BLAST FROM THE PAST: BURGESS TURNS BACK TIME

Somerset all-rounder shares his memories...

BETWEEN 1966 and 1979 Somerset all-rounder Graham Burgess  played in 252 First Class matches and 210 one-day games, and was part of the side during the ‘Glory Years’ when they lifted five one-day trophies in as many seasons.

Following his retirement, Burgess became a well-respected umpire on the First Class circuit for 19 seasons.

As he sat looking out across to ground the former Somerset favourite said: “This is the first time that I have been in the new Somerset Pavilion and it’s a wonderful building.

“When I first came here to play back in the 1960s our changing rooms were in the Old Pavilion, which this is built on top of and there were lots of splinters about on the floor. We had just one little gas fire in there to keep the whole team warm.

“Its great to be back here after a few years away and the ground looks fantastic and there is such a lovely family atmosphere here, just like there always was.

“I don’t think that Somerset will ever change. I just wish that they would bring something back like the Sunday League, when we used to get a full house every week and I think it still would.

“Twenty20 is all right but for me it is all over too quickly. I always thought that cricket was an even contest between bat and ball but I’m not sure that T20 is really.

“I can imagine if I batted at number six, like I used to, you might face two overs and I don’t think that’s what I would want to be doing.

“Still there is a lot of money in it, so it’s good for the players and good for people who don’t know too much about cricket, so it will attract a different sort of crowd. I think that in the future there will be more football-style crowds.”

Burgess recalled his first ever visit to watch Somerset playing cricket in Taunton.

“I walked in through the Priory Bridge Gates and Somerset were playing the West Indies at the time,” said Burgess. “It was 1957 and Lewis Pickles was opening the batting with Bill Alley.

“That was the time when Wes Hall was the great fast bowler and as I walked in I saw this chap running in who I thought must be him.

“Then they changed over and at the other end it was Roy Gilchrist bowling – what an attack that was.

“That game opened my eyes to the pace of the game and I have loved it ever since.

“When I was a kid Somerset used to play at different venues and when they came to Glastonbury was the only time that I would see First Class cricket played.

“I think that it’s a great shame that doesn’t happen now and I can understand why. But when they played at Bath, Weston-super-Mare, Glastonbury and Frome it was a totally different experience for the spectators.

“When you played at Taunton the wicket was probably better than if you played at Bath and Weston where the ball used to swing, then you would come back here and it was hard work again, but it was something different.”

Burgess recalled his one-day trips to Lord’s with Somerset, starting with the 1967 Gillette Cup final that ended in defeat by Kent.

“The thing I remember most was the atmosphere inside the ground when we had Adge Cutler, bales of straw, people dressed up in smocks and plenty of cider,” said Burgess.

“In 1978 we had a double disappointment when we lost to Sussex in the Gillette Cup final on Saturday and then came back to the County Ground where all we had to do was beat Essex to win the John Player League, but we lost by two runs.

“That year there were several teams in contention for the John Player League so they had the trophy in a helicopter ready to fly it to the winners, which sadly wasn’t us.

“Then the following year we won the Gillette Cup and the John Player League, which has to be one of the highlights of my career. It was great to get the chance to go back and do it all over again.

“We had a good one-day side in those days. Each of our batsmen down to number ten had scored centuries so we were a pretty hard side to beat in a one-day match. The bowling was good enough and we had plenty of variety.”

Burgess went on: “It’s wonderful to be able to get back together at these sorts of gatherings because there are one or two people who I played with who I haven’t seen since I finished 37 years ago – and it was wonderful to see them all again.

“I hope to be able to come back again next year and catch up with a few more of my former playing colleagues.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.