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The Origins of the One Day Cup

When Hampshire lifted the Royal London One-Day Cup last summer they took a first prize of £154,000 back to the Ageas Bowl.

That’s a far cry from the not-so-glittering prizes claimed by Northamptonshire’s players for winning the event that basically started the one-day ball rolling in the English county game.

Four teams – Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and us – contested the ‘Midlands Knockout Competition’ in early-May 1962.  It was intended as a dry run for the full-scale tournament (which would become the Gillette Cup) being launched the following summer.

Keith Andrew’s side defeated Leicestershire by five wickets in the final at Grace Road – chasing down 219 with seven of the 65 allocated overs remaining, thanks to useful runs from Brian Reynolds, Mick Norman, Jim Watts and Brian Crump.

‘In one day’s play,’ noted Wisden, ‘437 runs were scored, 15 wickets fell and, perhaps most important, there was a result.’

And what riches awaited ‘KV’ and his men for their historic victory?  A souvenir ashtray each.

It’s fair to say the product on offer at Leicester that day – whilst clearly a different game from the three-day County Championship – bore very little resemblance to the limited-overs cricket the Steelbacks will be playing over the next few weeks, culminating in this year’s RLODC final on May 25.

When the full-scale competition began in 1963 it was still 65 overs a side, with a limit of 15 per bowler.  Lunch and tea rather than a single interval between innings.  And, of course, played exclusively during daylight hours in whites with a red ball.

Would it catch on?  Yes, it would.  A crowd of 25,000 flocked to Lord’s to see Ted Dexter’s Sussex beat Worcestershire in the inaugural final. 

Not that everyone was happy.  Few counties placed much trust in spinners not to get slogged around – ‘pace off the ball’ not the mantra then – while the tactic of placing every fielder on the boundary was reckoned a bit shabby.

It would be some years before fielding circles (not to mention coloured clothing, white balls, floodlights, powerplays, music and a host of other features we now take for granted) were introduced.

A huge step was taken half-a-century ago in 1969 with the advent of the Sunday League – 40 overs a side, cash incentives for outstanding batting and bowling performances and a selected match shown every week live on BBC2. 

To say that Northamptonshire were slow out of the blocks in the ‘John Player’ would be an understatement.  They finished in the bottom half of the table in ten of its first eleven seasons.

But the one-day penny eventually dropped.  Mushtaq Mohammad lifted the Gillette in 1976; four years later Jim Watts led the County to the Benson and Hedges Cup; and in 1992 the NatWest Trophy arrived at Wantage Road in the hands of Allan Lamb.

Some supporters will yearn for the days of three ‘List A’ competitions on the fixture list, before the advent of Twenty20 in 2003.

Nothing, however, that a day out at Lord’s in six weeks’ time wouldn’t put right.

Tickets for our home fixtures in the 2019 Royal London One Day Cup are available now! Buy online in advance and save up to £5.

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