Home > Features > Moments in history >

When a County Championship match was played on a Sunday

When a County Championship match was played on a Sunday
Valentine’s Park, Ilford: the ground to host the first County Championship match on a Sunday © Robin Webster and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

History was created on the apparently innocuous morning of May 15, 1966 at Ilford. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the first Sunday on which a County Championship match was played.

Sundays were meant for mass. Cricket was not supposed to be played on Sundays. Players were supposed to attend mass, and spend the rest of the day with their families and other pleasure activities before returning to the gruel of Championship cricket. In fact, the earlier Test matches (played in Christian nations of Australia, England, South Africa, West Indies, and New Zealand) never had cricket on Sundays.

The first Test to host a cricket match on a Sunday was the first Test on Indian soil at Bombay Gymkhana. The third day of the Test fell on a Sunday; it was also the day when Lala Amarnath became the first Indian to score a Test hundred (that too on debut).

It was, therefore, a surprise when the Championship match of 1966 had a Sunday scheduled as its second day. Essex hosted the match against Somerset at Valentine’s Park, Ilford, and were probably confident that they would be able to pull something off banking on their home advantage.

Day One: A Knight at work

Colin Atkinson batted first, and Brian Roe and Roy Virgin were off to a decent start against Barry Knight and Tony Jorden, adding 34. Trevor Bailey then brought himself on, and bowling in tandem with Knight, scythed through the Somerset top- and middle-order.

Wickets kept falling at both ends, and Virgin (29) became the only one to go past the 15-mark. Bowling with pinpoint precision they took out the Somerset batsmen one by one. The tail wagged a bit after they were reduced to 63 for seven, but a total of 102 was never going to be challenging. Knight finished with six for 36, while Bailey’s figures read four for 37.

Somerset, however, had other ideas. Atkinson brought on Bill Alley early in the attack; in a short burst of bowling Alley reduced Essex to 44 for four; he was assisted by Ken Palmer, who removed a young Keith Fletcher for a duck. At this stage Knight joined the Essex wicketkeeper Brian Taylor.

When a County Championship match was played on a Sunday
Barry Knight was in excellent form during the match © Getty Images

Knight, perhaps more prolific with the bat than with the ball, added 45 with Taylor (who was, once again, bowled by Alley) and 46 more with Bailey. Then Atkinson summoned Brian Langford, and the off-spinner ran through the tail with figures of 7.4-4-10-4; Essex lost their last five wickets for 21 and managed a 54-run lead.

The drama was still not over: Roe fell for the second time in the day just before a run was scored, but Virgin and Geoff Clayton (promoted as night-watchman) were there at stumps. Somerset finished the day on one for one.

Day Two: Somerset miss mass to amass runs

History was created next morning when Virgin and Clayton resumed batting against Knight and Jorden: it was, as mentioned above, the first Sunday on which a Championship match was played. Virgin and Clayton batted sensibly, adding 79 for the second stand. The score read 103 for three when George Atkinson (not related to the captain) joined Mervyn Kitchen.

The batsmen returned at stumps, having stretched the lead to 185. George Atkinson remained unbeaten on 75 and Kitchen on 64. The match was as good as saved. The question remained: would Colin Atkinson push for a result?

Day Three: A close shave

Both batsmen departed early next morning, and Alley did not last long either. Colin Atkinson showed some urgency, adding an unbroken stand of 66 with Ken Palmer before setting Essex a target of 290.

Essex began well, and it took Peter Robinson’s left-arm spin to effect the first dismissal. They were soon reduced to 77 for three, but Bailey decided to go for it. Fletcher (73) and Taylor (76) batted with a sense of urgency, adding 101 in quick time; Knight fell after a few blows, leaving the hosts to score 16 for the last four wickets.

Bailey, never known for quick scoring, was the only batsman left of repute. He tried to push his side towards victory with Rodney Cass trying to survive. When Palmer broke through Cass’ defence Essex were left to score eight; time ran out with Essex a mere four short of victory and three wickets in hand.

What followed?

