Monday, 11 December 2017

Sad News

posted by John Winn

In my most recent posting I mentioned that Michael Carney was in hospital in Sunderland. Sadly since then I have received the news that Mick died on Saturday night. He would have been seventy next week. Mick, a retired teacher was a member of both Durham and Middlesex County Clubs and it was at The Riverside where I had most contact with him, usually finding time to assess the prospects for play before he took his regular seat on the members' balcony. This photograph taken at Lord's in September 2016 shows Mick, right, chatting with my friends John Fisher, centre, and John Gawthrope. 

Mick taught at the same school in Peterlee for 39 years until his retirement in 2008. Prominent in union activities he rose to be President of NASUWT. Mick was a talented artist and his portraits of Geoff Cook and Paul Collingwood hang in the Long Room at The Riverside. I and many others will miss his presence in that room when the 2018 season comes along. I will post details of the funeral arrangements when I have them.    

Monday, 4 December 2017

Reasons to be cheerful, not many.

posted by John Winn

Every cloud and that sort of thing but it was well into Tony's last posting before the 'glimmer of good news' broke through the cloud of disappointment shrouding the publication of the 2018 fixtures last week. Many have taken to twitter since to express their particular frustrations. A Lancashire supporter has pointed out that the curtain will close on championship cricket at Old Trafford not later than the 25th of July, the last scheduled day of the Roses match after which there will be there three T20 games and possibly a quarter final in that competition. Might just be worth popping over the Pennines on July 25th to hear the first cry of 'winter well'. Our Hartlepool correspondent has been in touch steaming at the prospect of almost half Durham's home championship games being after the August Bank holiday and that the floodlit game with Warwickshire will be played in mid summer week at a ground which is 54 degrees north and when at that time of year the sun does not set until 9:45 pm.

Four of Durham's seven home fixtures clash with games at Headingley or Scarborough and they have missed out on a trip to Lord's as they will play Middlesex only once, at The Riverside on September 24th. Some consolation for this comes by way of Durham being part of the Cheltenham Festival with a match against Gloucestershire beginning at that splendid venue on July 22nd. I last saw my native county play there in 1997 when my friend Peter Sixsmith, currently appearing as Santa Claus on the Weardale Polar Express, and I met up for the first day of four. Durham won the toss and chose to bat and were skittled out for 86 with only John Morris and Nick Speak making double figures. Things perked up when Simon Brown and John Wood took early  wickets but centuries from Mark Alleyne and Jack Russell saw the West Country men to 471 for 6 declared. Durham fared much better in their second innings with current coach Jon Lewis hitting 81 and David Boon 66. This was enough to take the game into the fourth day and had they survived just a little longer they would have been saved by heavy rain. Alleyne was man of the match with nine wickets to go with his 169. 'Glos' took the maximum 48 points from the festival, they had beaten Derbyshire easily the previous week, points which took them to the top of the table. Their season fell away with no wins after mid August and they finished seventh. Champions were Glamorgan and Durham passed the wooden spoon to Sussex. Surprisingly perhaps, for T20 had not been invented, the season finished just one week earlier than it will in 2018.

What of Yorkshire twenty years ago? Wisden reports that they had given up on the possible move to Wakefield and begun talks with their landlords 'to see if the existing ground could be redeveloped'. Wisden also claimed that there was open disagreement between captain David Byas and the committee over the future of Peter Hartley and 'David Bairstow's tragic death cast a pall over the county'. After all this sixth place in the championship was not such a bad effort.

Those of our readers who know Eddie Marshall, Darlington Eddie, and Mick Carney will be sorry to hear both have been ill recently. Eddie has been discharged from hospital and is in a care home prior to returning home but the last I heard Mick was still in hospital in Sunderland. We wish them both speedy recoveries.

Finally can I give a plug to a newly published ACS book, Cricket and Cannons, which covers the playing of cricket during the Crimean War. The author is a good friend of mine, David Shimwell, we shared a flat when students at Durham University, and the book 'deftly combining military and cricket history, provides a fascinating and original insight into cricket taking place in the mid-Victorian era'. David is a Peak District man, his uncle was my wife's primary school headmaster, but he lives in North West Durham and is regular watcher at The Riverside. Go to the ACS Website at for further details.

