field settings would be similar. The thing is, we kept them like that for 40 or 50 overs!”
Peter Marner agreed. “We basically played a game of traditional first-class cricket with attacking fields. There were no tactics as such. Nobody really knew what they were doing. There was no major defensive decisions made until around fhe fiftieth over. There was no retreat on to the boundary like there is today.”
‘Sav’ picked up the first four wicket haul that first day but remembers getting a bit of stick from Peter Marner. “He hit me over the old ‘H’ stand on to what was then the Gun Club field,” said John (it’s where the present Indoor Cricket Centre is today-a huge hit), “and he really batted well that day. Peter was a good all round cricketer and potentially he could have been an international.”
Peter Marner: “What do I remember about my innings? I don’t remember giving a chance. I felt I played well (Peter made the first-ever one-day century). We made three hundred (304 for 9 off 65 overs, Marner 121, Grieves 57, Booth 50) and were fairly confident that Leics couldn’t get that many. Look at our attack; Statham, Higgs, Hilton. They wouldn’t go for many runs would they?”.
In fact Brian Statham claimed the first five-wicket haul, 5 for 28 off 12 overs, on the following day, Ken Higgs took 2 for 48 off 15 overs, and Peter Marner clinched the first Man of the Match award (pictured left, with Wilf Wooler making the presentation) when he took 3 for 49, including the wicket of centurion Hallam. Leics were all out for 203 inside 54 overs to give Lancashire victory by 101 runs. [Scorecard]
“We didn’t really have the batting strength to challenge that score, not with Lancashire’s bowling attack.” reckoned John Savage. “Maurice Hallam, the captain, got a hundred and won the silver medal and £25! In those days there was a Man of the Match runners-up prize.
After we lost I remember saying to Maurice, “never mind we’ll have to concentrate on the Championship. (Leics had finished bottom the year before). A journalist from Leicestershire overheard the remark and it ended up in all the Leicester papers!
What sort of experience was it playing this new one-day cricket? “It might sound silly now,” said Peter Marner, “but it was a relief to play in. Remember we played a game daily for six days a week that called for a huge amount of concentration. When this new competition came along, the view was that if you got a start to your innings then you could let go, play a few shots and to me it was a great deal of fun. We looked forward to the one-day games.”
It was to be 15 years before the Kerry Packer revolution with coloured kits, fielding restrictions, floodlights and a white ball came along. The one-day game has since continued to transform cricket with Twenty20 continuing the revolution in spectacular style over the last 10 years. Where, I wonder, will the one-day game be in another 10 years from now-never mind fifty years?