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If it’s Sunday, it’s programme day – A brief guide to the cricket programmes of the Sunday League

Posted: 21st March 2014


Since the start of modern domestic cricket, most spectators attending a match would follow the same ritual.

After entering the ground, they’d look for the scorecard seller.

Sitting and completing the details of the match on the scorecard, often in pencil, while enjoying the cricket was an integral part of watching domestic county cricket right back to the Golden Age in late Victorian and early Edwardian times as the likes of Wilfred Rhodes, Victor Trumper and Ranjitsinghji graced our county grounds.

It was all about to change in 1976 but only on a Sunday.

That year, the authorities and counties decided to issue a football-style programme for matches in the 40 over Sunday League, then in its’ 8th year.

Actually, there would still be a scorecard but it would be printed into the centre of the programme across the double pages with one team on the left and one on the right.

The 40 over Sunday League, called the Players’ County League had begun back in 1969 after many years discussion on the back of the successful 60 Over Gillette Cup, launched in 1963.

There had also been nearly a decade of Sunday matches involving the International Cavaliers and the counties where that year’s beneficiary would usually use his club’s Cavaliers match as part of his benefit year events schedule.

But in the first few years of the league up to 1975, as was the norm for county cricket, a scorecard would be issued for matches, although this would have the branding of John Player, the cigarette company who first sponsored the league. For the rest of the week, the counties would issue their usual scorecards to spectators during the County Championship matches but come Sunday, the special card would be sold.

These Sunday matches in 1976 were not the first one where a programme had been issued either including or separate to the usual scorecard.

Official one-day cricket had begun in the domestic game back in 1963 with the first Gillette Cup competition and for the 3rd final in 1965 where allegedly, on the threat of a boot up the backside from his captain Brian Close, Geoffrey Boycott lashed a century for Yorkshire off the Surrey attack to help win the Cup, a programme was issued in addition to a scorecard for the first time in a big game.

This is the programme issued for the 5th final in 1967 between Kent and Somerset;


Programmes like this would be issued for every final thereafter right up to the Friends Provident Final in 2007 by which time the 60 Over competition had been rolled together with the 55 Over Benson and Hedges Cup into a 50 Over competition consistent with the International format of the One-Day game.

The first Benson and Hedges Final in 1972 was between Leicestershire, lead by Ray Illingworth against his old county, Yorkshire;


Following this trend, a programme has also been issued for every T20 Finals day since the competition’s inception in 2003.

This is the programme for the Finals day of year 2 at Edgbaston, one I attended, in which Glamorgan, Lancashire, winners Leicestershire and Surrey competed;


On the international scene back in mid 1960’s, for Test matches, it was always a scorecard that would be issued.

There were, as yet, no One-Day Internationals and it would be into the early 1980’s that a programme would be issued, usually in addition to a scorecard, like this one for the ODI between England and Pakistan in 1982;


So 1976 saw quite a major change with the weekly issuing of a programme for each match, football-style.

The programmes were designed and produced by the well know cricket writer, journalist and broadcaster Ralph Dellor and his editorial comments through the years, as we shall see, told the story of the ongoing issues in the game as well as the story of the league as it developed from a 40 over version of the County Championship in 1969 with low scoring matches the norm, through to a modern incarnation of the One-Day game with coloured clothing, a white ball, black sight screens and run rates up at levels unthinkable back at the start.

The contents would adjust as the years went by but each year, a template design would be developed which most clubs would use, although a few clubs decided to design their own programmes, as we shall see.

These templates would be used by most counties into the new Millennium. It would be then that most counties, following what a few had done before, would start to move towards their own designs, like football clubs have always done with their programmes.

Here is a review of the programmes by decade from the start of the Sunday League including the early years where scorecards only were issued;


1. 1960’s

For the first year of the League, 1969, a scorecard was issued with a template design.

The cigarette company John Player were the sponsors and the League’s name, the Player’s County League, was created in a way which would cause confusion.

