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Cricket Summer of 1964

The Summer of ‘64

Norman Wright remembers a marvellous summer of cricket as a schoolboy and is still watching from the boundary as a pensioner

My duffle bag was packed with sandwiches wrapped in kitchen foil, a bottle of squash, a tennis ball, a Pac-a-Mac and, sticking out of the top, a half size cricket bat.

By the time the grinding bus dropped me at the County Ground in Northampton an hour or so later I had eaten half the sandwiches and polished off the squash.

This had some benefits as at lunch and tea intervals there was no time for food. As soon as the players trooped into the pavilion us boys swarmed over the boundary ropes and with duffle bags as wickets emulated our heroes in multiple impromptu games all round the field.

It was the summer of 1964 I had just turned 12 and I was obsessed with cricket. I fancied myself with the bat but the only thing I had in common with my own heroes Colin Cowdrey and Colin Milburn was portly body shape not flashing cover drives and dashing centuries.

Sixty years on I still look forward to the cricket season with impatience and I can still feel the same anticipation and excitement as the teams come out although not the prospect of an innings at the lunch break.

Those days are long gone the outfield really is hallowed turf now and sadly not many boys (or girls) are there anyway (well practically none for the four-day county games). Back in the sixties you could still call players wielding the willow batsmen, now in the name of equality they are batters.

Whatever, the summer of 1964 was something worth remembering…

When the Ashes series of 1964 opened at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge on June 4 the England team featured two giants of Yorkshire cricket at opposite ends of their careers.

Batsman Geoffrey Boycott was winning the first of 108 test caps while Freddie Trueman was bowling in his last Ashes summer.

In a rain hit drawn match both did well. Boycott scored 48 in the first innings split over two days after weather intervened. In Australia’s first innings, Trueman took 3 for 58. Boycott missed out in the second innings after breaking a finger while fielding.  ‘Fiery” Fred was nearing the record of taking 300 test wickets.

In the second test at Lord’s he got even closer with 5-58 but to little avail as after the first two days were washed out the match petered out into a draw.

With his finger healed Boycott scored 38 in the third test on his home ground Headingly. Trueman picked up four wickets in the match but England were soundly beaten by seven wickets.

The rain that affected so much of the series was nowhere to be seen in Manchester for the fourth test and both sides had fun in the sun. Australia with skipper Bob Simpson scoring 311 declared at 656-8 and England replied with 611 with Ted Dexter cracking 174 and Ken Barrington 256. There was no time for second innings so another draw although Boycott did get a first test fifty.

Another draw followed in the Oval test giving the Aussies a 1-0 series win and retention of the Ashes.  But Boycott scored his first test century, 113 in the second innings and Fred Trueman’s 4-87 brought him his 300th test wicket the first bowler in test history to reach this milestone.

Now in the era of far more tests being played 700 wickets seems to be the zenith and James Anderson reached that figure in India this winter, the third bowler and the first fast bowler to do so. Freddie said when asked if he thought anyone else would reach 300: “I don’t know, but if they do, they will be bloody tired!”


The county game played over three days players in whites, umpires in long “doctor’s” white coats was second only to Test cricket in the sixties. Attendances were already declining with employment full there was little opportunity for the working man to attend midweek cricket. More would show up during. “factory fortnights” and lots of schoolboys during the long summer holiday. So, the spectators tended to be retired or those who could get away from their workplace easily. It is much the same today except not so many of us.

There was no T20 instant cricket but the sport was moving towards a quicker and hopefully more exciting knock-out game. The Gillette Cup was a one day 60 overs a side game with no bowler being able to exceed 13 overs. The teams played in whites as the age of coloured outfits was still some years away, and because the matches tended to be quite defensive the authorities were much exercised in thinking up ways to make matches more exciting. Fielding restrictions and further reductions in overs were not too far away.

The final filled Lord’s and Sussex retained the trophy they won in 1963 beating Warwickshire by eight wickets in a match dominated by the Sussex seamers. Ted Dexter took three for six with his accurate medium pace “wibbly wobblers”.

The end of the county season was blessed with lovely weather to grace the gentle sound of leather on willow. Worcestershire sealed their first ever County Championship by a margin of 41 points after a tussle with neighbours Warwickshire all season their win was emphatic in the end – the biggest margin since 1957.

Ken Barrington topped the first-class batting averages with 1,870 runs at 62.40 Basil D’Olivera was second but from only eight innings against Barrington’s 35. Colin Cowdrey of Kent and Tom Graveney of Worcestershire were third and fourth with Boycott fifth. Boycott and Micky Stewart of Surrey scored the most centuries with six apiece.  Future England legendary captain Mike Brearley scored five tons, four for Cambridge University and the fifth for Middlesex against the touring Aussies.

Worcestershire’s J A Standen was top of the bowling averages with 64 wickets at 13 apiece. His teammate L J Coldwell was close behind with 98 at 15.48. Derek Shackleton of Hampshire took the most wickets at 142 for an average of 20.40.

Three Australians, bowler Graham McKenzie, batsman Peter Burge and all-rounder Bobby Simpson were named in Wisden’s five cricketer of the year along with Geoffrey Boycott and bowler John Flavell whose 107 wickets were crucial to Worcestershire’s championship.

It would be over 50 years before Bazball stunned red ball cricket but in 1964 M D Willett scored 100 in 80 minutes for Surrey at the Oval – that would have stirred the members from their reveries in the pavilion!

Nowadays it is white ball cricket that provides most of the excitement and draws the crowds, sadly not enough youngsters. But the county game still keeps up the traditions (well, many of them) that 1964 spectators would recognise. The bell hanging outside the pavilion still rings for the start of play. The captains usually in club blazers make the toss. The players take lunch and tea, the umpires flick the bails off at close of play.

And there are still lots of exciting finishes, superb performances as well as some periods of steady cricket. The season is now well under way. The offer for a day’s entertainment is very good value. And if you get fine weather there is nothing to compare to a cracking cover drive or a cartwheeling off-stump in glorious sunshine.

I thoroughly recommend you give it a try.


Photo 1:Glorious weather and cricket at Leicestershire in May, 2024 but sadly not many spectators.   

Photo 2:Statue in Skipton of a Yorkshire hero: Freddie Trueman depicted in his unmistakeable bowling action. Credit Shutterstock

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