John Snow took three wickets on the day of
England’s greatest sporting triumph
Spirit of '66
Wednesday marked the 48th anniversary of what most Englishmen still regard as the proudest day in our sporting history, when a hat-trick by Geoff Hurst inspired England to a 4-2 victory over West Germany in the World Cup final at Wembley.
If such an event were to take place these days, of course, the whole country would come to a standstill, never mind the sporting world.
But back on July 30, 1966 sport the country carried on as normal. At Hove, Sussex were beginning a three-day County Championship match against Gloucestershire.
Wisden’s reference to the opening day made no mention of the fact that the crowd was one of the lowest of the season, instead mentioning that "the cricket failed to match the weather." It had not been a great summer, but that Saturday was warm and sunny. Perfect conditions you might think for batsmen to enjoy themselves, whilst keeping one eye on events at Wembley.
Instead, Gloucestershire ground out just 162 in their first innings in 59 overs. Mike Buss took four catches at slip but the player who would remember the game more than most was John Snow.
The country’s leading fast bowler was warming up for the Fourth Test against West Indies a few days later (when England lost by an innings) and his four wickets in the Gloucestershire match made him the second bowler that summer to take 100 wickets – achieved before the end of July, remember. He was to finish the season with 103 wickets in the Championship alone.
Sussex responded positively to Gloucestershire’s total with 142 for 3 before stumps and while Hurst was completing his extra-time hat-trick Buss was on his way to 53 opening the innings with Les Lenham.
The warm sunshine that shone over events at Hove and Wembley did not last. Just 45 minutes play was possible on the second day, a Monday, and rain intervened again on the third day after Sussex were set 194 to win in two hours.
Still, like countless others of their generation, 22 county cricketers from Sussex and Gloucestershire could recount what they were doing on the day England won the World Cup. Just going about their sporting business on an afternoon which, for them at least, was just like so many others during their cricket careers.
Doggart still holds a place in cricket’s record books and a life-long love of the game.
Former Sussex captain Hubert Doggart was hoping to pay a visit to the Horsham Festival this week, 70 years after he first represented the county at Cricket Field Road.
Last week he celebrated his 89th birthday watching the Lord’s Test, travelling from his home in Chichester on the Arun Valley line that passes by the Horsham ground.
Doggart could never be said to have had a quiet life. A former treasurer and president of MCC, for ten years he chaired the Friends of Arundel Cricket Club. He was at the Sussex players’ reunion at Hove last month and still keeps in touch with old team-mates from the 1950s and 1960s.
His enthusiasm for cricket has never left him. But for deciding aged 15 that he would become a teacher, his first-class career would have lasted much longer. He captained Sussex in 1954 having played twice for England, against West Indies in 1950.
His unbeaten innings of 219 for Cambridge University, against Lancashire in 1948, remains the highest score on debut in a first-class match Back then, he was a member of a distinguished batting order at Fenner’s featuring, in different years, Trevor Bailey, John Dewes, Doug Insole, the great Peter May and David Sheppard.
Doggart played on and off for Sussex until 1961, making 10,054 first-class runs at an average of 31.51 and buried deep in cricket’s archives is a scorecard that depicts a Horsham match in which Doggart played in 1944. He was representing Sussex as a teenager against the RAF – and was dismissed for a single by another famous Sussex figure, Arthur Gilligan. Three years later he did make a century on the ground, for MCC against the Horsham club.
So what have been the biggest changes in game during his time? “The big bats have altered it. My bats weighed 2lb 3oz,” he said. “Yet Denis Compton could still time his shots, whereas batsmen today thump the ball. I used to bounce a ball on my bat to find the driving spot. But players now have to contend with extra pressure that we did not have.”
His book ‘Cricket’s Bounty’ - 33 articles on the game and what he refers to as ‘six extras’ on history, literature, heroes and friendships – comes out in October.