Were the players behind the league in addition to the John Player company or both? The use of the apostrophe would tell you the correct story, but this name would be changed for 1970.

The size was reasonably large as scorecard sizes went, just under A4.

In the match below, Essex beat Middlesex by 21 runs at Ilford.

Essex’s innings score of 215 would not be regarded as a high score in a 40 over match today but in the early days of the Sunday League, teams often played as if they were in a County Championship match and scores rarely reached 5 runs an over.

Scoring rates would rise gradually through the 1970’s and 1980’s (recorded in a list within Wisden) towards what we see today;


2. 1970’s

In 1970, in order to remove any misunderstanding about the backers of the league, there a name change from Player’s County League to The John Player League.

There was a slightly different scorecard design.

This is the scorecard for another Essex v Middlesex match but this time at another of Essex’s many grounds, Westcliff.

This card has been left blank but the teams lists show the gradual changes taking place to the Middlesex side at this time as the team of the 1960’s gave way gradually to the players who Mike Brearley would take over and lead to a long run of success in all competitions.

Don Bennett (who had become the County Coach) and Ron Hooker (who that Summer would nearly knock my 14 year-old head off with a slog sweep in a club match between Finchley and South Hampstead) were gone and the likes of Graham Barlow were in;


For 1971, there was another design adjustment.

This match between Middlesex and Yorkshire, including a very young David Bairstow behind the stumps, was another low scoring affair with Yorkshire only reaching 126 in their attempt to chase down Middlesex’s 153 in which the experienced John Murray, ‘J.T’, as he was often affectionately calledtop scored with 42;


Also, in this year, some counties produced a small version of the scorecard like this one (half the size of the one above) for the match between Northamptonshire and Middlesex, a game Northants won by 9 wickets after overseas batsman Hylton Ackerman scored 72 not out and David Steele scored 71 not out;


In 1972, the mast head design changed again as seem here for the match at Chelmsford between Essex and Sussex.

Keith Fletcher lead Essex to victory after Keith Boyce, John Lever and Brian Edmeades had restricted Mike Griffith‘s Sussex to 102 in their 40 overs;


Again Northamptonshire issued a small scorecard (like the 1971 version above).

The low scores bug was catching if this next match was anything to go by.

In a game where the scores resembled a schoolboy effort, Middlesex won by 35 runs. But this win was achieved after they’d only managed to score 71!

There may have been something going on with the wicket at the County ground, as Northants were bowled out for 41.

The top scorers were Mike Smith for Middlesex with 16 and Jim Stewart for Northants with 12;


In 1973, the scorecard design is the same as the previous year for this match at Tewkesbury between a Gloucestershire side with Mike Proctor and a Lancashire team now without Jack Bond but with all the other players (other than Clive Lloyd, probably away with the West Indies tourists) who created so much one-day success for the red rose county in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s

In another low scoring game, Lancashire won by 18 runs after scoring 140 and bowling Glouestershire out for 122;


For 1974, I’ve only seen small cards like this one for the match between Derbyshire and Yorkshire at the picturesque Queens Park ground in Chesterfield

Yorkshire won the match by 4 wickets;


In 1975, again, there appeared to be small cards printed but without the year on the mast head.

This match at Canterbury between the strong Kent side of the times again against Yorkshire lead by Geoff Boycott was another low scoring game, Kent overhauled Yorkshire’s 115 for a 5 wicket win;


In 1976, the big change came with the introduction of programmes with the scorecard printed in the middle.

The programme was produced by a company called Sportsline in Twyford, Berkshire.

The editor was Ralph Dellor, the well known and respected cricket writer, journalist and broadcaster.

The programme was 16 pages long with colour covers showing Hampshire star Barry Richards launching some poor spinner into the deep for another boundary.

The contents included articles, results, tables, fixtures and a review of news around the counties and letters from spectators. There were also advertisements for a cricket related products like The Sportsmans’ Book Club and not so cricket related ones like security light switches.

