Seeing Double: 1984 & 2019


Essex wrote a special place in cricket history in 2019 when they became the first club to win the Championship and T20 titles in the same year.

Back in 1984, Keith Fletcher’s side also achieved the double when they won the Championship and John Player Special League. But that was the last time Essex had enjoyed two major successes in the domestic calendar.

With a curious twist of fate, Taunton was the venue those 35 years ago where the Championship was decided. With one game remaining, Essex and Nottinghamshire were scrapping it out for bragging rights to be crowned Champions with the Midlanders four points ahead in the race for the top honour. Victory for Notts against Somerset would guarantee them the title irrespective of the result of the Essex match with Lancashire. As it happened, Essex swept the Red Rose county aside in two days at Old Trafford and all attention was focussed on events down in the West Country for the final day of the season.

A gripping affair at Taunton left Notts requiring 30 runs from the last three overs and when the last over started, they still wanted 14 with their last pair at the crease. Ten runs were collected from the first three deliveries before the next was a dot ball. Then Mike Bore, one of the games genuine rabbits, struck the next ball high and long. Initially, it seemed to be clearing the boundary until losing height and descending into the hands of Richard Ollis stationed just inside the boundary to give Somerset the win and allowing Essex to retain their title by a 14-point margin.

A further similarity between the 1984 title winners and that of the present year is that on every occasion a Championship victory was recorded, the opposition were bowled out twice – no need for declaration games!

Looking back to 1984, Championship cricket was played over three days with the regulations insisting on 117 overs being bowled on days one and two with 110 on the final day.

With the likes of the legendary Graham Gooch and South African Ken McEwan proving key contributors with the bat, Essex were one of the most entertaining and attractive sides to watch. In 1983, the Championship schedule spanned 24 matches with Gooch collecting 2,281 runs at an average of 69.12, whilst Overseas player McEwan scored 1,563 at 47.36. Chris Gladwin and Keith Fletcher offered the most meaningful support with 1,141 and 932 runs respectively.

An outstanding bowling attack was led by John Lever who claimed 106 Championship wickets with new ball partner Neil Foster taking 78 despite missing several matches through injury, whilst Derek Pringle claimed 55 wickets and Gooch 36 victims. With such a plethora of wickets falling to the pacemen, and with Ray East on the cusp of retirement, David Acfield was entrusted to capitalise when skipper Fletcher turned to spin and he responded with 43 wickets.

Fletcher was a master tactician who still boasts one of the finest cricket brains. He led the side with authority and great success yet would seldom shirk from chasing the opportunity of a win backing his charges to prevail often when the odds appeared against them. So effective was his judgment that only three matches of the 24 were lost with eight drawn, although, had not the weather intervened in a number of those stalemates, the success ratio would have been even greater.

Fletcher, a one-time England captain, was awarded an OBE in 1985. He played for Essex from 1962 until 1988 and was a pivotal figure throughout the dynasty of success that the Club enjoyed from 1979 until 1992. The twin trophies of 1984 took the number of major titles during his tenure to six, and there were more to come in the ensuing years as the juggernaut of achievement rolled on.

Unlike the modern-day set-up, there were no specialist one-day players, generally, those that played the three-day game would appear in the limited-overs affairs learning to adapt to the demands that the afternoon game brought. In 1984, the one-day competition spanned 40 overs, with there being no T20 back then.

Again the two protagonists for the limited-overs title that season were Essex and Notts, but the side from Chelmsford clinched the title with two matches remaining after winning 12 of their 16 matches with just three defeats and one tied encounter.

The batting phenomena that were Gooch and McEwan amassed 613 and 535 runs respectively in the Sunday League whilst Derek Pringle struck 387 runs, Gladwin 382 and Fletcher 357 runs. Lever again led the attack with 23 wickets whilst Norbert Phillip claimed 20 and all-rounder Stuart Turner took 17 wickets.

As in 2019, it was a memorable, wonderful summer!

The Double Champions range is now available at the Essex Cricket Store, including two new commemorative books which can be pre-ordered in time for Christmas!