This is Leicestershire - part 3

* In the second part of an interview with former Leicestershire CCC all-rounder David Millns for the ‘This is Leicestershire’ series, the Foxes legend spoke to Communications and Cricket Logistics Manager Dan Nice about the glory years of the mid to late 1990s.

The 1996 County Championship clinching success against Middlesex CCC was in many ways a microcosm of David Millns’ successful career with Leicestershire CCC.

Millns made a significant contribution throughout the four days with bat and ball, taking two for 42 before scoring a vital 40 in a partnership with Phil Simmons (142*) that all but took County to maximum batting points - 350 in that era.

He then picked up four for 48 in the second innings, helping to bowl Middlesex CCC out on the final morning of that amazing season.

Winning the Championship was memorable in itself but there were many significant moments throughout, including Alan Mullally posting his career-best score of 75 as well as blowing a strong visiting batting side away.

“I have so many good memories but the deciding games were the ones that stand out, the matches against Middlesex and Surrey,” said Millns. “In 1996 we were playing so well, Alan [Mullally] had got into the England test team and was operating on a different level.

“He played in the last game of the 1996 season, and bowled at Mike Gatting, Mark Ramprakash, Owais Shah and a generally strong Middlesex side. He bowled them out basically [figures of seven for 93 in the game] and showed what a high-class performer he had become.

“We went after teams, that was the thing. Alan went after Middlesex on that first day and it set us up for the rest of the match. We had the confidence and would take the mickey out of the bigger counties a little bit.

“There was an in-house joke as we had certain sponsored cars and there were other teams turning up here in their BMWs and Mercedes, and we’d rib them about it. It was good banter, and Nico [now Head Coach Paul Nixon] loved that, as you can imagine.

“We had a team where nobody was a passenger, everybody expected to do well. Darren Maddy was just starting out as an opening batsman but he very quickly secured his position in the team. We expected him to score runs. He was also a fabulous fielder and a phantom seamer too.”

Millns contributed massively to the two County Championship successes, taking over 100 wickets as the Foxes became the most feared side in the land.

He was the club’s leading wicket-taker in 1996 with 67 at just 21.44 apiece, including 10 wickets against Essex in a game in which he also scored 103. That was the most recent instance where a Foxes player recorded a century and 10 wickets in the same game.

As mentioned in part one of this interview, it was an opposition he seemed to have some sort of voodoo on in the first-class arena. In the two innings wins against Essex CCC in those Championship winning years alone Millns averaged 140 with the bat and took 16 wickets at 12.375. His career record against the team was 408 runs at 58.28 while pocketing 42 wickets at 22.50 apiece.

Millns took 34 wickets in significantly fewer games in 1998 including a brace of three-fors against Essex CCC. He still averaged just over 22. This time Millns came perilously close to three figures with the bat at Warwickshire CCC, a game which he remembers the achievements of others despite also getting one BC Lara out as part of season-best figures of four for 60.

Without being over-confident, and always having respect for the opposition, Millns said that the Leicestershire CCC side expected to do well every time they had leather or willow in their hand.

Speaking of expectancy levels, batting at number 11 for this Leicestershire CCC side did not mean you were simply going to the middle for a blow of fresh air before bowling.

“That atmosphere we were talking about was generated by the senior players, and it stood the team in good stead,” said Millns.

“We’d expect Gordon Parsons to get us 70 not out if we were 60 for seven. I remember a game at Edgbaston in 1998 where Matthew Brimson and I were batting nine down. I took every run from the outset and wouldn’t protect him, and their boys got stuck into me.

“They were saying from the first single: ‘Here we go, you’re trying to boost that batting average of yours Millnsy, you get a nice little red inker, look after yourself.’ I said: ‘No, he will get 50.’ And he did. In the end I was out for 99 and left him stranded on 50-odd not out! I knew he was going to do it.

“We did that a few times – Alan [Mullally] was a great striker of the ball, and a few times he threatened to do that. A few times, if we had a good partnership, I’d say to Alan ‘go and put your pads on and get out there’.

“My thought process was if Nico [Paul Nixon] bats normally, and Alan came off, we’ll really get under the skin of the opposition, and then Gordon [Parsons] or I would go in and bat normally and could compile an innings. It was a bit of a wildcard and it would throw the opposition.

“Alan would always go in and have a swing, there was never any danger of him changing his approach batting up the order. He’s a great bloke, I get on really well with him.

“It was a great atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t all sing around the campfire, there were arguments and sharp words, but once you had those words in the dressing room, that is where it was left. You need that. Sometimes we needed a kick up the backside, myself included!”

Although it became clear that it was going to take a miracle for Surrey CCC to halt the title charge, Millns said that the - what proved to be lengthy - tea interval during that now famous game against Middlesex CCC was somewhat surreal.

When the race was over, it was far from conventional. It did not come with a Leicestershire CCC win or Surrey CCC defeat, or when teams had shaken hands on a draw, rather it arrived with the Brown Caps declaring to try to force enough points to finish in second place. While Surrey CCC were pulling out, something else was being extracted - the corks on champagne bubbles in the Aylestone area.

“We found out at tea time on day three, which was the Saturday, that we had won the Championship,” said Millns, “I actually found out through listening to Jon Agnew on the radio in the dressing room, and we all must have drank a bottle of champagne at tea time as the crowd were informed through the PA and gathered in front of the pavilion.

“It turned out to be the longest tea break I’ve ever known – at least 40 minutes – and the umpires came up the stairs to fetch us in the end. Now the boot is on the other foot so to speak, I realise the position they were in! 

“The celebrations continued that night naturally but we hadn’t actually won the game. I went to bed at about 10pm a bit worse for wear admittedly but a few of the lads went out and carried on. I actually had a decent night’s kip and got here at 9.50am. That would have been late for 11am, let alone September with the early starts.

“I was thinking I’m late, and even though we’d won the Championship, I was aware of the standards. I walked into the dressing room and was the first there! As you can imagine, I was panicking a little bit that we’d have XI to take to the field. Do you get a points deduction if you can’t get XI out there by the start time? I was thinking we may be the shortest Champions in history!

“But joking aside we managed to get the whole XI on to the field by 10.30am, myself and Adrian Pierson were about the only two sober players so we bowled, and thankfully Middlesex had been out too and didn’t last too long. We were then back on the champagne again at lunchtime. They were great days.

“Then we won it again two years later. We had Chris Lewis back, and we looked such a strong side. We looked set for domination but it wasn’t meant to be. That side broke up very quickly, money talks I’m afraid, that’s just the way it is. Alan [Mullally] went to Hampshire, I went back to Notts, Nico [Paul Nixon] went to Kent, Jimmy O [Ormond] went to Surrey, Jon Dakin to Essex… the list goes on.”

* In the third and final part of the interview, David Millns talks about Paul Nixon’s return to the Fischer County Ground and the pressures of coaching, as well as his new career as an umpire.