The first design was a simple one, shown here for the match between Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire at Scarborough

Geoff Boycott (89 not out) and Richard Lumb (101) chased down Nottinghamshire’s 218 to win the match with a 1st wicket stand of 190.


In 1977, the design was a bit more visually interesting with photographs which included some of the top players like Sussex’s Tony Grieg and Warwickshire’s Bob Willis.

In this match, Yorkshire played Derbyshire at Hull where despite a Chris Old half century, Derbyshire won by 2 runs;


For 1978, the front cover design replicated the experience of wearing multi-focal glasses and is one I can’t look at for long, although I rather like it and perversely want to keep looking at it!

Derbyshire were playing Essex at the County Ground, Derby for this August encounter in which Ken McEwan (62) helped Essex to a 5 wicket win;


Our eyes were rested in 1979 as things got back to normal with a simple layout with one major photograph.

In some years, like this one, the scorecard was printed not in the obvious and convenient location of the centre pages but just before the end of the programme in pages 17 / 18.

The number of pages had risen to 20.

Lancashire, this time with Clive Lloyd, were playing Derbyshire at Old Trafford.

After good batting from John Wright (44) and David Steele (60), contributions from most of the Lancashire batsmen, including 49 from David Lloyd, secured a 5 wicket win;



3. 1980’s

As we enter a new decade, the front cover design was very similar to the 1979 edition.

The contents continued to be a mix of editorial comment from Ralph Dellor, reports, results, fixtures, statistics, features and advertisements.

At Headingley, Derbyshire beat Yorkshire in a low scoring match despite the efforts with the bat of Graham Stevenson who sadly left us recently;


In 1981, a graphic of a batsman with a fine head of hair took over the front cover.

Unfortunately, this match between Warwickshire and Leicestershire was abandoned without a ball being bowled;


In 1982, there was a new front cover reflecting the change in batsmen’s head-gear.

Now, it wasn’t just the likes of Dennis Amiss and Mike Brearley wearing helmets that might have looked more at home in the Sci-Fi programme, Alien Nation, as by every batsman wearing one.

This new protection changed the look and feel of watching cricket as it was now often impossible to tell who was batting.

The programme included a memorabilia section called ‘Card Corner’ in which a card that had been published by John Player in the pre-War years was featured, in this case, Sussex’s Maurice Tate.

In this match between Worcestershire and Middlesex at New Road, strong batting all the way down the Middlesex order and then efficient bowling left Worcestershire 17 runs short of their target;


In 1983, we saw a change in the League’s name to John Player Special League and a new front cover design to reflect this.

Leicestershire’s Paddy Clift took 4 wickets and scored 25 runs as Derbyshire were beaten by 5 wickets at Derby;


In 1984, the silhouetted batsman was still sweeping but now wearing a stream-lined helmet.

At Grace Road, despite the efforts of Leicestershire’s Peter Willey (60) and James Whitaker (41), Derbyshire chased down their target of 177 thanks to Kim Barnett (65) and John Morris (60) to win by 5 wickets;


Reverting to 16 pages, the 1985 programme included a new front cover design, the usual features including an early season review of the prospects for each county and a look forward to the Australian tour.

At the County Ground, Northampton,Alan Lamb (125) and Rob Bailey (79) lead Northamptonshire to an 8 wicket win after David Tuner‘s 65 had taken Hampshire to 224.


In 1986, it was back to player action photographs for the front cover.

Looks like an Essex batsman but I can’t tell who it is.

In this high scoring game between Warwickshire and Gloucestershire at Edgbaston, solid batting by Andy Moles, Alvin Kallicharran, Dennis Amiss and Asif Din set a score too high for the visitors who ended up 46 runs too short.

Keith Tomlins was not out for the West Country side.

I had caught him out a few years earlier when playing in my first Middlesex League match for Finchley against Tomlin’s club, Ealing (I also faced his medium pacers in the growing gloom at the end of the match). At that time, the young batting all rounder was trying to establish himself at County level in the strong Middlesex side at the time, while still playing club cricket when not required by his county.

