By Neil Fissler
Derbyshire shocked the country in reaching the Benson & Hedges Cup final but preparation for their big day at Lord’s proved far from ideal.
The weekend before the final they lost their first Sunday League match of the season against Worcestershire and were then knocked out of the Gillette Cup by Middlesex.
Derbyshire had never previously survived the zonal rounds of the competition but this time they were unbeaten, overcoming Warwickshire, Lancashire, Gloucestershire and Minor Counties West.
It earned them a quarter-final against Middlesex who were subsequently seen off by 29 runs thanks to 3-22 from their tough South African skipper Eddie Barlow.
Then, in the semi-final, they beat Warwickshire by 41 runs at the County Ground, bowling the visitors out for 162 on the reserve day after Mike Hendrick had reduced them to 10-2.
Nobody had ever rated Derbyshire, who had been beaten by Yorkshire in the 1969 Gillette Cup final, as a one-day side so being the underdogs didn’t really bother them.
“No, we weren’t fancied at all,” says Geoff Miller. “But Eddie Barlow had created this spirit and quality within the side that we had to believe in ourselves.
“We had one or two decent players but we weren’t a massively recognised side as such. I think it was a bit of a surprise that we got to the final.
“Our only previous final was well before my time with Fred Rumsey, Mike Page, Peter Eyre, Bob Taylor and Harold Rhodes.
“But we hadn’t won that either and had to wait until the NatWest Trophy final in 1981 against Northamptonshire for a win – the first thing Derbyshire had won since the Championship in 1936.”
Derbyshire’s opponents at Lord’s in 1978 were one-day giants Kent, who had won the competition in 1973 and 1976 and been runners-up in 1977.
After winning the toss and deciding to bat first, Derbyshire were bowled out for 147 with West Indies all-rounder John Shepherd taking 4-25.
It was never going to be enough to stop Kent who, even though being 34-2 at one stage, rallied to 151-4 from 41.4 with Bob Woolmer taking the Gold Award for his 79.
Miller says: “Against Kent we were always second best, they were a good team: Woolmer, Chris Cowdrey, Asif Iqbal, Derek Underwood. They were a good side.
“We were playing decent cricket so we went into the final thinking that we had a chance if we played well but Kent outplayed us, so you have to put your hands up and accept that.
“We gave it all we’d got but we weren’t anticipating being in the final and I don’t think the rest of the country did, either, although there was always the chance of a surprise.”
BACK ROW – PLAYERS ONLY (left-right):
James Graham-Brown: An all-rounder who was headmaster of the independent girls school Royal High School, Bath. His daughter, Annie, is an actress. He has now written a play about Colin Milburn.
Tony Borrington: An opening batsman, he went into teaching and became head teacher at Grace Dieu prep school, Leicestershire, until retiring.
Colin Tunnicliffe: All-rounder who became commercial manager at Derbyshire CCC and Derby County. He then sold property in Spain and ran a sports advertising business. Now drives for Derbyshire Health Trust.
Harry Cartwright: A batsman, was a teacher at Mount St Mary’s College in Sheffield and is now teaching modern jive dancing.
Fred Swarbrook: An all-rounder who now lives in South Africa where he coached at Grey High School in Port Elizabeth. He is cricket professional at Woodridge School.
Peter Kirsten: A South African international batsman like his half-brother Gary. Played rugby against the British Lions. He is coaching Uganda and working as a television commentator.
Alan Hill: Batsman who became an umpire and then took up coaching, working in a number of schools including Newcastle-Under-Lyme School. Was head coach for Staffordshire Cricket.
Phil Russell: A medium pace bowler. He went on to coaching the county before moving to South Africa where he became head groundsman at Kingsmead Stadium in Durban before retiring.
Eddie Barlow: South Africa Test all-rounder. Was director of the South African Sports Office in London before going into coaching. He died of a brain hemorrhage in December 2005.
Bob Taylor: England wicket keeper who went into PR for Cornhill Insurance and then worked for Staffordshire-based sports clothing manufacturer Morrant.
Mike Hendrick: An England seam bowler, he went into coaching with Ireland, Scotland, Nottinghamshire and Shropshire. Was also Derbyshire’s bowling coach.
Geoff Miller: An England all-rounder who for many years ran Moss and Miller, a sports shop in Chesterfield. Was a long-serving England selector and is now an after-dinner speaker.
Iain Anderson: An opening batsman. Became an accountant and has been head of accounting at Hospira Inc and financial controller at SPS Technologies. Now a freelance financial controller.
Ashley Harvey-Walker: A batsman who became an assistant groundsman at the Wanderers, Johannesburg, when he was shot dead in a private club in April 1997, aged 52.
John Lister: An opening batsman. He is now the cricket professional at Barnard Castle School in his native Co Durham, where he also coaches rugby union.
Alan McLellan: A wicketkeeper. Is living and working in the Ilkeston area.
Alan Mellor: A spinner now living and working in his native Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
Alan Morris: A batsman who was manager of a Johannesburg jewellery business but is now a community sports development officer near Mansfield.
John Walters: A seam bowler and welder by trade who went on to run his own successful car body repair business before retiring.
Robert Wincer: A fast bowler who was a successful football coach. He went into teaching maths and physics at Woodhouse Grove School and now Wakefield Independent School.
John Wright: New Zealand opening batsman who worked in sales before going into coaching, including a long stint in charge of India and later became a mentor at the Mumbai Indians.
This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, October 7 2016
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