By Neil Fissler
Tom Hickling admits that Buckinghamshire winning a record eighth Minor Counties Championship was the highlight of his cricket career.
Bucks who had declined an invitation to join the County Championship in 1921 had been made to wait from 1952 to claim their seventh outright Championship win. They had shared the title once.
But they did so in style winning eight of their 12 games with Suffolk (six wickets), after a run of five games in nine days, and Bedfordshire (118 runs) the only sides to beat them.
John Slack’s side drew two games to claim the championship from Beds with Cornwall third who could have challenged for the crown had Bucks drawn or won against their nearest rivals.
It was decided that no challenge match was needed as Bucks and Beds had played twice in the Championship. Hickling said: “It was quite something. I remember it very well. We had to play Beds in our penultimate game, and if we didn’t win the game Beds came second.
“We would come first and Cornwall would come third. But if we won the game we would have to play Cornwall in the play-off.
“Beds came second and Cornwall third, nothing was said but, I’ll be blowed, we lost the game by a large margin so didn’t have to play the play-off.
“We had a very good side and had a good captain in John Slack who took chances and it came off. He declared early and gave the opposition a chance to win.
“He was probably the best captain I played with. It was a lovely year when everything went our way really. If we needed wickets we got them. Colin Lever was an outstanding bowler and if we needed runs we got them and everybody contributed. It was the highlight of my cricket career.”
Hickling remembers that two-day games were fitted in around when players could get annual leave from their full time jobs.
He said it was much easier for the teachers and the captain Slack, who at the time was working as a solicitor, than it was for those who had normal every day jobs.
He added: “I played for Essex 2nds when I was 19 or 20 but I didn’t enjoy that very much. It wasn’t really good enough and Minor Counties suited me ideally.
“It wasn’t quite as strong standard as 2nd XI cricket but it was still quite a reasonable standard but a county side 2nds would reckon to beat us.
“I was working for Pretty Polly at the time and we had to take time off work to play games, we only used to get two weeks a year annual holidays.
“And if you ask my wife I’d use all of them to play cricket for Bucks, it was easier for the school masters who played, the likes of Brian Poll who was very good.
“You had to have a firm that was prepared to let you off work, so there was a fair bit of juggling involved.”
BACK ROW (left-right):
Horace Perrin: A teacher who served the county as assistant secretary and team secretary between 1969 and his death in July 1989.
Roy Huntley: A batsman who is now living in High Wycombe in retirement.
Ray Bond: Seamer. Spent all of his working life in the engineering and tool making industry and now lives in retirement in Chinnor, Oxfordshire.
Brian Poll: A wicketkeeper who was the head of geography at Ellesmere College, Shropshire, until his death in June 1999 aged 58 in nearby Wrexham.
John Turner: The opening batsman was a sales rep for a company in High Wycombe. Died in Calne, Wiltshire, in September 2012, aged 63.
Chris Parry: Off-break bowler now retired and living in North London after working as an official at the Bank of England. Was also a director of Hampstead Golf Club.
Hugh Bradby: All rounder is now a doctor based in Birmingham. Has served as chief medical director of Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust.
Tom Hickling: A batsman who is based in Chesham and worked as a hosiery salesman for Pretty Polly and is still working in the industry on a part time basis.
Paul Slatter: The secretary and treasurer between 1956 and 1983. Worked in banking and died in March 1992, aged 82.
Bill Atkins: Batsman. Has run restaurants and hotels and now lives in North Yorkshire where he and Michelin-starred chef wife Frances run The Yorke Arms.
Colin Lever: All rounder who is the brother of former England fast bowler Peter. Worked as a lecturer in physical education at the Liverpool Institute of High Education and is now living in Crediton, Devon.
John Slack: A batsman who also played rugby for Middlesex. He was a solicitor and then a circuit judge for 26 years. He died in Cuddington, Buckinghamshire, in May 2012, aged 81.
Fred Harris: Fast bowler. Ran his own insurance broking business in Chesham where he now lives in retirement.
David Janes: A left handed batsman who was a London-based solicitor before his death in September 1987, aged 43.
Brian Tustian: An opening batsman. Became a farmer in north Buckinghamshire and now runs a stables in Taunton, Somerset.
Ken Young: All rounder. Now retired living in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.
David Smith: A seamer who lives in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire. Ran a West London-based sheet metal and welding engineering company.
Tony Waite: A bowler who became a special needs personal advisor in the county. Lives in Bracknell.
Ian Feasey: Batsman now lives in retirement in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
Barry Sidaway: A seamer was the managing director of an Essex-based storage equipment company until his death in January 2016, aged 71.
Barry Lines: A fast bowler who played for Northampton Town. Was the first footballer to play and score in all divisions of the Football League. Became a sports equipment salesman.
This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, Friday May 6 2016