He would finish his career playing for Gloucestershire;


1987 saw a new sponsor and therefore a new name for the league, the Refuge Assurance League (and new programme front cover) as insurance company Refuge Assurance took up the mantle.

In this match at Headingley, again Allan Lamb made a good contribution (61) for Northamptonshire but Yorkshire’s batsmen, lead by Martin Moxon (64) achieved a 6 wicket win.

In the programme, Ralph Dellor introduced the new season and the new sponsor and identified the new season’s cricket books;


Some counties produced their own versions of the programme.

Here is a 1987 example from Derbyshire for their 18 run victory over Gloucestershire at Ilkeston.

In the programme, the content was tailored to County specific items including a review of the Derbyshire County League.

The West country county had fast men David Lawrence, whose career would be cut short by a horrific knee injury while on tour to the Caribbean with England and West Indies Test star Courtney Walsh in their side.

Derbyshire had their own quicks including Dane, Ole Mortenson, Dominican seamer Martin Jean-Jaques and also, a certain Michael Holding who not only took 4 wickets but scored 19 batting as high as number 5;


The 1988 front cover showed what looks like the celebrations of the previous years’ winners and also mentioned the new end of season event, the Refuge Assurance Cup, a sort of play-off competition between the top 4 sides at the end of the league season.

This Cup would be played for the 4 seasons of Refuge’s sponsorship.

Looks like this match between Leicestershire and Middlesex was rained off after the Foxes had scored 130, including 55 from James Whitaker;


The programme was back up to 20 pages for the 1989 season with far more colour in the design.

Inside, amongst the advertisements, there was one for Duncan Fearnley‘s bats. Fearnley can be seen checking a bat with the numbers 405 on it. Behind him, Graham Hick looks on.

The previous season had seen the young batsmen compile that huge score, the first time anyone had hit over 400 in the County Championship since Lancastrian, Archie Maclaren’s 424, also against Somerset and also at Taunton, but way back in 1895;


Warwickshire’s Paul Smith scored 93 as the Bears hit 196. The ferocious Allan Donald took 4-32 and restricted Middlesex to 167;




The decade began with a front cover very useful to any school boy interested in learning grips, especially for seam bowling, as I remember well from my own efforts.

Derbyshire won this high scoring game against Kent at Chesterfield.

Kent scored 276 in their 40 overs with half centuries from Trevor Ward (80), Neil Taylor (78) and Simon Hinks (50). But Derbyshire chased down the target for the loss of 4 wickets due mainly to Kim Barnett (127) and Peter Bowler (54). The pair put on 146 for the 1st wicket;


In 1991, we see a pixellated helmet batsman on the front cover.

Inside, Ralph Dellor informed us of the end of Refuge Assurance’s sponsorship.

At Derby, Derbyshire beat Northamptonshire by 46 runs;


Ralph Dellor’s ‘Personal View’ editorial in this 1992 Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire programme reflected a number of changes taking place in the game at a time where the league had yet secured a new sponsor.

Durham had just been elevated to become the 18th First-Class County and below them, Herefordshire had become the latest Minor County.

For one season, the league was called The Sunday League.

Ralph also reviewed a biography of Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and England batsman Tom Graveney, whose last innings at Lord’s (in a Sunday League match), I witnessed.

Derbyshire won the match by 16 runs.


In 1992, Lancashire were producing their own version of the programme.

On the front cover of the issue for the match against Derbyshire at Old Trafford, Neil Fairbrother can be seen on England One-Day duty.

Neil is wearing coloured clothing and the editorial talks about the new sponsorship of the league for 1993, a year where for the first time, coloured clothing would be worn, a white ball and black sight screens used.

In the match, Lancashire won by 5 wickets chasing down Derbyshire’s score of 155 in which opener Peter Bowler had scored 91;


So in 1993, to reflect its’ new sponsors, we now had the AXA Equity and Law League and with the changes above implemented, a new chapter in the league’s story began.

