Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Part Five Of Look Back At Worcs Proud History

Part Five Of Look Back At Worcs Proud History

Everyone at Worcestershire CCC has been proud to celebrate the club's 150th Anniversary Year which will reach a climax with a Gatsby Ball in the Graeme Hick Pavilion on December 31.

Now seems an appropriate time to look back at the history of the County via a series of articles on the Worcestershire website.

Here we feature PART FIVE with current Director Of Cricket Steve Rhodes recalling the success-laden era of just under 30 years ago – and the influence it had on his current thinking. _____________________________________________________________________________

In terms of winning trophies, a Golden Age for Worcestershire Cricket came from the mid 1980s until the mid 19900s.

Under the captaincy of Phil Neale, Worcestershire won the County Championship twice, the Refuge Assurance Sunday League twice, the Benson and Hedges Cup and the Refuge Assurance Cup as well as appearing in several other Lord's finals.

Then in 1994 Tim Curtis was skipper when the NatWest Trophy was captured.

Worcestershire was very much the 'in' county with the likes of Ian Botham and Graham Dilley playing for them.

There is one memorable picture of Elton John, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra all occupying a balcony at the ground.

Steve Rhodes, the current Director of Cricket, was a key member of that side and he recalled the 1988 Championship triumph which was achieved in dramatic and controversial fashion. 

Worcestershire went into the final game of the campaign against Glamorgan at New Road needing to secure a maximum 24 points to ensure Kent could not over-take them.

Kent duly won with a full haul of points but Worcestershire looked on course to achieve that after bowling Glamorgan out and seeing Graeme Hick score a superb 197.

But then the players and umpires turned up on the third morning to find the pitch had been damaged by vandals who poured oil on the wicket overnight.

Groundstaff were able to repair the strip and Worcestershire were able to secure maximum batting points, Rhodes himself the second top scorer with 46, before Glamorgan were bowled out for 103 thanks to Phil Newport's 5-23.

It was the signal for joyous scenes that were regularly repeated during that unforgettable era for the county.

Rhodes said: "It is safe to say we played on some pretty sporting wickets at New Road that year. You had to recognise and understand how to bat on it and a lot of us found a reasonable technique for coping.

"We had in Hicky an absolute run machine so he helped us get maximum points a lot for the batting on very difficult wickets.

"But we needed maximum points to win the Championship going into that game versus Glamorgan. It was a real sporting wicket and to get 300 and four points in the first innings was a real challenge. Hicky smacked it everywhere and played it really well.

"Kent got their 24 points and, if we slipped up, they could pip us.

"There was some oil, vandals had been on the wicket, and myself and Phil Newport were batting that morning after the oil went on overnight.

"They got the dryers on. When the ball hit the oil, the ball skidded on nicely. It was the other bits that weren't so good!

"We did get 300 and Hicky got a marvellous 100 and we bowled them out twice."

Rhodes admits he learnt a lot from looking back at how that team was assembled when setting out current plans at New Road.

He said: "I learnt a lot from where I want us to be now from that. I think the exodus of players a few years ago (end of 2009 season) got me thinking 'come on now, what is the right way of rebuilding this group of players.'

"It made me look back to that particular time. Worcestershire had just won the Second Eleven competition and in that side you had your Phil Newports, Richard Illingworths, Tim Curtis's, Damian D'Oliveiras, Martin Westons.

"When it came to playing first team cricket, they also introduced a few players from other counties, like myself (Yorkshire) and Neal Radford (Lancashire).

"We started to do well, 1985, 1986, and kept getting beat in semi-finals, but we were almost there and not far off being a good side. The real nucleus of this was the young players that won the Second Eleven in 1983-84.

"But then with Radders and myself and the likes of Phil Neale and all the other ones, we just needed a little bit of extra winning bite.

"When Graham Dilley and Ian Botham came, they gave us a lot of belief of how to win especially in the big games and we started to do that.

"At times they performed really well. But they instilled this belief, this winning mentality, which rubbed off on all the other players.

"Hicky, Tim and Newps and Illy, myself and several players became international players as well.

"By the end of a couple of years, with Both and Dill in the side, we had eight or nine international players in that 11.

"To people nowadays, thinking we could put a Worcestershire side out with eight or nine England players, that would be ridiculous.

"That's what we had and the reason we were England players is because we had done particularly well as a group of players, growing up together, and we becamea very fashionable club because we were winning things.

"We won so many trophies that the England selectors started to look at our group of players."

Worcestershire repeated their Championship triumph 12 months later – their fifth title in just 25 years.