My Cricket Memories 4
With everyone missing Pete Johnson's Second XI reports, he has instead put pen to paper to talk through his memories of Leicestershire County Cricket Club.
The first time I went to Grace Road to see a match was on Saturday 21 May 1955, what an introduction! My father took me along to a game against Surrey. I can vividly remember Charlie Palmer, bowling from the Pavilion End took 8-7, at one stage in his spell he had figures of 8-0.
Charlie bowled ‘Donkey Drops’, and rumour has it that he only came on to bowl so that the two bowlers operating at the time could change ends. The Surrey side included ‘big name’ players Peter (PBH) May, Jim Laker, Tony Lock, and Alec Bedser.
What is now The Meet, was an open fronted stand, the roof still being of the same shape today. You walked up some steps, towards the now Park Hill Drive side to access the stand. There were bench type slatted seats in there. That same season I remember going to Hinckley to watch a game against Lancashire. Hinckley’s home ground was on Coventry Road, not Leicester Road as it is now.
Brian Statham was playing for Lancashire, and took a hatful of wickets, Leicestershire dismissed for 42 in their first innings, and for not many more in their second innings, the game finishing inside two days. The Lancashire side included Jack Ikin, Cyril Washbrook, and Roy Tattersall, as well as Statham. I got all of their autographs, and proudly showed them off to my mates at school the following week.
Other LCCC out grounds I recall going to watch LCCC at the time were Brush Sports Ground at Loughborough (I remember watching a match against Cambridge University there (in the early/mid 1960s), and Snibston Miners Welfare Ground at Coalville, I recall watching a game against Derbyshire there, circa early 1980s.
In the mid to late 1950s I recall a scoreboard in front of where The Cricketers pub balcony is nowadays. The scoreboard only had ‘roller’ numbers for the total, and the batsman’s tens and units. When a wicket went down, and the batsman changed, the chap working the scoreboard had to get a ladder out to alter the numbers, sticking plates on the relevant hook.
He had to employ the same practice if a batsman reached a century, manually putting a plate with number 1 in front of his score. The nets at the time were at what is now the Bennett End, half on, and half off the outfield. Very basic by today’s standards.
In those days players did not do any warm up routines, they just had a net an hour or so before the start of play. Autograph hunters used to apprehend the players when they walked back across the outfield to the pavilion from the nets to get the signatures they required. I had a big scrapbook in which I glued photographs of players I had cut out of newspapers. I used to get the players to sign their photo. I have still got one of the books from the late 1950s/early 1960s.
Stanley Jayasinghe was possibly one of the first overseas cricketers to play for LCCC, after left arm Australian spinner Jack Walsh. Jayasinghe was a hard-hitting middle order batsman from Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. A fellow countryman Clive Inman, also a hard-hitting middle order bat, played for LCCC around the same time.
In later life I remember playing club cricket against Clive Inman when he played for Cropston in the then North Leicestershire League. A player with an overseas name, but who was born in Yorkshire, Jack van Gelovan joined LCCC in the mid 1950s. Jack was a prolific all-rounder.
I recall the Membership Cards of the day being just a bit bigger than a credit or debit card of today. They had the Leicestershire Running Fox on the front, and at the back there was a round hole, and when you had paid your Membership subs you were given a sticker as a receipt. This was fixed to the back of the card, so that it was visible through the hole.
Upon entry to the ground this was examined closely by the Gateman, to make sure you had paid before gaining admission. The colour of the membership card changed from year to year I recall.
In the early 1960s when I went to Grace Road with my friends, I remember us playing cricket during the lunch and tea Intervals on the perimeter of the outfield. We used a wire litter bin as a wicket, played with a tennis ball, and an empty lemonade bottle acted as a bat. The games used to continue until play was curtailed by a steward!
At the time a regular visitor to the ground during the afternoon session was a bloke selling the Leicester Mercury. He looked very official in his white coat, Leicester Mercury emblazoned across the back in blue letters, and did a roaring trade, people queuing up to buy the late edition of the Mercury to get the latest racing results, and cricket scores from around the country. No internet back then.
I recall as well that the chap selling the Mercurys used to shout at the top of his voice at regular intervals, ‘don’t forget the City Boys play on here on Saturday’ as City Boys School used to play their home games at Grace Road back in the day.
I remember playing for Humphrey Perkins School against them one Saturday, in the early 1960s. It was eye opening for a 14-year-old boy to actually get changed in the same dressing rooms as the LCCC first team players of the day. The floor in the pavilion was a haven for getting splinters, and as I recall it had big sash windows.
The start of the John Player League was in the late 1960s. Leicestershire were quite a force in it. Games were 40 overs a side on Sunday afternoons. The bowlers run up being limited to eight yards. The games were quite pedestrian when compared with today’s T20 Competition.
July 12 was when Leicestershire got to their first Benson & Hedges Cup Final v Yorkshire at Lords. I remember a man in full hunting gear, red coat, black hat etc. standing on one of the balconies of the Lord’s Pavilion playing a post horn before the start of play.
In September 1975 I was at Queen’s Park, Chesterfield when Leicestershire won the County Championship for the first time. David Gower was 12th man. In those days I believe the 12th man often changed from day to day. I scored there for Leicestershire Second XI in 2019, and used to walk around the outfield before the start of play every day picturing in my mind how I remembered it in 1975.
16 August 1977 travelling down to Swansea for a Gillette Cup semi-final against Glamorgan. I left home at some unearthly hour in the morning, so as to get there in time for the 10.30am start. On the way, still dark outside, it came on the car radio that Elvis had died, much reminiscing for the rest of the journey by everyone in the car.
We got to Swansea, and the day’s play was washed out, and carried over to the next day. We had to return home as we had only booked one day off work.
Then in June 2003 the first T20 game played at Grace Road. Yorkshire the opponents. I remember Brad Hodge getting 97, and being lbw to the last ball of the Leicestershire innings. Leicestershire won, and if my memory serves me correctly one Paul Nixon weighed in with a quick fire 40 odd.
Just a snapshot of my more distant memories from some years ago of watching LCCC.
Second XI Scorer
* Thanks to Getty Images for the accompanying image.
Click below to read the other installments of the Cricket Memories series:
- Cricket Memories 1 - Jack Birkenshaw MBE
- Cricket Memories 2 - Steve Kind
- Cricket Memories 3 - Oliver Hawke