At Chelmsford, Derbyshire beat Essex by 2 wickets in a low scoring game;


I especially like the sponsor’s advertisement showing the captains of the counties wearing their new coloured clothing in contrast to an image of 1880, a time where colour was very much a feature of the clothing cricketers wore;


For 1994, a psychedelic front cover design was used, a reminder of many football programme designs of the 1970’s.

Ralph Dellor voiced some interesting editorial ideas about using the game’s heritage to help market it for the future; a ‘look back to look forward’ approach and one I like very much;

At Grace Road, Leicestershire beat Essex by 14 runs;


A Kent issue for 1994 shows players in their pyjamas, as some called the coloured kits the teams were now wearing.

In the match, a Mike Rosebery century helped Middlesex to an 11 run victory;


By 1995, the programme had expanded to a 32 page issue.

Ralph Dellor made some interesting observations about junior cricket and the development of players and the issue of technique after England manager Ray Illingworth famously claimed in what was really a throw-away remark which everyone nontheless seized upon, that technique was not important at the top level (or words to that effect formed in a tad more colourful way).

In a one-sided and low scoring match, Derbyshire beat Gloucestershire by 8 wickets;


It’s 1996 and Ralph Dellor welcomed David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd to the job of England Coach.

The programme includes a ‘Where are they now?’ feature and one on 2nd XI cricket.

An Alec Stewart century lead Surrey to a 50 run victory over Derbyshire;


In this 1997 and the league’s name had been shortened a bit and was now the AXA Life League.

In this issue for the match between Middlesex and Derbyshire at Lord’s, there is an interesting article on Footballing Cricketers from Hampshire.

Still going strong after 20 years at the top, Mike Gatting‘s 82 helped secure a 4 wicket win for the home side;


A Warwickshire issue for the match against Derbyshire has Allan Donald on its’ front cover, a fast bowler, who when I watched him live for the first time, I wondered how any batsman could lay their bat onto the ball as it whistled past them and thudded into the wicket keeper’s gloves behind.

Ralph Dellor’s article raised the question of pitch preparation and related the wonderful story of how Trevor Bailey was once found sitting in a deckchair next to a Grace Road strip prepared with additional sand to assist Leicestershire captain Tony Lock‘s spinners. Bailey claimed he felt as if he was back home at Southend beach.

Of course, Essex were never afraid to produce greener wickets to suit Bailey and his seamers. One year, so the story goes, Surrey skipper Stuart Surridge asked Jim Laker to go and have a look at the strip at Gidea Park, Romford. After a while, Surridge joined Laker in the middle to ask him what he thought of the wicket. Laker replied, ‘I don’t know. I haven’t found it yet’.

The Footballing Cricketers article focuses on Warwickshire players in this category.

Donald didn’t play in this match where solid top order batting and tight bowling lead to a 108 run win for the Bears;


In the programme for this match between Yorkshire and Derbyshire at Headingley, Ralph Dellor recounted the development of a Grandstand April 1st spoof feature and how some aspects of it were now beginning to be implemented by the games’ authorities to counteract gamesmanship.

The new Duckworth-Lewis method was used in a rain affected game and Derbyshire won despite ending up 2 runs short of Yorkshire’s score of 125;


In 1999, we saw lots of changes.

There was a new sponsor, CGU and the league changed name again, to the CGU National Cricket League.

The league was now split into 2 divisions with relegation and promotion, a move to be copied in the County Championship the following year in 2000.

Also, matches were now 45 overs per side and were played not only on Sundays but in midweek too. Since 1993, County Championship matches had all been played over 4 days, leaving gaps in the weekly schedule suitable for one-day games.

A spread of matches across the week also allowed Sky to cover live more matches than if the schedule for the week were completed on one single day as had always been the way up to that point.

The programme covers were designed to reflect individual county interest as seen here with Derbyshire’s Dominic Cork concentrating hard to defend the incoming delivery.

Sky’s involvement in the sport was reflected by a column by former Lancashire and England bowler and now Sky commentator, Paul Allot.

