Today’s Throwback Thursday takes us back to a John Player League match that was played at Brislington CC, Bristol in June 1969 in which a virtually unknown 20 year old Australian scored the first ever century in the competition.
Limited overs cricket in England was first introduced into the domestic cricketing calendar back in 1963 with the advent of the Gillette Cup that began life as a 65 overs per side competition. The success of the Gillette Cup led to the introduction of a Sunday afternoon 40-over competition, the John Player League in 1969, which was initially given a lukewarm reception by the traditionalists who predicted it would never catch on.
In an effort to speed up the pace of the game, the new John Player League (JPL) saw bowlers allowed a maximum of eight overs each and run ups to a maximum of 15 yards.
Somerset hadn’t made a brilliant start in the JPL and arrived at Brislington’s compact Ironmould Lane Ground, which was situated alongside the A4 not too far beyond the old Smith’s Crisps Factory, with one point to their name which had come from an abandoned match.
Memory recalls that it was a warm sunny summer afternoon and the large crowd drawn from nearby Bristol and Bath crowded around the boundary edges in their deck chairs with their picnics.
Both sides had travelled from Taunton where they were involved in a three-day Championship match, which was usual practice in the early days of the JPL.
The Somerset side for this game was Roy Virgin, Tony Clarkson, Greg Chappell, Merv Kitchen, Graham Burgess, Brian Rose, Roy Palmer, Ken Palmer, Peter Robinson, Brian Langford (captain) and John Roberts. In this JPL game, as in several others in 1969, Roy Virgin kept wicket in place of regular ‘keeper Charlie Carter who was playing in the Championship match between the two sides.
After winning the toss Brian Langford chose to ask Surrey to bat first and openers Mike Edwards and Bill Smith took the visitors on to 37 before left arm seamer John Roberts struck, when he had Smith caught by ‘keeper Virgin. Without addition to the total new boy Chappell removed the other opener and with the score on 50 the young Aussie picked up his second wicket when he had Younis Ahmed caught by Kitchen for 10.
Apart from Graham Roope who hit 52, none of the Surrey batsmen were able to dominate and at the end of their allotted 40 overs the visitors had reached 173 for seven.
Roberts ended with two for 20 from his eight overs, whilst Chappell had two for 24, Burgess two for 27 and Ken Palmer one for 44.
At the interval the locals, who’d previously had little to cheer about in the new competition felt that their side could be in with a chance of getting a victory under their belt. However, shortly after Virgin and Clarkson opened the Somerset reply the hopes of the local supporters were put on hold when the latter was caught by Roope off the bowling of Geoff Arnold with just five on the board.
This brought the tall, young Chappell to the wicket to join the dependable Virgin. The 20 year old proceeded to dominate the innings, never once giving a chance as he brought up the first ever century in the JPL. He remained unbeaten on 128 in an innings that included 19 fours and lasted only one hour and 43 minutes to compile.
Thanks to an unbroken partnership of 170 between Chappell and Virgin, who made an unbeaten 42, Somerset notched up their first victory with 10 balls to spare, and sent the crowd home with something to cheer about.
Nobody was quite sure who Greg Chappell was before this game but by the time the crowd departed his name was imprinted in Somerset folklore forever.