The cricketing summer of 1993 will always be associated with Shane Warne’s spectacular Ashes debut, and that outrageous opening delivery to Mike Gatting at Old Trafford.
But it also produced some much fonder memories for Gatting – a couple of months after he had been dumbfounded in Manchester, he was leading Middlesex to the County Championship title.
It was their seventh Championship - including one shared with Kent in 1977 - in an 18-year period during which they also won seven one-day competitions.
And they romped home, winning 11 of their 17 matches and ending 36 points clear of second-placed Worcestershire despite suffering an innings defeat in their last match of the season at New Road – when their relaxed attitude was best summed up by the roars of delight which greeted Phil Tufnell striking his first delivery from Stuart Lampitt for six.
But that 1993 Championship – Middlesex’s 10th outright - was to prove the end of the most successful era in the club’s history, as in the 23 years since they have had to settle for a single Twenty20 Cup, in 2008.
“We were in a good position, because we had a lot of senior players, and I’d like to think we provided good support for the talented younger players who were coming into the side,” reflects John Emburey, who was a mainstay of that golden era for the club, and enjoyed a golden season in 1993 with 68 wickets costing only 18 runs apiece, and perhaps more surprisingly, 638 runs at a batting average of 49 – even though he was already in his forties.
“Mike Gatting had inherited a very strong team from Mike Brearley, and players like Neil Williams, Mark Ramprakash and Phil Tufnell were starting to make an impression.
“The current Yorkshire situation strikes me as very similar. Like us, they’re going to have a lot of players coming back from international experience, as well as others coming through.”
But now Middlesex are aiming to deny Yorkshire an historic hat-trick of titles – and looking for their own hat-trick of victories over Jason Gillespie’s Tykes, having beaten them at Scarborough earlier this season and in a remarkable game in the equivalent fixture this time last year.
Emburey’s memories of that 1993 season are impressively accurate. “Wasn’t that the year we beat Glamorgan in Cardiff after they’d scored nearly 600 in the first innings?” he asked.
The total was 562 for three, with Adrian Dale making an unbeaten 214 and the great Viv Richards 224. But it is easy to see why Emburey picks that game out. “I went in as nightwatchman at number three and made a century,” he added. “There was talk of us declaring behind to make a game of it, because the batsmen thought it must be easy for batting because I’d made a century. I had to say ‘Hang on, it’s spinning – Viv was spinning it, as well as Robert Croft. Let’s get close to their total and see what we can do’.”
Middlesex were all out for 584 to claim a first-innings lead, thanks mainly to Emburey’s 123 and 173 from Gatting, and Glamorgan then crumbled for 109 in their second innings – with Tufnell returning figures of 23-8-29-8. “That was how things worked with Tuffers then,” said Emburey. “Because I had so much experience, including in one-day cricket, I could do most of the bowling when we needed control, and let Tuffers come on when he could attack.
“But that was a good example of what a good side we were. We had the ability to win games like that, even when we seemed out of it after day one.”
There is one notable survivor in the current Middlesex set-up from the 1993 team – Angus Fraser, who turned 28 that summer, so was pretty much at his peak (he took 50 wickets at 24 despite regular absences with England), and is now the county’s managing director of cricket.
“They’ll be keeping an eye on the scores down at Taunton though, won’t they?” said Emburey, referring to the chances of Somerset sneaking through on the blindside to pinch their first Championship title if Middlesex and Yorkshire cancel each other out at Lord’s. “It’s been such a long time.”