New book recalls cricket’s golden holidays

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THE seasons when county cricket grounds were packed to capacity are recalled in a new book by Ripley 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, whilst 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.

Derbyshire’s holiday opponents before the 1914-18 war were Hampshire and then Essex but from 1919 to 1958, with a couple of exceptions, they met Warwickshire with the fixtures alternating between Derby and Edgbaston. After Spring Bank Holiday was introduced and the August date switched from the beginning of the month to the end, Derbyshire embarked on a series of holiday encounters with Nottinghamshire.

“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.

“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 of 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.”

In recent years the Bank Holidays have lost some of the significance of old but they still have an important part to play, with various fixtures arranged to coincide with the period.

John Shawcroft, who lives in Ripley, was editor of the Ripley and Heanor News for 20 years and also worked at the Ilkeston Advertiser and the Eastwood and Kimberley Advertiser.

In 2006 his book Local Heroes, The story of the Derbyshire team which won the County Championship, was short listed for the Cricket Society’s Book of the Year award.

Golden Mondays: The Story of Cricket’s Bank Holiday Matches (225 pages, £20) can be obtained from ACS Sales, Blue Bell House, 2-4 Main Street, Scredington, Sleaford, Lincs NG34 0AE (01529 306272) or ordered via Amazon.