I didn't see this game as Dad would have been working, but it is lovely to read John's recollections.
If anyone else would care to share their memories of the club and a game that was special to them, please get in touch through the usual email address.
A TRUE CLASSIC!
One of the joys of following Derbyshire in decades past was the opportunity to watch first-class cricket at the various county outposts. Queens Park in Chesterfield was my favourite (still is) but there was also Ilkeston, Burton, Heanor, Darley Dale (just once) and, of course, Buxton. The famous snow-disrupted game against Lancashire there in 1975 is often talked of but my personal favourite first-class match at Buxton was a few years earlier in August 1968. Pre-dating the John Player League, the three day Championship game against Somerset that year was played over Saturday, Sunday and Monday and produced the most dramatic county match finish I have ever personally witnessed.
Starring for the visitors in the game was the former England fast bowler, Fred Rumsey (who was later to join Derbyshire) along with the 49 years old Australian all rounder, Bill Alley. By then Bill was within a month of his retirement. He later became a distinguished test match umpire. Not noticed by me at the time was another Australian in the Somerset ranks. The 20 year old Greg Chappell had a fairly undistinguished game, but little did I know then that, within a few years, he would be widely recognised as the world’s best batsman.
At the time I was 16 years old. My enjoyment of the summer holidays was being slightly spoiled by a certain trepidation as the date of my O Level results approached. I missed the Saturday play at Buxton as I had just recently established myself in the Darley Dale second eleven playing in what was then the Notts Derby Border League. I was a little taken aback to learn later that evening that, somewhat out of character for a side not particularly renowned for its batting, Derbyshire had clocked up 400 for 4 declared on the opening day (Mike Page 117, Derek Morgan 103 not out, Ian Buxton 85 not out).
Hitching a lift to Buxton with my uncle on the Sunday I watched the highly respected Derbyshire seam attack work its way through the Somerset batting. Brian Jackson (4 for 41) and Harold Rhodes (3 for 26) were a formidable pair at county level and together they were instrumental in reducing the visitors to 179 all out. Following on that evening Somerset made a better fist of things second time round as the Derbyshire attack wilted in the sunshine. The one second innings wicket to fall before stumps involved a fine catch by wicketkeeper Bob Taylor - one of my two boyhood heroes (Kevin Hector was the other). Close of play – Somerset 59 for 1 – still 162 runs in arrears.
Monday morning arrived and I faced a transportation problem. I was at a loose end and keen to witness for myself what seemed to be a certain Derbyshire victory. Unfortunately it was work for everyone else. So I duly set off on the 17-mile journey to Buxton, helmetless of course in those days, on my second-hand bike (bought from a mate for £3) on the A515 – widely recognised now as the second most dangerous road in the country. (What were my parents thinking of at the time!)
Arriving safely at my destination, I was quietly confident as Rhodes – this time assisted by Edwin Smith – got amongst the wickets again. Credit due to Somerset though who fought tooth and nail to make Derbyshire bat again. The last wicket fell shortly before the tea interval leaving Derbyshire 76 to win. Surely a formality one assumed on a wicket which had behaved well throughout the game so far.
Enter Fred Rumsey. Bowling like a train from the pavilion end, belching steam and aggression, Rumsey suddenly discovered life in the previously benign pitch. His run was so long that it started within a whisker of the bottom pavilion step. Rumsey removed both Derbyshire openers for a single run between them and then sent Mike Page off to hospital when a steeply rising delivery hit him plumb on the nose (no helmets of course). John Harvey was Page’s replacement and, perhaps anticipating a repeat of Page’s fate, he was undone by a Rumsey express which did not bounce at all. Instead, it shot along the ground and cannoned into the bottom of his stumps. Suddenly 76 seemed a big score. Derbyshire 39 for 5 with Page seemingly out of action.
Fortunately for the home supporters, Peter Eyre was a little more adhesive than most, but seeing Taylor and Smith both depart cheaply, Eyre was in dire need of a partner. Harold Rhodes (no great batsman) was due to come in next but there were gasps all round the ground when in strode Mike Page – recalled from hospital and unmistakable because of the substantial dressing and plaster taped across his nose.
We all bit our nails as the Derbyshire pair dug in. Eyre briefly relieved the tension when he swept Langford for a huge six over the trees at square leg towards Park Road but was immediately out LBW to the same bowler with Derbyshire still six short. Rhodes did enter the fray now but was content to leave matters to Page who nurdled a single here and there to see the home side home by two wickets.
Page returned to the pavilion, warmly applauded by the small third day crowd who, as the game concluded, had gathered in front of the pavilion. The naturally disappointed Somerset players were also generous with their congratulations. By now Page’s makeshift dressing had loosened and blood was seeping from his wound as he acknowledged the applause. He had scored just 11 not out but, in the context of the game and his injury, Page’s achievement probably rivalled his first innings century.