Sunday, 3 August 2008

A chance meeting

We were at breakfast at our hotel in Scarborough last Sunday morning. The day had dawned promisingly and our holidays were set to start well.

The hotel was great. If you're going there, I'd heartily recommend the Sunningdale Hotel. It is straight across from the gates of Peasholm Park, and a five minute walk from the beach and the cricket ground.

In between the conversation at the table, I was looking around at the other guests and thought I recognised a chap sat with his wife at the next table, but assumed he just looked a little like someone I knew.

After breakfast I started talking to David, the proprietor's husband, and it wasn't long before cricket came up in the conversation. In the course of it he said that the "chap at the next table played professional cricket - for Northampton I think".

Then it hit me who he was! It was Jim Griffiths of Northamptonshire, a man good enough to take nearly 450 first class wickets as a fast medium bowler but more importantly, who bowled the last over when we won the Nat West Trophy at Lords in 1981!

Over the next few days we got talking and he told me a lot about that final.

"To be honest, we thought we had it won at lunch when we were 133-1 off 39 overs. We felt that from there a score of 270-280 was on the cards. But when Geoff Miller ran out Allan Lamb soon after lunch, it changed the game a little."

The Derbyhire fielding was very impressive after lunch

"They caught everything, with Alan Hill holding a blinder at long-on to get rid of Richard Williams and there were three run outs as we panicked a little."

That catch by Alan Hill, when he threw himself to his left and held on to a full blooded hit is still in my memory, but Northants started the last ten overs at 183-3 and should have breezed 250 from there.

"Barry Wood handled his bowlers well and we were disappointed with a total of 235-9. We only scored a hundred from the last 20 overs, but still felt that we could win if we could get rid of Wright and Kirsten early."

Jim opened with Safraz and the ball was swinging.

"There was a lot of playing and missing by Hill and Wright but neither Sarfaz (Nawaz,the Pakistan opening bowler) nor I could get an edge. Neil Mallender bowled Hill when he came on but we'd hoped to get at Kirsten with the new ball and the openers did well."

Derbyshire needed to score at just four an over but batting wasn't straightforward.

"They were terrific players but we kept them quiet and Tim Lamb and Peter Willey kept things tight. We felt that if we could get one of them we could win the game."

After 47 overs, Derbyshire were 154-1. Just 82 were needed from 13 overs and although the rate had climbed, six an over with wickets in hand was gettable.

"Wright hit Neil Mallender into the Mound Stand for six and then there were four byes. I thought that was the start of the charge but Wright played a poor shot and as lbw to Neil, then Kirsten got one that moved back into him and went the same way and we'd got them both in the same over."

With experienced captain Barry Wood and the young Kim Barnett together, 62 from 10 should have been a breeze, but Wood was bowled by Sarfraz, Jim bowled David Steele ("it was satisfying to bowl my old mate") and Geoff Miller and Barnett were at the crease.

"They batted well but still couldn't keep up with the rate and when Barnett was run out we really thought we had them"

Derbyshire needed 23 from 17 balls which became 19 from 12 as Griffiths kept it tight.

"With Sarf to bowl one of them we fancied it, but he lost his line and Colin Tunnicliffe smacked him through the covers for four and then hit him straight back for another one. "

12 came from that penultimate over, leaving Jim to bowl the last knowing that he only had six runs to play with - a tie would give Derbyshire the game, having lost fewer wickets.

"I knew I had to keep it tight and not give any width" he said, "but Miller took two and then a single. The third ball I got right and there was no run, but they nicked a single off the fourth and then the fifth."

One ball left, the light was poor and the atmosphere electric.

"We spent a lot of time sorting the field and working out where it might go. I planned to fire it in on leg stump but couldn't afford a wide. You could tell everyone was on edge and it was a situation where everyone hopes the ball goes to someone else."

Griffiths ran in and the ball ran out into the legside.

"Lamby got it and threw in. Was he too deep? Hindsight says yes, but we thought it was OK. He threw in as fast as he could, but couldn't turn to get to the bowler, where Tunnicliffe might have been struggling."

Geoff Cook was at the stumps and took off the bails but too late. Geoff Miller had thrown himself in and had made his ground. Derbyshire had won!

"We couldnt believe it. We thought we had it at several points and were really down after the match. Derbyshire were ecstatic and you could understand that - they'd not won a trophy for years"(since 1936).

Had he replayed that over in his head since then?

"Yeah, hundreds of times"

And what would you have done differently?

"Bowled a maiden!"

Nice guy Jim Griffiths. Nearing 60 he still plays occasionally "but takes much longer to recover these days". He still sees his old team mates at reunions and they talk about that game on a regular basis.

"It was great fun and you're very lucky to get to play first class cricket. I loved playing at Scarborough and its nice to be back here for a few days."

From my point of view, it was fascinating to hear about the game I'd watched from a player's perspective. I've watched it times many on video and I'm just glad that Jim didn't bowl that maiden!

No comments: