Saturday, May 20, 2017

George Brown has a bad week: 13 to 19 May 1967

British Foreign Secretary George Brown had a bad week. The Middle East was heading for war, President de Gaulle peremptorily rejected Britain’s bid to entry the Common Market and he was accused of groping Princess Margaret. The Times, with beautifully po-faced prose, reported Brown’s denial on an inside page:

“A moment of euphoria” is one of the great euphemisms for drunk, a condition to which Brown was prone, sometimes to the point of being prone. It was Brown for whom Private Eye minted the phrase “tired and emotional”. Nine years later, when he finally resigned from the Labour Party (to its relief) he was photographed having fallen into a gutter.

Alan Gibson probably retreated to the bar at Taunton at an early stage of the first day of the Somerset v Kent game, describing it as a “desultory affair” for spectators, with the scoring rate well below two an over. As so often happened in these early weeks of the 1967 season, rain prevented a conclusion, though Gibson was cheered up by the wicketkeeping of Alan Knott who was catching the eye of reporters around the country.

There was more play at Taunton than at most venues. Only Sussex won, against Glamorgan. Hampshire stayed top of the table.

There was only one round of Championship matches this week, as Saturday to Tuesday was set aside for the second round of the Gillette Cup, the 60-over knockout competition that was the only shorter form of county cricket. Though scheduled to be completed in one day, they were always given a three-day window, allowing players two rare cricket-free days as long as the rain kept away. Three of the eight second round games needed the extra time and one, Yorkshire v Cambridgeshire, saw no play at all and was rescheduled.

That Cambridgeshire were in the second round was odd. They were one of the top five from the previous year’s Minor Counties competition who qualified for the first-round draw. Seven first-class teams joined them (pulled from the 17 first-class counties at random). However, there was no seeding so Leicestershire and Worcestershire were out, while Cambridgeshire progressed by beating Oxfordshire. 

Kent did not play in the first round and were drawn away to Essex in the second. The game was played at Brentwood, one of seven grounds on which Essex called home in 1967. They had no headquarters as such, their offices being in Chelmsford town centre rather than at what became the County Ground. They moved from ground-to-ground like an orphaned child farmed out to relations a week at a time. Famously, they took their scoreboard with them, on the side of a lorry. I believe that has only finally fallen into disuse this season now that the Colchester Festival has been abandoned.

This was the fifth season of the Gillette Cup, but Kent had yet to beat another first-class county, so hopes were not high. Wisden reports:

A total of 239 in 60 overs doesn’t sound much now that we are used to 300 being about par for 50 overs, but in 1967 it was a decent score. Cricketers had not yet come to terms with one-day cricket, so went about it as they would a first-class game with added hitting in the last few overs. Also, there were no fielding restrictions whatsoever. The Kent XI was exactly the same as had played in the Championship so far that season (David Sayer was the other fast bowler in this case). We were at least a decade away from one-day squads selected with different criteria from those of longer forms. 

It was and is a batsman’s game. The decisive performance was Norman Graham’s four for 19, all from the top seven. Yet Colin Cowdrey was named man of the match, by his old friend and eldest son’s godfather Peter May.
One other curiosity: the Essex opening bowler AM Jorden was better known as Tony Jorden, who made seven appearances for the England rugby team at full back.


  1. Very interesting - I have just come across a scrapbook with a number of cuttings from 1967. There is a match report on the Essex match by Henry Blofeld. He describes the innings by Cowdrey as "a collectors piece". Also the man of the match prize was £50 and the game didn't finish until 8:15pm!

    1. The International Cavaliers played their games on Sundays "for a purse of 100 guineas". Different times. Your scrapbook would be fascinating. Who was Blofeld writing for then? The Guardian? Thanks for the comment.


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