  • Somerset finished third on that season’s Championship after Yorkshire and Worcestershire. Essex, on the other hand, was second from bottom, just above Nottinghamshire.
  • The concept of having no cricket on Sundays continued till 1969, when John Player’s Sunday League was launched; the 40-over format of cricket was covered by BBC, and did not look back till 1987.
  • In 2012 England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced that the first 14 rounds of the County Championship would begin on Sundays.

Brief scores:

 

Somerset 102 (Barry Knight 6 for 36, Trevor Bailey 4 for 37) and 343 for 6 decl (Mervyn Kitchen 76, Graham Atkinson 76, Roy Virgin 51, Geoff Clayton 42; Tony Jorden 3 for 61) drew with Essex 156 (Barry Knight 56; Brian Langford 4 for 10, Bill Alley 3 for 36) and 286 for 7 (Brian Taylor 76, Keith Fletcher 73).

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

South Africa tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Jul 24, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Colombo

India tour of England 2014

Jul 27, 2014 (15:30 IST)   at Southampton

Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Aug 6, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Galle

India tour of England 2014

Aug 7, 2014 (15:30 IST)   at Manchester

South Africa in Zimbabwe, 2014

Aug 9, 2014 (13:30 IST)   at Harare

More

Afghanistan tour of Zimbabwe, 2014

Jul 24, 2014  at Bulawayo

Afghanistan won by 100 runs

Afghanistan tour of Zimbabwe, 2014

Jul 22, 2014  at Bulawayo

Afghanistan won by 2 wkts

Afghanistan tour of Zimbabwe, 2014

Jul 20, 2014  at Bulawayo

Zimbabwe won by 8 wkts

Afghanistan tour of Zimbabwe, 2014

Jul 18, 2014  at Bulawayo

Zimbabwe won by 6 wkts

India tour of England 2014

Jul 17, 2014  at London

India won by 95 runs

Photos

Heroes of India's Test wins in England

Videos

Rahul Dravid reflects on India's historic win at Lord's

Sri Lanka vs South Africa 2nd Test Day 2 Live Cricket Score: Jayawardene completes 150

10 things you need to know about Zaheer Abbas

Sri Lanka vs South Africa 2nd Test at Colombo: Pride at stake for high-flying hosts

Mahela Jayawardene at SSC: A tale of 11 tons

Please help Graeme Pollock, cricket boards and franchises of the world

England England vs India England vs India 2014 India India tour of England 2014 India vs England India vs England 2014 Ishant Sharma MS Dhoni South Africa South Africa tour of Sri Lanka 2014 South Africa vs Sri Lanka 2014 Sri Lanka Sri Lanka vs South Africa Sri Lanka vs South Africa 2014

Sri Lanka dominate the first session of Day 2 against South Africa; post 393/6 at Lunch

Darren Bravo takes Trinidad and Tobago Red Stell to victory with last-ball six against Guyana Amazon Warriors

Mahela Jayawardene completes 7,000 Test runs on Sri Lankan soil; gets to 150 against South Africa

Elton Chigumbura appointed Zimbabwe ODI and T20 captain; Brendan Taylor retained for Tests

Live Streaming: Sri Lanka vs South Africa 2nd Test at Colombo, Day 2

India tour of England 2014: Mohammed Shami has impressed in patches but wickets elude him

India tour of England 2014: Fake Facebook wall of England cricket team after the defeat at Lords

10 things you need to know about Zaheer Abbas

Sri Lanka vs South Africa 2nd Test at Colombo: Pride at stake for high-flying hosts

Mahela Jayawardene at SSC: A tale of 11 tons

Fan of the Day

Fan Cricket

Fan Cricket

11 Posts | 2 Fans

Brazil vs Netherlands, 3rd place Fifa World Cup 2014 match Video Highlights

Facebook Messenger could have Uber service integrated in future

5 things we loved about Salman Khan’s Kick

Apple set to cash in on mobile payments: Report

Sri Lanka dominate the first session of Day 2 against South Africa; post 393/6 at Lunch

Manju Warrier and Dileep to get divorced by Jan 27,2015!

Darren Bravo takes Trinidad and Tobago Red Stell to victory with last-ball six against Guyana Amazon Warriors

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here