Thursday, December 15th, 2022


A local hero emerged alongside Worcestershire CCC’s posse of star names and played a crucial role in the County retaining the County Championship title in 1989.

Graham Dilley, Ian Botham, Neal Radford and Phil Newport were the established pace bowlers in the Worcestershire CCC attack at that point of a golden era for the club.

But injuries to Newport – he played only six Championship matches – and more latterly in the summer to prolific wicket-taker Radford opened the door for new faces – and up stepped Worcester born Steve McEwan.

He had made his debut in 1985 only to experience limited senior appearances during the following three seasons with Worcestershire winning the Championship in 1988 and the Sunday League titles in 1987 and 1988.

But in just 11 games, McEwan picked up 52 wickets, including the third of his three-wicket hauls that season during the title-clinching victory over Gloucestershire at New Road.

He achieved a career-best 6-34 against Leicestershire at Kidderminster plus 5-28 versus Somerset at Weston super Mare.

Stuart Lampitt also helped fill the breach admirably with the Wolverhampton-born all-rounder claiming 31 scalps from July onwards, including 4-32 in the second innings of that success over Gloucestershire.

The efforts with the ball of McEwan and Lampitt, alongside Radford (67 wickets), Dilley (55), Botham (51) and Illingworth (40), plus the runs of Graeme Hick (1595) and Tim Curtis (1213),ensured the Championship pennant proudly fluttered over the ground for another 12 months.

Illingworth, the 2020 ICC Umpire Of The Year, has been reflecting on that memorable triumph. 

He recalled: “I remember thinking we were very fortunate in the fact those two lads (McEwan and Lampitt) came in and took it to like a duck to water.

“When you win a Championship, it’s not one person who wins it for you; it’s the whole team effort.

“They were outstanding cricketers, and I guess the environment they came into a confident group of players, they were made to feel welcome.

“When you are a decent player coming into a good team, then you can express yourself even more.

“I don’t think you win Championships by just having a handful of players winning you games.

“There were 22 games that season, and it’s a bit like anything; if you’ve got seven players performing in a game, then more often than not, you win the game.

“We had more than seven people performing throughout the season, which is what you need because there were England call-ups for a few and injuries.

“We needed those guys who came in like Steve (McEwan) and Stuart (Lampitt) to pull their weight, and they did so with great distinction.

“Equally, they also gave the other guys in there a boost as well because you knew you could rely upon them.”

Defending a major title in any sport often brings additional pressure, but Illingworth says that was never the case with the Worcestershire squad’s make-up in 1989.

He said: “I don’t think we ever felt the pressure because we enjoyed each other’s company and it was like you were playing with your mates.

“I didn’t feel any pressure on me and, if you don’t feel the pressure, you give out that sort of persona when you are playing with other guys that they don’t feel the pressure.

“In any case, you mention people like Dilley and Botham, and they would laugh if you said ‘did you feel any pressure winning the County Championship?’ because they’ve played on the biggest stage with England.

“That is when those big players come alive, when there is an intense game, and it’s you that is going to win the game for us.”

Illingworth feels signing the likes of Radford, signed from Lancashire, Botham and Dilley were the icing on the cake for a side being assembled and grown under captain Phil Neale.

He said: “In the early 1980s, we had a weakened side because everyone was learning their trade together, and by the end of the 1980s, everyone knew exactly what their game plan was.

“Botham and Dilley gave everyone that boost, the fact you had two of the greats of English cricket of that era wanting to come and play in the same side as you.

“Their positive energy rubbed off on you, and Radders (Radford) was a big cog in a lot of our success.

“The guys that did come in, they put the icing on the cake, like a person who is that missing link for you. Everything came together. It might have been four or five years, but it was building towards that.”

Illingworth held onto the catch against Gloucestershire to pick up the final wicket and ensure the title was secured with a game to spare

.He said: “I was fielding at mid-off, and Dill (Dilley) was bowling, and David Lawrence has gone to pull him.

I’ve had to run back at mid-off and caught it over my shoulder. With what was at stake, I was thinking, ‘I’m not going to drop this.’

“We won with a game to spare, had four days to wrap up the season at Pontypridd where there was hardly any play, and we celebrated.”

McEwan picked up another 38 wickets in 1990 before joining Durham in 1992 and retiring from first-class cricket after one full season at the Riverside.

But Lampitt went onto play a key role for Worcestershire during the next decade and ended his career with 601 first-class and 370 List A wickets.