ALTHOUGH the first known reference to cricket in Suffolk was in 1743, the first county match did not take place until more than 20 years later.
The match, against Norfolk, was played at Bury St Edmunds Race Course on August 23rd 1764, and was won by the visitors.
A county organisation was formed on July 27th 1864, but it was not until 1904 that Suffolk entered the Minor Counties Championship which had been formed in 1895 by the counties who had been unable to join the First Class County Championship.
H.F. Fox skippered the first Suffolk side to take the field on Wednesday, July 13th 1904 to face Norfolk at Lakenham.
Suffolk played in the competition from 1904-1914 with no great success but the loss of the county secretary, killed in action in the First World War, and the county treasurer having moved away, meant that the county club folded and did not rejoin the Minor Counties Championship until 1934.
JF Ireland made the county’s highest individual score when scoring 229 against Cambridgeshire at Newmarket in 1911 – a record that was to stand for 100 years!
Cyril Perkins, who played for Suffolk from 1939 until 1967, claimed 779 wickets – a record that still stands to this day. He also holds the distinction of being the only Suffolk bowler to date to take all 10 wickets in an innings – 10 for 23 against Hertfordshire at Felixstowe in 1960.
It was six years later that Suffolk first qualified for the Gillette Cup – the 60 overs-a-side competition introduced in the 1963 season – and they were rewarded with a home tie versus Kent.
England stars Colin Cowdrey, Alan Knott and Derek Underwood, together with future England players, Mike Denness and Brian Luckhurst, all played in the match at Ipswich School, with Cowdrey scoring a sublime century before more than 3,000 spectators in a 113-run win.
The county’s first success in the Minor Counties Championship had come in 1946, but it was not until 1977 that Suffolk, whose side included former Essex and England leg spinner Robin Hobbs, won the competition for a second time.
Suffolk, under the captaincy of Bob Cunnell, as in 1977, but with the addition of prolific West Indian bat Timur Mohamed, who scored five centuries in his 1,167 run-haul, won the title again in 1979.
Opening the batting in both those title-winning teams was Tony Warrington, who went on to become the county’s all-time leading run-scorer and is now the county’s president.
The side also included opening bowler Colin Rutterford, whose 431 wickets has only been bettered by Perkins.
It was also in 1979 that Suffolk came close to causing a major upset in the Gillette Cup, losing by just two wickets to Sussex at Hove when defending a total of 158.
Either side of this they had lost by six wickets and eight wickets respectively against the same opponents at the same venue!
Suffolk claimed the Eastern Division title in 1985, before losing the play-off final – a one-day match at Worcester – to Cheshire by 58 runs.
Opening the batting in that match for Suffolk was Mike McEvoy, who in 1990 set a new record partnership for any wicket with Chris Gladwin, also a former Essex player – an unbroken opening stand of 295 against Northumberland at Jesmond.
National Westminster Bank had taken over sponsoring the Gillette Cup in 1981 and Suffolk lost to eventual winners Derbyshire at Bury St Edmunds CC in the first round.
The Victory Ground also hosted ties versus Lancashire (1985), Northamptonshire (1989) and Worcestershire (1990) before around 4,000 spectators watched Essex play there in 1993.
There were also away matches against Worcestershire (1984), Sussex (again, 1986), Nottinghamshire (1987), Leicestershire (1988), Gloucestershire (1995) and Somerset (1996) before Mildenhall CC was chosen for the visit of Nottinghamshire in the newly-named Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy in 2001.
Northamptonshire squeaked home by one wicket at Bury St Edmunds the following season, before Suffolk’s final foray in the competition came against Glamorgan at the same venue in 2005.
That was the same season that Suffolk next won the Eastern Division, although the overall title was shared with Cheshire after a rain-affected play-off final at Ransomes Sports Ground in Ipswich. The Suffolk players and officials are pictured above after being presented with the Eastern Division pennant.
After several near misses Suffolk reached the Minor Counties Knock-out Cup Final, against Cheshire at Lord’s on Bank Holiday Monday, August 27th 2007.
Ex-Essex all-rounder Paul Grayson top-scored with 87 as Suffolk lifted the trophy thanks to a 35-run success.
Phil Caley captained both those winning sides and went on to replace Simon Clements, who had taken the record from Warrington, as the county’s leading run-scorer, finishing with an aggregate of 9,296. Caley’s 12 centuries for Suffolk have only been eclipsed by Tom Huggins whose 15 centuries in an aggregate of 4,920 runs between 2006 and 2016 together with 185 wickets of off spin arguably ranks him as the finest all-rounder in Suffolk’s history.
Another prolific run-scorer was former Derbyshire player Hassan Adnan who broke the century-old record for the highest individual score when posting 232 not out versus Northumberland at Jesmond in 2011.
Norman Atkins, who had served as chairman for 25 years until standing down the previous December to be replaced by former player Andrew Squire, passed away in March 2020 after a short illness.
March 2020 also saw the start of the Covid pandemic that ruled out any prospect of competitive cricket in the inaugural season of the newly-branded National Counties Cricket Association after 124 years as the Minor Counties Cricket Association.
The 2021 season saw Suffolk win the Eastern Division after a three-way race for the title went down to the final day of the season.
It culminated in a match-winning last-wicket stand of 89 between Adam Mansfield and Ben Claydon as Suffolk chased down their target of 370 to defeat Staffordshire at Copdock, thus denying Norfolk the title.
Suffolk subsequently lost the four-day play-off final to Oxfordshire, the Western Division winners, at Tring Park by 178 runs.