When Essex visited Scarborough last August it was widely noted that, with the team leading the Championship table, each of the previous four winners of the title had won games at the North Marine Road ground. Paul Dyson looks at how common this has been at the famous ground.
The seaside town of Scarborough hosted first-class cricket for the first time in 1863; a match between Scarborough and an All England XI took place on Castle Hill and such matches continued to take place each year until 1871. There was then two seasons without first-class cricket in Scarborough but in 1874, with the visit of Middlesex, the town’s first inter-county match took place. In the following season a cricket carnival – later called the Festival – began and first-class friendly games took place towards the end of every season, except for the war years, up until 1994.
The second county to visit Scarborough was Leicestershire; they did so in 1896 after a 22-year gap and by now the official County Championship had been established. Yorkshire won the match by 162 runs and, as they won the title for the second time, becoming the first county to do the double of winning at Scarborough and winning the Championship in the same season. The host county repeated this feat inn 1898, 1900 and 1901. By this time a total of five counties had played at North Marine Road, including Leicestershire twice, but the sequence suddenly stopped. From 1902 until 1930, inclusive, there was no Championship fixture at Scarborough. The absence was broken with the visit of Glamorgan in 1931.
Since that season there has been at least one County Championship match every year. There were two such matches for the first time in 1934 but this was not a regular feature of the calendar. It was not until 1978 that Scarborough’s hosting of two Championship matches became a permanent feature of the first-class fixture list. The years of 1990 and 2008 were the only exceptions to this; each of those seasons had no fewer than three visits by county sides.
With Essex having won at Scarborough in August and having claimed the title as well, that county has copied Durham in 2013 and Middlesex in 2016 by having won their fixtures at North Marine Road and been victorious in the Championship in the same season. With Yorkshire having repeated the feat in 2014 and 2015 the coincidence has now produced a five-in-a-row sequence.
How often has this double occurred? Yorkshire has done it plenty of times, as one would expect, but for visiting teams there have been only two other instances in addition to the three this decade. They were in 1980 and 1994. There have been four other occasions when visiting counties have subsequently won the title but only drew, or even lost, their games at Scarborough. It is surprising to find that it was not until 1964 that the eventual county champions had a game at Scarborough. The following makes all of this clear.
COUNTY CHAMPIONS’ RESULTS AT SCARBOROUGH IN TITLE–WINNING SEASONS
1964 – Worcestershire – Lost by 92 runs
1979 – Essex – Lost by one wicket
1980 – Middlesex – Won by eight wickets
1993 – Middlesex – Drawn
1994 – Warwickshire – Won by eight wickets
2000 – Surrey – Drawn
2013 – Durham – Won by seven wickets
2016 – Middlesex – Won by an innings and four runs
2017 – Essex – Won by eight wickets
So, it is now known that 2018 sees Surrey and Worcestershire playing Championship cricket at Scarborough. Can either of them go one better than they did in 2000 and 1964, respectively or will it be Yorkshire’s year?