2019 is a year of some momentous anniversaries, not least the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. It’s also the 40th Anniversary of Somerset’s first silverware and it’s forty-five years since the 1974 season, when a promising group of cricketing hopefuls first hit the scene. That was the year when there were three debutants at Somerset. It’s arguably the county’s best ever vintage, characterised by quality over quantity. Ian Botham, Peter Roebuck and Viv Richards would all play a significant part in the fortunes of the county side for the next twelve years. For anyone unfamiliar with the wonderful “Somerset Cricketers” series, the books – there have been four volumes so far – include illustrated biographies of every Somerset player in debut order, with a very brief summary of the club’s fortunes each season. The author, Stephen Hill, has agreed to allow The Incider release the 1974 section of the newly-published “Somerset Cricketers 1971-2000”. Over the next few days we’ll be posting excerpts with biographies of Ian Botham, Peter Roebuck and Viv Richards, but first, as a taster, here’s the book’s summary of the 1974 season.
“One innings was sufficient for the Somerset players to realise that Len Creed had unearthed a genius. Brian Close delivered the immortal words, ‘You’ll do for me, lad.’ It was all too much for Len Creed, who was crying.”
Vic Marks on Viv Richards
Championship Position: 5 of 17
If the preceding years had been characterised by the influx of experienced old hands, then that was about to change with a vengeance. Roy Kerslake had recommended the adoption of a youth policy, with the county being scoured for young talent – players who would be coached by Tom Cartwright et al and toughened up by Brian Close.
Three of the new-joins made their first-class debut in 1974. Viv Richards, Ian Botham and Peter Roebuck all arrived on the scene. Other noteworthy additions would follow. Some vintage, this was. Viv knocked Brian Close off his pedestal as the most prolific batsman and Hallam Moseley came into his own as a bowler with eighty-one first-class wickets, ably assisted by the mercurial Allan Jones. The rise to fifth place in the Championship would have been excellent news in itself for a team about to undergo a transition, but it was the limited-overs games that truly lifted the spirits of the faithful. Viv Richards’s debut – against Glamorgan in the First Round of the Benson & Hedges Cup – turned out to be a Man of the Match Award-winning demonstration of the brute beauty that would become his trademark as a batsman. It was breathtaking and elicited a guard of honour arranged by the skipper.
Not to be outdone, a young Ian Botham refused, later in the same competition, to be cowed either by a painful blow to the mouth from a vicious Andy Roberts bouncer or by what everyone else in Taunton regarded as the inevitability of defeat. He picked himself up off the floor, led his team to an improbable victory and garnered another Man of the Match Award for the young guns. It was brave, it was brilliant and, not for the last time, it had the national sports pages slavering about an exceptional all-rounder from Yeovil.
And yet, in the context of one-day cricket, the season arguably belonged to Bob Clapp, a quiet, humorous, self-deprecating chap who bagged a record number of wickets for his side. Those wickets helped Somerset to second place in the John Player Special League. Nothing had been won. Of course it hadn’t. Somerset never won anything, did they?
But the future appeared bright.