1974 – Radlett Joins the New Herts League

Unlike the build-up to Hertfordshire’s first league in 1968, when the idea was deemed almost abhorrent, Radlett – and Taylor in particular – were instrumental in founding a proper all-play-all league of the best clubs in 1974. There were smirks around the county when Radlett, pre-season favourites, had a dreadful season and finished third from bottom, despite 1,024 runs from Dawson and 20 catches from Geoff Bird. Nick Draper tore through Hertford’s top order in an early match, but Stuart Cradock and Mike Eldred put on 104 for the ninth wicket, and a routine victory became an uphill struggle and defeat. The first champions were Berkhamsted. In a September friendly match against HAC, off-spinner Corbett took eight wickets for seven on a good pitch in The City. This return might never be beaten by another spinner.

In the next three seasons Radlett then finished third as results and confidence picked up under the lively personality of Hubbard, a former semi-pro footballer with Ware Town and others, but Hertford were exceptional. They won five successive league titles from 1975 and supplied the nucleus of a Hertfordshire team who won the minor counties championship twice.

Scorching weather marked the seasons of 1975 and 1976. Doug Yeabsley, a chemistry master at Haberdashers and Devon’s greatest player, joined the club from West Herts, moving house to the village from St Albans. A left-arm seam bowler, he regularly played for the combined minor county sides in the Benson & Hedges Cup and in matches against Pakistan (1974), West Indies (1976), India (1979) and Sri Lanka (1981). Unfortunately he was very rarely available on Saturdays through school and Devon commitments, though a few league games were still scheduled on Sundays. With more from the great Devonian, Radlett would probably have won the league in this era instead of finishing third in 1975, 76 and 77. A maiden league title eluded them until 1989.

Donald Carr, the former England batsman and at the time secretary of the Test and County Cricket Board, moved to Aldenham Avenue and started playing again in 1975 at the age of 48. Though not often available, he was very effective as a batsman, slip fielder and left-arm spinner. Bowling had been his strongest discipline when he first joined Derbyshire.

Sri Lanka, in England for the inaugural 1975 World Cup, played a 50-overs warm-up match against Radlett and were given an unexpectedly stern fight at Cobden Hill on the way to a 91-run victory. The fast bowling of Nick Draper, Tony Smith and Peter Smith – Yeabsley was unavailable – had them reeling before a recovery to 195. The Sri Lankans batted better against the Australians later.

Chairman David Taylor borrowed a phrase to describe Draper, Smith and Smith, referring to them as the ‘angry brigade’. Draper developed through the youth system; Peter Smith had made history as a soccer player at Leatherhead when he played in goal for England in their last amateur international; Tony Smith, a former Berkshire bowler, joined from Hitchin after moving to Borehamwood. The trio, noted for fast-pitched short bowling, had their moments. They excelled against Sri Lanka and shot out Welwyn Garden City for 49 in a league game at Cobden Hill.

It was transition time as the Club joined a new Hertfordshire league sponsored first by Trumans and more recently Bryan Grasshopper Sports.

At Eastcote, 543 runs were amassed in one match. Eastcote declared at 284 for six (Nigel Charleston 100 not out), and Radlett replied with 259 all out (David Hickman 111).

Arthur Bishop and John Tattersall both scored 100s in the thirds and work on the new second ground commenced. It took four years to complete being delayed by two scorching summers in ’75 and ’76 when the grass would not grow. But to compensate, bar profits rocketed.