Peter Bradley was a regular for Shropshire when they took their first steps in the Minor Counties Championship in 1957 – and went on to serve the county with distinction, playing a leading role in the 1973 title-winning side.
A legendary name in Shropshire cricket, Peter has a host of fond memories of the summers in which he was a consistent wicket-taker for the county.
Pride of place goes to the glorious 1973 campaign when Peter, who remains an avid watcher of Shropshire matches, both home and away, helped the county top the table.
The right-arm seamer took 67 Championship wickets at 10.76 apiece as Shropshire sealed what remains the club’s only title triumph.
His outstanding contribution led to a call up to face international opposition when he was selected to play for the Minor Counties representative side against the West Indies and Pakistan.
He certainly made the most of his opportunity to impress as he claimed the wickets of such world stars as Clive Lloyd and Imran Khan.
Recalling his enjoyable days playing for Shropshire, Peter, having been encouraged by the continued progress of the team, felt the county were on the verge of achieving something special going into the club’s memorable 1973 season.
“We were playing Cambridgeshire two years earlier and Terry Jenner, the Australian Test leg spinner, was in their side,” said Peter.
“We were talking to him and he recommended that we ought to have a look at Tony Mann, who was a fellow Australian and playing at Bacup in the Lancashire League.
“Tony was approached and joined Shropshire as professional. He had two years with us and gave us the spirit to think that we weren’t such a bad side.
“He unfortunately didn’t come and play in the 1973 season as he was then involved playing for Australia, but he gave us the confidence to play and we took that into the ’73 season.
“We lost the first game, nearly lost the second one, and then we won seven out of the next nine with one rained off.
“I personally had a good season, which helped, and everybody else contributed in their own way.”
Peter relished being part of Shropshire’s title side, a talented team led by captain Geoff Othen, which was further boosted by the arrival of the influential Doug Slade from Worcestershire.
Peter said: “He was a fantastic guy, a tremendous cricketer and very underrated by Worcester. He was an absolutely superb cricketer with bat and ball.
“The ’73 team are still big friends. We had a reunion at Worfield not long ago. It was Dave York’s birthday and he invited the people who had taken part.
“I think only 16 players featured that season – that’s how good we were – and nearly everybody who played came to that reunion and it was brilliant.”
One of Peter’s personal highlights of the title season was the victory over Bedfordshire at Oswestry when he followed up taking 6-43 in the first innings with an incredible return of 5-2 to wrap up another win.
“They were 35-5 at lunch batting last,” remembered Peter. “Sladey bowled the first over after lunch and took two wickets and then I took the next three, so they were all out for 35 in the end.”
Peter went on to play two more seasons for Shropshire and, in all, played 82 Championship matches for the county, claiming 287 wickets at an impressive average of 15.97.
Born in Cheshire in March, 1937, the son of Shropshire parents, Peter moved to the county at a young age.
He started to play cricket at school in Wrockwardine Wood before joining St Georges, the club where he spent most of his career, although he did also spend three successful seasons with West Bromwich Dartmouth in the Birmingham League around the time of Shropshire’s title triumph.
Peter was already a regular in the county team when Shropshire played their inaugural Championship season in 1957, featuring in the opening match against Staffordshire.
He remembers the early seasons in the Championship being a challenge as Shropshire regularly played strong second teams from first-class counties.
“It was exceptionally strong for Shropshire to play in these games because basically we were a team of village cricketers,” he said. “We were all Shropshire people in that side and we were very united.
“It was very hard as we played second XIs from the first-class counties and they were strong because clubs then carried a very large staff compared to now.
“We played at Trent Bridge against Nottinghamshire II, we played Derbyshire II at their ground and Warwickshire II at Edgbaston. We also played Worcestershire II at home.
“I think for the first two years or so we struggled to compete, but gradually we did get better and then we started to employ a professional.”
Peter had always been a consistent performer for Shropshire, but he started to take even more wickets with experience, particularly after meeting Surrey and England great Alec Bedser.
As he reflected: “When I was up and coming, I was a bit of a crazy fast bowler, run as fast as you could, as young kids do.
“Then I went on a weekend course to Lilleshall Hall and met Alec Bedser. He explained to me how to bowl the leg-cutter, which was a ball that he could bowl.
“I practised and practised and eventually got it to perfection. That’s really when I came into my own, later on in my career, when I could bowl this leg-cutter very accurately and it got me a lot of wickets.”
Peter’s Shropshire performances saw him selected to play for both Minor Counties North and later Minor Counties East against first-class opposition in the Benson & Hedges Cup.
He also received the huge honour of being chosen for the Minor Counties representative side.
His debut came in a drawn match against the West Indies at Torquay in 1973, with Peter taking three wickets in the first innings and four more in the second. He twice removed Lawrence Rowe – he also dismissed him in a Benson & Hedges Cup match against Derbyshire in the same season – while his other wickets included Clive Lloyd.
Peter was then selected to play against Pakistan at Jesmond the following summer when he was again among the wickets, with Imran Khan among his victims.
“From the ‘73 season, I was fortunate to get selected to play against the West Indies and Pakistan,” he recalled. “I also played quite a few Benson & Hedges games as well, so it all went nice towards the end of my career.
“I’ve had one or two good scalps – I also had Garry Sobers out as well. We played Nottinghamshire three times and I happened to get Sobers out at Trent Bridge, which was quite nice.”
In club cricket, after joining West Bromwich Dartmouth, he lined up alongside his county team mates Doug Slade, Dave York and David Humphries as they won the Birmingham League in 1974.
He later returned home to play for St Georges – he continues to live “right opposite the cricket ground” – with his last appearance for the club coming in 1978.
Peter then spent lots of his spare time on the golf course and these days is kept busy as a talented artist. He particularly enjoys painting leading sporting figures, including Joe Root, Alastair Cook, James Anderson and Steven Gerrard.
Peter also had a spell as Shropshire County Cricket Club vice-chairman to Bryan Foulkes and continues to closely follow the county.
“I’m a big friend of Bill Bromley, the president, and we don’t miss any matches at all, home or away,” he added. “We’ve been doing that for quite a few years and enjoy giving the team our support.”
By Stuart Dunn
Pictured: Peter Bradley is second from the right on the front row of Shropshire’s 1973 Minor Counties Championship winning side.
Back from left: Steve Othen (scorer), Doug Slade, Brian Perry, Robert Burton, Cedric Boyns, Philip Oliver, Harold Botfield (secretary/team manager), Bob Tranter (chairman); front: Dave York, Steve Johnson, David Humphries, Geoff Othen (captain), Eric Marsh, Peter Bradley, John Hayward.