In this match, where the use of nicknames can be seen for the first time, the Derbyshire Scorpions lost to the Nottinghamshire Outlaws by the large margin of 138 runs after Jason Gallian had scored 130, helping Notts achieve the huge score of 286;


The back cover advertisement for sponsors CGU featured the famous former player and international umpire Dickie Bird who I would spend a week eating breakfast next to every day in a Scarborough hotel a few years later (see left hand side page links for People and then Dickie Bird);



5. 2000’s onwards

Things began to change again in the new millennium.

The programmes moved gradually away from the template design towards publications produced by each county.

Here is a selection of these programmes.

In 2000, after Norwich Union and CGU had merged, the league became the Norwich Union National Cricket League.

The programme front covers were tailored for each county to show one of their own players. It looks like Essex‘s Stuart Law on the cover of this programme for the match against Warwickshire who were lead to a 6 wicket win by 75 from Neil Smith;


The usual features were included in the 2001 programme including lots of statistics by Les Hatton who had been contributing for some time.

Another Essex programme shows Ronnie Irani on the front cover for the 2001 match against Derbyshire, a match.

Irani took 2 wickets and scored 45 runs in a 5 wicket win for the Eassex Eagles;


In 2002, it looks like the programmes were now produced by the individual counties.

At Derby, 84 from Australian Michael Di Venuto helped to secure a 5 wicket win for Derbyshire against Sussex;


In 2004, Derbyshire‘s programme was larger and thicker, in this case showing wicket keeper and captain Luke Sutton on the front cover for the match against Somerset.

This programme did not include a scorecard printed into the pages but was a loose leaf insert.

The league was now the Totesport League.

A big contribution from Carl Gazzard (157) helped the Sabres to a 114 run victory;


A smaller, 32 page programme was produced by Warwickshire in 2004.

In this match against Essex, the Bears won by 54 runs;


Switching counties, here is an example of a Leicestershire programme, also from 2005.

In the match against Derbyshire won by 6 wickets;


Yorkshire‘s programme for 2005 is a 32 page effort.

In the match against Derbyshire at Scarborough, the visitors won by 5 wickets;


By 2008, we started to see what were called Events Guides like this one for all five of Glamorgan’s Pro40 home matches.

By now, the matches were back to 40 overs a side and with new sponsors, the league was called the NatWest Pro 40.

There were no scorecards in this guide and these would have been available on the day of the match;


In 2009, Middlesex produced individual programmes for each match like this one for the game against Derbyshire.


Finally, a Sussex programme from 2011 on which England star Luke Wright can be seen hitting out;


The presence of One-Day format club mascot Sid the Shark is within the title and mast head of the programme.

Here he is amongst the Sussex faithful at Hove;


In 2007 while sitting in the sunshine at Hove as Mark Ramprakash constructed a beautiful century in a 40 over match, I looked slightly to my right and got the shock of my life as Sid the Shark was sitting right next to me.

He was huge, blue-gray, a mouth full of large white cloth teeth which would have made Roy Scheider wince and true to mascot ways, silent.

While savouring Ramprakash’s effortless batting, I had not seen him sit down alongside me. My heart nearly missed a beat.

Extending a fin, he shook hands (fins) with me, gave me a nod and moved on, leaving me to calm down and get back to enjoying the cricket.

Back in 1969 when the Player’s County League began, could they have ever imagined such a spectator experience?

I think the programmes and especially Ralph Dellor’s articles provide a great snapshot of the changing face of the 40 over one-day game from it’s inception ion 1969 to the 2013 season.

From 2014, 50 overs a side cricket is being reintroduced to the domestic structure and schedule to sit between the 4 day LVCC County Championship and Twenty20 cricket.

The way sides play the game will be a far cry from those days back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when many players treated Sunday cricket as an extention of their 6 day a week Championship matches, batting at 3-4 runs an over against bowlers running in off restricted run-ups.

One thing is for sure, now, it will be the norm to buy a programme, unlike back in 1976 when the era of the Sunday League programme began.


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