One of the traditional highlights of the County Championship calendar has been local derbies played between neighbouring counties. Over the years, these fixtures were for scheduled on the Whitsun or August Bank Holidays, with bumper crowds often attending the eagerly-awaited games and to see the local rivals go head-to-head.
Following the advent of two divisions – both in the one-day and four-day county competitions – several of these local derbies have disappeared from the calendar, including this summer the “traditional” fixture between Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. The former were promoted to Division One of the LV=County Championship last summer, whilst Gloucestershire remain in Division Two of the first-class competition. None of the scheduled fixtures in either the 40 or 20 overs competitions will see the two counties meet up in 2011, and while they could conceivably play each other in the knockout stages of these limited-overs games, it will be the first time since 1900 that there is no scheduled contest between Worcestershire and Gloucestershire anywhere on the fixture calendar.
Over the years, the games between these two sides have produced some fine fare, not least at Cheltenham where the historic College ground has been the setting for some outstanding batting or bowling feats by Gloucestershire or Worcestershire players. Indeed, Worcestershire participated in the inaugural Festival at Cheltenham in 1906 – the year when the cricket week, with back-to-back fixtures, was extended to accommodate a third game.
After visits from Kent and Sussex, the match with Worcestershire saw Charles Townsend make what was described as “an astonishingly brilliant” 214 in the space of just three and a half hours, having arrived at the crease with his side’s total on one and departing, as the fifth wicket to fall, with the score on 421. The wily bowling of Edward Dennett then forced Worcestershire to follow-on, as the left-arm spinner recorded match figures of 15 for 140 as Gloucestershire won by an innings.
In 1937 Tom Goddard, the legendary off-spinner from Gloucester, recorded the best bowling figures in an innings for the West Country side at Cheltenham, in the local derby against Worcestershire, taking 10 for 113 to eclipse Wally Hammond’s return of 9 for 23 against the same opponents at the College ground in 1928.
Worcestershire, though, have not just been on the receiving end in their local derbies at Cheltenham, as in 1946 Reg Perks became one of several Worcestershire bowlers to have prospered at the Festival venue as the seam bowler took 9 for 42, while in more recent times Vikram Solanki made a superb 270 – the third highest individual score on the ground – in 2008 as Worcestershire declared on 672 for 7 and established a new record for the highest total in first-class cricket on the ground.