By the start of the 1960s the post-war boom in county cricket was long over.
Although the 1950s had seen an England team dominant in Test Matches, at domestic level the game was increasingly seen as stagnant, over cautious and lacking in entertainment value. The competing leisure attractions available as the economy revived and levels of disposable income increased left cricket marginalised and wondering where its market share had gone.
Already it was clear that the decade would be one of change and of breaks with tradition. English cricket knew that it needed to infuse itself with that pioneering spirit if it was to thrive. Its answer was limited overs cricket, and a knockout competition based on football’s FA Cup. The idea was not universally popular. Writer and broadcaster John Arlott was one early sceptic, unconvinced by a format that would oblige bowlers to prioritise containment over wicket-taking. But the public loved it. The game didn’t look like a revolution to them; players still wore whites and played with a red ball, and innings were limited to 65 overs which still allowed batsmen to build an innings. But they got to see a match played from beginning to end in a single day, with both sides batting and bowling. And positive batting was encouraged. Blocking all day got you nowhere.
Sussex, captained by Ted Dexter, were the early masters. Ironically, their success in this new dashing format was the result of Dexter’s application of the very containing tactics in the field which had eroded first-class cricket’s popular appeal. Dexter packed his side with accurate seam bowling and set his fields to cut down on boundaries. With fielding restrictions yet to be invented, Dexter was not afraid to place most of his men on the boundary if he saw the need. Sussex faced Worcestershire in the final at Lord’s, and despite being bowled out for just 168 in 60.2 overs, probing spells from Ian Thomson, Mike Buss and Alan Oakman, along with a burst of three wickets from Jon Snow, saw them home by 14 runs. The era of one-day cricket had arrived.