1976 – A ‘Hot’ Repeat of ’75

The 1976 season was similar to the previous one. Yeabsley took 7-46 in 30 overs against Tring at Cobden Hill, and in a non-league game he returned 7-13 off 15 overs in vain at Bedford after Radlett had been bowled out cheaply. Several batsmen had arrived late thinking the game was sure to be rained off.

Radlett’s strategy was based on fast bowling on a true but bouncy pitch that eventually developed a ridge and had to be relaid in the early 1980s. Opposition opening batsmen were usually given a torrid time, including Martin Sutcliffe, a robust and much-loved Letchworth character. He became renowned for scoring a league century in 55 balls against Barnet, having emerged from a convivial lunchtime in a pub. He liked to take on Draper each year and received at least one nasty hit in the face. Letchworth once had to suspend him for slugging a team-mate in their club bar, and the league reprimanded him for a furious incident at Sawbridgeworth, where he was run out while assuming the ball was being returned to the bowler.

Radlett had their first taste of a good cup run in 1976, something that was to become a habit in the 1990s and onwards. They reached the last 16 of the Kemp’s Cup, the main London area competition before the Evening Standard Trophy era. Charlie Randall hit 160 not out against Southgate Adelaide in an early round, putting on 187 in 87 minutes with Tony Smith (67), but Radlett lost the area final at Hampstead in a tight game they should have won.

This was the year that Tony Smith was twice brilliantly caught for 98 in consecutive matches quickly followed by a maiden century and two more, including 100 not out at Chichester Priory Park in a stand of 220 in 93 minutes with Randall (114 not out). During that Sussex tour Smith’s new Gunn & Moore ‘scoop’ bat – after 503 runs in 10 innings – was stolen at Pagham. As Randall was sports editor of the local Herts Advertiser newspaper before a long career with the Daily Telegraph, he was able to publish reports in over-the-top splendour. ‘Run Thunder at the Priory’ ran a headline.

The seconds came second in their league and lost only two games out of 42, winning 24 overall. Against Watford Town, Radlett wanted three to win when the bowler lost his grip in delivery, the ball landing behind him. Batsman George Copley raced the Watford fielders to the stationary ball and whacked it for the winning four. A total of 84 players played for the third team.