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On hallowed turf

PUBLISHED: 11:16 20 October 2015 | UPDATED: 11:16 20 October 2015

A proud Peter with fellow opening bat Roy Virgin as they walk to the middle at Lords

A proud Peter with fellow opening bat Roy Virgin as they walk to the middle at Lords

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In the second part of his interview with Somerset’s Peter Robinson, Kerry Miller finds out about a dodgy track in Bath, opening the batting at Lords and coaching local talent in the county

Somerset County Cricket Club before their Gillette Cup Final appearance in 1967. Peter Robinson is back row, third rightSomerset County Cricket Club before their Gillette Cup Final appearance in 1967. Peter Robinson is back row, third right

PETER Robinson scored almost 6,000 runs in three-day cricket and took more than 300 wickets and 200 catches but the biggest cricketing day of his life was on 2 September, 1967, when Somerset reached the Gillette Cup Final at Lords and faced Kent.

Peter had joined the county as a raw young spinner who batted 10 if he was lucky, but during the cup run of 48 years ago his talents with the willow came to the fore.

“It all started down at the County Ground against Leicestershire in April,” recalls Peter, who didn’t play in that game. “Budgie and Merv (Graham Burgess and Mervyn Kitchen) both made 70 odd and we made a big total I remember” he adds.

Both Somerset born and bred those two set up a score of 251-9 in the 60 overs and Roy Palmer’s 4-42 helped bowl Leicestershire out for 160.

Peter takes time out from coaching to help out on the groundstaff at the County GroundPeter takes time out from coaching to help out on the groundstaff at the County Ground

“I played in the next round against Warwickshire at Edgbaston” says Peter, who batted at six that day and although only making six and not bowling he was still in the side for the quarter-final at Northants version of the County Ground.

“I batted nine and as I didn’t bowl in the competition I can only have been picked for my catching!

“I did quite well as I made 19 and we made 184 all out in the last over and then bowled them out easily.”

Peter recalls some of the opposition that day: “Colin Milburn was out for a duck, the great Mushtaq Mohammed only scored 20 odd and two other England internationals, David Steele and Peter Willey were also in the side but ‘Myrtle’ took four wickets for not many and we were in the semi-finals.”

Myrtle was Fred Rumsey and his bowling was too much for Northants on the day and it set up a semi-final at Old Trafford against mighty Lancashire.

Once again the batsmen ground out a defendable total of just 210-7 from their 60 overs but this time it was Peter’s great friend Ken Palmer whose man of the match display with 3-20 helped skittle the Lancashire line up for 110, who took the plaudits.

“Of course when I was picked for the final at Lords I was elated and it seemed most of Somerset travelled up with us, many in traditional smocks and straws and there was no shortage of cider as you would expect,” adds Peter who had slowly risen up the batting ranks and was chosen to open with Roy Virgin, a Taunton man through and through.

Kent batted first and Peter was in the action early: “I caught a certain Michael Colin Cowdrey close in off Ken Palmer and have the photo to prove it,” he says. “They scored 190 odd which we thought we could get and we had an incentive of a £15 win bonus” he adds without any trace of sarcasm but with a rueful smile.

Peter made an important 48 in his side’s 161 all out, but had the distinction of being caught behind by the great Alan Knott off the bowling of John Shepherd. “Underwood went through our middle order and we fell short,” is his simple summing up.

In the end the great journey from mid April to Lords in September saw Somerset fall at the final fence but Peter continued his career at the County Ground for another decade on the pitch before coaching some of the county’s finest into the Botham, Garner, Richards era and beyond. He also played Second XI cricket into his 50s but is particularly proud of some of the most recent cricketers who he helped to bloom.

“In 1965 most the side were from state schools but there is little cricket played in many of them now. We had Mervyn Kitchen, Graham Atkinson, Roy Virgin, Bill Alley, Ken and Roy Palmer, Colin Atkinson, Fred Rumsey and others, all from state schools.”

“I enjoyed every bit of it and wouldn’t have swapped it,” says Peter, who has coached some of the best known Somerset players of the last 20 years in Peter Trego, James Hildreth and current captain and former Test star Marcus Trescothick.

“It was before we had the indoor school so I had to travel all over the county to coach some of the kids. It was Yeovil on Monday, Minehead on Tuesday and maybe Bath on the Wednesday.”

Peter’s wife of 49 years, Liz, was by then well used to her other half being away for such as long time but he still found time to father three children who have given them five grandchildren so far.

The time in Peter’s allotment hideway came to a natural conclusion with one final quip concerning the often lethal track at Bath’s recreation Ground: “Graveney, D’Oliviera and others were all in my old Worcestershire side that day at Bath. Mercifully it was all over in a day and a half and we more or less survived with just bruising. The pitch was so bad there should have been a sign at square leg saying ‘Beware loose chippings, please drive carefully!” w

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