Foxes Flashback - Rodney Pratt and Graham Cross
Rodney Pratt (born 15th November 1938) and Graham Cross (born 15th November 1943)
Curious that two Leicestershire raised cricketers should share the same birthday, in fact there is a third Leicestershire cricketer, the New Zealander CS Dempster who was also born on 15th November, but he will get a day to himself in January.
Rod Pratt is still a regular visitor to Grace Road and other grounds around the county. He claims three records;
- That he is the youngest player to make his debut for Leicestershire in the county championship (16 years, 251 days) when he played against Notts at Trent Bridge in 1955.
- He was the first bowler to take a wicket in an ‘official’ county one day competition. (He dismissed the Lancashire opener Bob Entwistle in the Preliminary round of the Gillette Cup in 1963).
- Most catches in a match for Leicestershire (7 v Derbyshire at Leicester in 1961)
He does I think hold another record. In 1956, he took 10 wickets in a match against Somerset at the age of 17 years 248 days, which I think makes him the youngest Leicestershire bowler to achieve this.
Apart from these highlights Rod played 99 first class matches for Leicestershire, scoring 1810 runs, with a top score of 80 against Essex in a match played whilst he was on leave from National Service in the RAF. This was a remarkable innings in that his previous highest score was 9. He also took 253 wickets, with his fast medium bowling. His best match figures 11 for 121 against Yorkshire at Grace Road in 1962, the famous match where bottom of the table Leicestershire nearly beat the Champions to be Yorkshire. In fact they probably would have done had they not wanted to ensure Jack van Geloven ‘did the double.’
Rod left the county staff in 1964 and ended up being a stalwart of the much lamented Leicester Nomads who played at the Dog and Gun ground on the Lutterworth Road. He took over 500 wickets for a team that always seemed to win the county cup in the 1970s and 80s In 1979 they got to the Semi Final of the Club Knock out before losing to a Scarborough team who included former Yorkshire and England captain, Brian Close, who caught and bowled Rod.
Graham Cross lived the dream of every schoolboy in Leicestershire who was interested in sport. A footballer with ‘City’ in the winter and a cricketer with ‘county’ in the summer.
He first played for Leicester City in 1961 and racked up an amazing 599 appearances, before moving onto Brighton and Preston, with a loan period at Chesterfield. He ended up at Enderby Town, where he played briefly in the same team as Chris Balderstone and Hinckley Athletic. He played for the England Under 23 team and in two FA Cup finals.
He was identified as a promising cricketer from an early age, first playing for the county under 19 team (The Young Amateurs) at the age of 14. Also in that team were the future Tigers players, Richard Cooper and MJK Smith’s cousin, David Bird and the captain was the Olympic Silver medallist, John Cooper (who was killed in the airline crash outside Paris in 1974).
He played pretty much full seasons for the county 2nd XI in 1959 and 1960 (when he scored his first century against Worcestershire 2nds). He made his debut for the county 1st team the following year, and showed great promise with a couple of 50s. However he was now on the verge of playing first team football for Leicester, so August became a month of football rather than cricket.
His best season was 1964, when he scored over 500 runs and took 31 wickets with his brisk medium pace. His top score was 78 in the successful run chase against Hampshire. Thereafter he played a handful of games each season, and then between 1972 and 1974, none at all.
Maybe Chris Balderstone’s satisfactory combination of careers in football and cricket caused Graham to believe he could do the same, and he appeared regularly during his ‘abbreviated’ seasons in 1975 and 1976. His final appearance was in 1977 when illness and injury hit the county team and he was drafted in to keep wicket. To demonstrate his versatility he did not let through any byes and took a catch off Jack Birkenshaw’s bowling.
Leicestershire Record (First class and one day combined)
Played 134, scored 2,780 runs (Highest 78) and took 78 catches
He took 155 wickets, with a one day best bowling of 4 for 11 against Warwickshire at Edgbaston in 1976 and 4 for 28 against Lancashire in First class matches.