In the eighties and nineties, Derbyshire boasted one of the most fearsome bowling attacks in county cricket. Under the guidance of Captain Kim Barnett, the side ripped through batting line-ups like knife through butter as the county secured their first silverware in over nine years in 1990.
Heading up the ever reliable attack was the moustachioed 6ft 4in Dane Ole ‘Stan’ Mortensen. The paceman enjoyed 12 fruitful seasons with Derbyshire towards the end of the 20th century in what was one the county’s most successful periods in its modern history and it is a time Stan has claimed as the ‘best of his life’.
The Dane would often hold up one end alongside legendary West Indian bowler Michael Holding as the county built a formidable and highly-ambitious side that brought high recognition back to the County Ground.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Club,” Mortensen said. “It was a very successful period and I was privileged to play alongside some great players. We began to gain a reputation and we developed a side that were proud to be Derbyshire.
“I gave Derby my best 12 years of my career and also those 12 years were probably the best of my life, and that is a big statement.
“On paper we maybe should have brought a little bit more silverware back to Derby, but I think we started to create a culture here who believed that we could compete and win games at that level. I think we succeeded in doing that. And watching these boys play last year and win the title was a great thrill and was a great boost to the Club and it is all good news.”
Mortensen's 434 first-class wickets at 23.88 make him the comfortably the best Norseman yet to have donned the Derbyshire colours. ‘Stan’, as his team-mates knew him, is among the county's most cherished post-war cricketers and he was part of the successful 1990 side that brought silverware back the County Ground after almost a decade’s wait.
“Winning the Sunday league the Refuge Insurance in 1990 in front of a capacity crowd was one of the greatest moments of my career,” ‘Stan’ added. “It was a different competition as you would play every Sunday throughout the year. The final match was against Essex and we won that match to win the title and this was the gateway to recognition for Derbyshire cricket.
“I personally had a fantastic season. I opened the bowling and I used to bowl eight overs on the trot and I would usually get a wicket or two for about 18 or 20 runs to put the opposition under pressure. This set the foundations for success, but of course we had some very outstanding bowlers.
“We had Warner, Paul Newman and Dominic Cork, who back then was only a young lad. At the time he was just an apprentice who would clean my boots and paint the fence, and in just a few years he went on to play for England.
“We had the respect definitely after we won the Refuge cup. We had a pretty mean bowling attack. The batting could be a little inconsistent but we knew if we had enough runs on the board with our bowling attack we could almost defend any total.”
The Derbyshire dressing room was graced with a plethora of international Test stars during Mortensen's time at the County Ground, from Holding to Devon Malcolm, but Stan rated one former Indian great he had the privilege to play alongside as the greatest in the Club’s history.
“There were some great characters in that side. Peter Bowler, Chris Adams, Devon Malcolm, Jack Warner, but I believe that Mohammad Azharuddin was the greatest and probably one of the greatest all-time overseas Test players to play for Derbyshire. He was absolutely fabulous!
“We also had Michael Holding who I was able to open the bowling with. I played alongside Mr T, as we called him, for five seasons and he was legendary.
“We also had Ian Bishop, Adrian Kuiper and of course Karl Krikken who all helped us with the Sunday League, so there were some real characters. There was a really good atmosphere in the dressing room which is important as we were with the boys 24 hours a day. And of course Captain Kim Barnett did a great job leading the side and he still remains a good friend of mine today.”
Mortensen remains a loyal fan of the Club today and makes an annual pilgrimage to Derby to cheer on the team. And he believes the current crop can do a good job in division one, as ‘Stan’ predicts a bright future at the County Ground.
“If the team can stay in the first division this season then the future looks very bright indeed. I said that at the end of last season, if they can stay up they will do that for many years to come. I think if the lads can get one victory then that will give them the confidence to go on and get more results.
“Consistent over four days is the key now but I am sure they can do it. I wish the Club the very best and it is important that everyone who supports the Club are proud of being with Derbyshire, both as players and members.”
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