Jim’s Midas Touch. That was the headline on the Bradford Telegraph and Argus match report following Yorkshire’s Benson and Hedges Cup final triumph over Northamptonshire at Lord’s in 1987. It remains a hugely popular memory for many Yorkshire supporters and players, not least star of the show Jim Love.
Not that Love sees it like that. He may have hit a match-clinching 75 not out as the White Rose side, chasing 245 in 55 overs, finished on 244-6 and won a thriller on fewer wickets lost following Northants’ 244-7. But he insists there were other worthy recipients of the Gold Award which he claimed.
Had he been adjudicating on the award instead of England Test captain at the time Mike Gatting, the prize for man-of-the-match would likely have gone elsewhere.
“It probably would, yeah,” reflects the man who now works as the elite cricket age-group co-ordinator for the county. “I thought the openers were outstanding and the bowlers did a great job. I happened to be there at the end. That’s what I think tipped it in my favour.
“Mike Gatting was the adjudicator, and he was a batsman. Who knows, if it was a bowler it may have gone that way. Everybody played a part on the day. That was the great thing.”
The openers. Martyn Moxon and Ashley Metcalfe laid the platform in the chase with a partnership of 97, hitting 45 and 47 respectively. The bowlers. Paul Jarvis earlier claimed 4-47 with the new ball, while Arnie Sidebottom returned 11 wicketless overs at a cost of only 40 and captain Phil Carrick went for only 30 runs in his 11 overs. Peter Hartley struck twice and Stuart Fletcher once.
Sidebottom was also there at the end in the chase, while Carrick also earned high praise for sacrificing himself following a run out mix-up with Love. In another newspaper report at the time, written by David Warner, Love praised his skipper, saying that incident highlighted the strong team spirit which contributed to the county’s second piece of limited overs silverware of the eighties following the 1983 John Player League success.
Fast forward to the current day and with the Coronavirus pandemic forcing the cancellation of the early stages of the county season, Yorkshire fans were asked to suggest classic matches for a club website feature. The most popular response was this particular clash with Northants, a nail-biting win which was Yorkshire’s seventh out of seven in that competition.
“It was an interesting campaign. It just all seemed to go our way,” continued Love. “I remember the quarter-final at Headingley when Hampshire came. In those days, the pitches were a bit sporting at Headingley, shall we say, and Hampshire came with not a bad side.
“But we pretty much knew we’d beaten them when we saw them looking at the pitch. Well, they weren’t just looking at it, they were on their hands and knees looking for ridges and things. We thought, ‘They’re reading far more into this than there is’.
“Then we beat Surrey reasonably well in the semi-final. And it was on to the big game!”
By that stage in his career, Love, aged 32 at the time, had played three one-day internationals for England – he would not play anymore – against Australia in the summer of 1981. He debuted at Lord’s and played in subsequent fixtures at Edgbaston and Headingley. He posted scores of 15, 43 and three. So, how did they compare as occasions to a domestic Lord’s final?
“I don’t think there are similarities,” he said. “It’s completely different walking out there with your buddies who you’ve know for years to going to play internationals for England.
“For me, the B&H was a bigger occasion. I’m not trying to disrespect the one-day internationals because I’m hugely proud of them and enjoyed them. But it meant a bit more going out there with your mates from home.”
Upon winning the toss on a lovely mid-July day, Yorkshire opted to field first against a Northants side captained by Geoff Cook and including the likes of Wayne Larkins, Allan Lamb, David Capel and West Indies fast bowler Winston Davis.
All-rounder Capel, who had made his Test debut a week earlier against Pakistan at Headingley, top-scored for the Wantage Road side with an excellent 97. Like Love, he batted at number five and led a recovery from 48-3 and later 92-4.
“We definitely thought we could win it at halfway, no doubt,” said Love. “We were quite pleased we’d only gone for 244 because it was a great wicket and a fast outfield. We knew if we got off to a good start, we’d have every chance. That’s what happened.”
Love came to the crease at 103-3. Following a solid opening stand, Yorkshire had lost three wickets for six runs and needed to rebuild.
“It wasn’t the best innings I’ve ever played, there’s no doubt about that,” he went on.
“I think it was first or second ball I got off the mark, and I still remember clearly how I did it. It was Nick Cook bowling, the left-arm spinner. I worked him through mid-wicket for one and knew straightaway that if I didn’t do anything stupid we’d win.
“It was just one of those surreal moments. Other times you have to work like hell for it. I’m not saying I didn’t have to work for it, but I just knew.”
At the start of the final over, Yorkshire needed five runs to win outright with Love on strike against overseas quick Davis and Sidebottom for company.
“That was when we first knew the situation with the tie and fewer wickets lost,” explained Love. “Dickie Bird, who was umpiring, told us. Apparently they made an announcement on the tannoy, but we couldn’t hear it. So he had to tell us. Arnie and I knew exactly what we’d have to do at the very least.”
Funnily enough, they didn’t know the full story, though. Had Yorkshire lost a wicket and finished on 244-7, they would have still won given the second separator to fewer wickets lost was a runs count back to 30 overs. Whichever side had scored more after 30 overs of their respective innings would win, and that was in the Love and co’s favour: “No, we didn’t know that,” confirmed Love.
That meant that with one ball to go and the scores level, Love thought he had to preserve his wicket to seal the silverware, which he duly did to spark celebrations which went on into the night.
After the match, Sidebottom actually found out that his father, Jack, had been rushed from the ground to hospital at around lunchtime with angina, meaning that while Love and the players were toasting their success in the dressing room, Sidebottom was on his way to hospital having been informed of the news by his sister. Jack returned home to Barnsley a day or two later.
Back at Lord’s, a congratulatory call came in from the Duke of York, Prince Andrew. It was meant for captain Carrick, though was taken by cricket chairman Brian Close due to the former being otherwise engaged with some media duties.
Scheduling meant that Yorkshire’s squad had to continue their celebrations on the team coach that evening because they were hosting Middlesex in a Sunday League clash at Scarborough the following day.
“We won that game as well,” added Love. “How, I’ve no idea. We celebrated just as hard even though we had that game to play.
“We came up on a coach and stopped at Selby Fort Services overnight and then drove to Scarborough the following morning. By that time, the driver had done a fantastic job in covering all the seats up with bin liners. There was a fair celebration.
“Mike Gatting was on the bus with us as well, having a decent time. Maybe that’s why we won the next day.”
Love scored 14 in that clash, later admitting to David Warner that he was blown away by a standing ovation from the North Marine Road crowd as he strode to the crease: “I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “I thought Geoff Boycott must be following me to the middle or something.”