By Neil Fissler
Leicestershire had a rich history in the Benson & Hedges Cup after beating Yorkshire to win the first final in 1972.
They then lost the 1974 final to Surrey before returning a year later to beat Middlesex on their way to winning the double with their first County Championship.
In 1985 they breezed through the group stages winning three out of four games only losing to Yorkshire by one run despite Ian Butcher scoring 101 while they were chasing 245.
In the quarter finals Butcher made 55 as Leicestershire posted 243-5 against Hampshire at Southampton who were then bowled out for 239 with one ball to spare.
Butcher says that despite it being a decade between final appearances their success wasn’t entirely unexpected.
“We didn’t have a bad one-day side if you look through the team. Peter Willey had just joined us at that stage so we batted pretty deep,” he said.
“Our bowling attack was varied and fairly consistent all the way through that campaign. So it wasn’t really a surprise. We had been there or thereabouts in the Sunday League for a little while.
“So we considered ourselves a decent one-day side. In that period we were even pushing for third or fourth place in the Championship but didn’t quite manage to get over the line.”
The Grace Road semi-final against Kent turned into a non-event thanks to the Leicestershire bowling attack who skittled the visitors out for 101.
Jonathan Agnew took two wickets, Les Taylor three, Gordon Parsons one, Paddy Clift and Willey two a piece. In reply Leicestershire got the required 102 in 21.5 overs thanks in no small part to Butcher clubbing 56 before falling to Kevin Jarvis.
“We walked all over Kent. It was a no contest. I remember taking an early catch off Jon Agnew to get out Simon Hinks and from then on in we started to take wickets regularly,” he added.
“We shared the wickets around and Kent didn’t play very well at all. We knocked off the runs fairly easily. I made a half-century but didn’t get the Gold Award which I still cannot believe.
“I never got one and I think I should have got it in that game and also when I made the century against Yorkshire,” he adds.
Leicestershire couldn’t have wished for harder opponents in the final than Essex who had won three Championships in five years as well as two Sunday League titles.
“We stayed at the hotel just down the road from the Lord’s and on the morning of the game I decided that I’d walk to the ground,” he said.
“But when I got to the Grace Gates the security didn’t believe I said who I said I was and wouldn’t let me in until Leicestershire members assured them I was in the team.”
David Gower won the toss and put Essex in and they made 213-8 off their 55 overs and at one stage victory for Leicestershire looked less than assured.
They slumped to 135-5 but then Willey hit 86 off 96 balls and Mike Garnham 34 off 45 balls to see them home by five wickets with three overs to spare.
BACK ROW (left to right):
Geoff Blackburn: Scorer from 1985 to 1994 and lived in the Loughborough area until his death in December 2013. aged 92. after working for the General Post Office and British Telecom.
Mike Garnham: South African born keeper who lives in Halstead, Essex. For the last 14 years has been working in planning in rural north Essex.
Ian Butcher: Opening bat and brother of former Surrey opener Alan. Spent 15 years coaching Northants academy. Is now head of cricket at the Harrodian School, Barnes, and also runs a coaching business.
Jonathan Agnew: England Test fast bowler had a spell on the Today newspaper but since 1991 has been BBC cricket correspondent and works on Test Match Special.
Les Taylor: Former miner who became an England Test seamer and went to work for the Royal Mail as a postman following his retirement from first class cricket in 1990. Also a qualified coach.
Nick Cook: Leicester born England Test left-arm spinner. Went into coaching at Northants where he finished his career and since November 2008 has been on the first-class umpires list.
Gordon Parsons: Burly fast bowler who was the brother-in-law of Hansie Cronje. Now lives in South Africa where he has been on the coaching staff of the Highveld Lions since 2008.
James Whitaker: Former England Test batsman who became coach and director of cricket at Leicestershire where he spent the whole of his career. Now the ECB’s head of selectors.
Paddy Clift: Medium pace bowler ran the Durban North coaching academy but died after a battle with bone marrow cancer in Durban, South Africa, in September 1996, at 43.
Chris Balderstone: Only person to have played first-class cricket and in the Football League on the same day. Chris played football for Huddersfield and Carlisle. He won two England Test caps. He died in March 2000, aged 59.
David Gower: Batsman and brilliant fielder who captained England, playing in over 100 Test matches and ODIs before going into broadcasting and is the front man for Sky Sports international cricket coverage.
Peter Willey: All-rounder who was an England international. After retiring from first-class cricket he became an umpire and stood until retiring in 2014 after serving the game for 49 years.
Nigel Briers: Right handed batsman who was born in Leicester and has been teaching at Marlborough College in Wiltshire where he has been Head of PE, director of sport and is currently master in charge of cricket.
George Ferris: Antiguan fast bowler lives in Orlando, Florida. After working in insurance he runs a pet supplies business and is also a careers consultant.
Phil DeFreitas: Former England Test all-rounder Daffy has coached at Oxford UCCE and Notts and also works on the after dinner speaking circuit.
Russell Cobb: Batsman who spent over 30 years at Grace Road as player and coach. Now head coach at Loughborough UCCE. His son Josh moved to Northants from Leicestershire this winter.
David Billington: A Lancashire born batsman is now a builder in Darwen, Lancashire.
Mark Blackett: Middlesex born batsman is a qualified coach, who lives in Enfield. Drives a London taxi.
Phil Whitticase: Former keeper’s 31-year association with the club ended in December when he left his cricket director role. Now an ECB liaison officer.
This article was originally published in The Cricket Paper, May 22 2015