Over 40 years ago Yorkshire were given a challenging target in a match at Trent Bridge. Paul Dyson takes a look back over the whole game.
July 9, 11, 12, 1977 at Trent Bridge: Nottinghamshire 279-8 (RA White 90) & 243-1dec (MJ Smedley 130*, PD Johnson 106*); Yorkshire 200 (DL Bairstow 65, CEB Rice 4-50) & 323-5 (G Boycott 154, B Leadbeater 71, A Sidebottom 57*). Yorkshire won by five wickets.
All of the first seven years of the 1970s had seen Nottinghamshire finish in the bottom half of the Championship table. Yorkshire were not having a great decade either, having only one top-half finish in addition to its fourth place in 1970 and runners-up spot in 1975. The hosts had started the 1977 disastrously, not winning a single game of their first 11 encounters, losing five and drawing six. In complete contrast, Yorkshire had yet to experience defeat; it had won four and drawn seven if its first 11 games. With each county playing a total of 22, this match, in which the advantage swung one way and then the other, was being staged just after the halfway point of the campaign.
Geoff Boycott won the toss for Yorkshire and inserted the opposition who almost reached the 50-mark without losing a wicket but then lost two in quick succession, both to the fast-medium of Arnie Sidebottom. South African Clive Rice and skipper Mike Smedley then shared a half-century partnership but more inconsistent batting saw the total slip to 126 for five. Bob White, a left-handed batsman who had made his debut for Middlesex almost 20 years previously, then came to the wicket and changed the course of the innings. He shared in two half-century stands in the process of making 90 and was the main reason for his side making 279 for eight in the 100 overs which were allocated at that time. Sidebottom finished with three wickets as did Howard Cooper. Yorkshire made a poor start in reply, slipping to 24 for three, two of these to Rice, before reaching close of play on 33 for three.
It was not long on the second day before Yorkshire lost night-watchman Cooper to give Rice another wicket and the innings continued to falter and reached a low point of 97 for six. Wicket-keeper David Bairstow then repeated White’s rescue act but his 65 did not receive such good support. He shared a half-century stand for the eighth wicket with Mike Bore but his side left 23.1 overs unused and were all out for exactly 200 which gave the home team a lead of 79, the lively Rice finishing with four for 50. Yorkshire were hampered by an injury to John Hampshire who had to retire hurt early in the innings and who came back at the fall of the ninth wicket but too late to make any impact. Cooper soon struck in Nottinghamshire’s second innings – before a run was on the board – but Paul Johnson and Smedley settled down to some comfortable batting and the hosts were 152 for one by close of play.
The overnight pair continued to thwart Yorkshire’s bowlers; Smedley reached his century first and made the inevitable declaration just after Johnson had reached the same milestone, the unbeaten partnership being responsible for all of Nottinghamshire’s 243 runs. Yorkshire’s target was 323 in 280 minutes – a formidable challenge, as Wisden described it. They got off to an excellent start with an opening partnership of 176 between Boycott and Barrie Leadbeater (71). The middle order contributed less well, 131 being needed from the last 20 overs, and it was 232 for four when Sidebottom came to the crease. Boycott had reached his century and the pair shared a stand of 76 with some ‘resolute hitting’ before the opener was run out for 154 having been dropped twice. Bairstow then joined Sidebottom and the winning run soon came with ten minutes to spare, Sidebottom remaining 57 not out from his ‘dashing’ innings. Rice was wicketless and conceded more than four runs per over as did the left-arm fast-medium Peter Hacker.
Nottinghamshire’s season hardly got any better; it managed to win one match and that was at the very end of the campaign and came as a result of three declarations. Inevitably it came bottom of the Championship table. Yorkshire’s season deteriorated, however; it won only one more match, lost five and ended the season in 12th place, a drop of four positions.
In making 71 and sharing an opening stand of 176 with Geoff Boycott, it was Barrie Leadbeater who did much to set Yorkshire on its way to achieving an unlikely victory in this match. He was in his 12th season with the county having made his debut in 1966.