THE seasons when county cricket grounds were packed to capacity are recalled in a new book by Derbyshire journalist John Shawcroft.
Golden Mondays: The Story of Cricket’s Bank Holiday Matches, with a foreword by the former England captain MJK Smith, covers the years from the game’s earliest history to the end of the 2010 season.
Whitsuntide and August Bank Holiday were an important part of the competition’s calendar.
Indeed, the significance of Whitsuntide is almost as old as the game itself and it appears in many of the early references.
When the 1871 Bank Holidays Act regulated public holidays, cricket soon recognised the possibilities.
Soon the dates became cornerstones of the season, with the annual fixtures almost set in stone: Nottinghamshire v Surrey, always at Trent Bridge at Whit and The Oval in August, while Lancashire played Yorkshire in enthralling contests of a quality only just below Test match standards, which had a major influence on the outcome of the title.
“Older followers will recall the Warwickshire matches when Tom Dollery always seemed to make a hundred against Derbyshire and Eric Hollies took plenty of wickets,” said John Shawcroft.
“In some years, both counties were involved in the championship race and if the match was played at Edgbaston, there was always an option of going to Trent Bridge for the Surrey match. One of my fondest memories is watching the great Surrey team of the 1950s, with Peter May in tremendous form with the bat and that wonderful bowling attack of Alec Bedser, Peter Loader, Jim Laker and Tony Lock.”
John Shawcroft’s 2006 book Local Heroes: The story of the Derbyshire team which won the County Championship, was shortlisted for the Cricket Society’s Book of the Year award.
Golden Mondays: The Story of Cricket’s Bank Holiday Matches, priced at £20, can be obtained from ACS Sales, Blue Bell House, 2-4 Main Street, Scerdington, Sleaford, Lincs NG34 0AE (01529 306272) or ordered via Amazon.