Blundell was leading a strong side with no realistic expectations. After all, Radlett had never won the Herts league title, but that was to change dramatically in 1989. Ian Edwards, a resident Australian seam bowler, formerly at Guildford, moved to the village, and two new league batsmen, Ian Simpkin and Martin Rose, added further depth alongside the brilliant Aldenham schoolboy Scott Moffat, a future Middlesex professional.
Radlett proceeded to win five Herts League titles in nine seasons, the Home Counties East crown in 2006 and 2013, four Herts Cup finals and the Evening Standard Trophy in 2003. Winning a wider competition as strong as the 50-overs Trophy was an achievement many old-timers at the club had assumed could never happen. David Hanson was the only man to play in all 11 successes.
The spirit within the club at the time was energised by the presence of wives and girlfriends. The WAGS would not necessarily watch, but as a group they might sit in the sun with their bottles of wine talking about anything, even the cricket. Familiar names such as Randall, Draper and Hickman had moved on for various reasons, but Blundell’s men won titles and broke records.
Blundell and decade of glory
THE 1989 summer was mediocre for pop music, with two number ones for Jive Bunny and The Mastermixers, and terrible for England – under David Gower they were thrashed 4-0 in the Ashes series by Allan Border’s Australians – but it was momentous for Radlett.
In September Radlett became Hertfordshire League champions for the first time, and in November the Berlin Wall was torn down. It was difficult to know whether the long-overdue Radlett success or the fall of the Russian empire had more significance.
At the end of the 1988 league season Radlett had notched five efficient wins in six matches and won their final six club games of the summer. Remarkably, only one game in the last 19 ended as a draw, but no bookmaker would have made Mark Blundell’s men favourites to win the championship the following year.
Radlett started 1989 by defeating Berkhamsted, Stevenage, St Albans and Letchworth – four in a row that made them pace-setters. They lost at Hitchin, beat Barnet, lost at Hertford and then beat Welwyn Garden City and Luton. Then came an astonishing tie against close challengers Watford Town, the only league game in eight at Cobden Hill that Radlett failed to win that year.
With Watford chasing only 141, the fourth ball of the day’s final over from Ian Edwards was driven by Paul O’Reilly seemingly for the winning four. That was until Ian Simpkin, running around the long-on boundary in front of the pavilion, launched a kick at the ball as it bounded over and beyond the rope. He kept the ball in play for three runs, though there was a fierce debate among spectators as to whether Simpkin had somewhere touched the turf or not. Significantly the runs exposed the last man to Edwards, and the game ended as a tie with an easy run-out off the last ball.
In the final game against North Mymms, fittingly at Cobden Hill, Radlett needed a handful of points to secure the title. They inserted Mymms, restricted them to only 128 for eight with accurate bowling and knocked off the target without much trouble to spark rapturous celebrations in the clubhouse. For David Taylor, the president, this was the reward for almost a life time of dedication as player, member and benefactor of the club – and further titles followed, as though the art of winning had at last been learnt.
Wicketkeeper Dave Hanson said later: “My recollection of 1989 is of a fantastic team spirit with a side being led with great skill by Mark Blundell. The MCC fast left-armer Jason Hemstock sprayed it around and frightened a few batters as well as keeping me busy. Left-arm spinner Martin Rose didn’t turn a ball all year but took some important wickets, and Oz Edwards, Ian Holland and Moray Forbes were a potent seam threat who bowled with accuracy and aggression. As we were to discover in the 1990s, it is bowlers who win Saturday leagues, and ‘Blunders’ was the perfect foil when wickets started to turn a little.”
David Robinson scored 1,891 runs that summer, eclipsing the club record he set the previous year. Haberdashers old boy and future Radlett captain Dan Chippeck joined the club just in time to be part of the team. In fact Radlett had a presence in a successful Hertfordshire under-19 age-group that year – Chippeck, Scott Moffat, then 16, Dominic Warren, Mike and Richard Yeabsley. It was Moffat, still at Aldenham School, who settled a tight match against Hemel Hempstead by hitting a leg-side full toss for six into the railway.