Northamptonshire County Cricket Club is sad to learn of the death of former player Peter Watts at the age of 85.
The older brother of Jim Watts, one of Northamptonshire’s outstanding captains, Peter made 158 first-class appearances for the county between 1958 and 1966 – scoring 4,127 runs and claiming 276 wickets with his leg-spin.
Born in Henlow, Peter had already made his Minor Counties Championship debut for Bedfordshire in 1955 when he secured a place on the professional staff at Wantage Road a year later, Jim joining him there in 1957. He played twice for Northamptonshire in 1958 (against Cambridge University and Kent) before cementing a regular place in the side in 1959.
Despite making 19 first-team appearances in 1960 he also helped the Second XI win their Championship – finishing as Northamptonshire’s leading wicket-taker with 53, while 18-year-old Colin Milburn topped the run-scoring chart with 1,153. Peter enjoyed a hugely successful visit to Derby with the seconds that summer, returning match figures of 13 wickets for 64 runs, still a Northamptonshire record in the competition.
His two most successful seasons in the County Championship were 1962 and 1964, under the captaincy of Keith Andrew. In the former year he and his brother dominated the match against Hampshire at Dean Park in Bournemouth, Jim hitting 145 and 78 not out and Peter claiming 6-63 and a career-best 7-77 for a haul of 13-140 in the game. Their efforts secured a 131-run victory for Northamptonshire against the reigning county champions.
Peter’s highest first-class score of 91 came at Worcester in 1964, after going in as nightwatchman at the end of the first day’s play. His tally of 64 wickets at 26.03 made it statistically his most productive season with the ball, but thereafter was used more sparingly as Northamptonshire relied increasingly on slow left-armer Malcolm Scott and off-spinner Haydn Sully. At the end of 1966 he requested, and was granted, permission to speak to other counties, insisting he could ‘see no future’ for a leg-spinner at Northampton.
He moved to Nottinghamshire for a single season in 1967 – playing against Northamptonshire in a Gillette Cup second round tie. He hit an unbeaten 40 and bowled tidily but finished on the losing side. He made no further first-class appearances after that summer but returned to the Minor Counties scene with Shropshire in 1969 and also turned out for his native Bedfordshire again two years later.
The club wishes to offer sincere condolences to Peter’s family – including Jim – and his friends.