Friday, 1 December 2017

A glimmer of good news

Posted by Tony Hutton

It pains me greatly even to mention the antics going on in Australia with over paid international cricketers engaging in childish behaviour as they prance about from bars, to airports to press conferences where everything is recorded by the scandal mongering media.

You do feel however that if anyone deserved a proper head butt it might be the England selectors who have blighted the career of Johnny Bairstow for far too long, first leaving him out of the team and taking him round the world as drinks waiter, then refusing him permission to play county cricket and now batting him at number seven to look after the tailenders! Some of them don't seem to know which end of the bat to hold.

Words almost fail me but there has been a glimmer of good news with the announcement of the county cricket fixtures for 2018 in their now familiar truncated form. In addition a splendid article by Paul Hayward in today's Daily Telegraph which tells the story of England's oldest living Test cricketer Don Smith of Sussex. Smith is now 94 years old and lives in Adelaide where tomorrow's second Test is being played, needless to say day/night with pink ball!

Smith will not be there to watch. He shares my own philosophy about present day Test cricket, saying
'I stopped going to matches years ago because I can't stand the noise. I just want to see my beautiful game of cricket'. His memories are from a different age and reading his story you can't help to surmise a better one.

Now to return to the newly announced first class fixtures, preceded of course by the T20 fixtures a day earlier. The ECB have no doubt on which side their bread is buttered. They continue their policy of alienating the core supporters of the game, the county members, by cramming the proper cricket (county championship games) into early and late season. Perhaps it is time for The Government to instigate a survey of the death rate of senior citizens caused by hypothermia due to watching cricket during April, May and September.

You will be very lucky to watch county cricket in this sort of mid-summer weather.

There is still the lack of geographical knowledge in that Durham and Yorkshire are often at home on the same dates, when many northern cricket watchers are members of both counties, but I forget members are no longer important, as the powers that be search for their wonderful (if non existent) 'new audience'. Even the admirable Minor Counties are introducing a T20 competition and will play their one day trophy games in coloured clothing, although the number of championship fixtures at least remains the same.

As I say there are glimmers of good news - proper cricket will still be played at Scarborough (including even an Under 19 Test Match), at Cheltenham, Chesterfield, Colwyn Bay, Southport and Swansea. Even the odd day at the building site that will be Headingley might be possible. We await the county Second XI and League cricket fixtures with baited breath so that we can plan our visits to the many beautiful grounds still available to watch cricket.

It would be stretching the imagination too far to expect two England victories in Australia this week, but if our Rugby League side can win the World Cup in Brisbane tomorrow that will be a start.

Monday, 20 November 2017

More Champain

posted by John Winn

In a posting I made last month, 'Another Horace', I made reference to the Bateman Champain family and in particular Francis of that ilk who played for Gloucestershire, Oxford University and The Gentleman in the closing years of the nineteenth century. That era in David Green's history of Gloucestershire cricket is dominated by chapters on the county's 'giants, WG Grace and Gilbert Jessop and Francis Champain is the only one of the several brothers who gets a mention in the book and even he is limited to two references. In the first of these he is listed as one of a number of talented amateur batsmen who played in 1895. This assessment must have been  based on things to come for Francis batted but three time for Glos that year scoring 0,0 and 4. His bowling was slightly better yielding two wickets at reasonable cost. The following season his school master's duties allowed FHB, to give him his full initials, the time to play four matches one of which yielded a fifty, batting at nine against Middlesex. Despite his limited availability Francis  continued to improve and in 1899 came his greatest moment when playing for Oxford University at the Christchurch Ground, Oxford he opened the batting and hit a century against the visiting Australians. This gained him selection for the Gentlemen in their match against the Players at The Oval where he hit 30 and 8. He did not play in the return match at Lord's the following week but he could hardly complain given that the Gentlemen's first three read MacLaren, Fry and Ranji.

Three of Francis' brothers also played first class cricket and although none achieved the same heights none could be have said to led dull lives. Hugh, the oldest born in 1869 rose to be a Brigadier General in the Indian army and played for MCC and Gloucestershire appearing in 12 first class matches spread over 14 seasons. His debut was against Yorkshire in 1888 and his last game against Surrey in 1902 was ruined by rain and he did not ball or bowl. Another of the family, Claude, 1875-1956, also played in that match and like brother Hugh his career of 18 first class matches was somewhat spread out beginning in 1897 and ending in 1907, Claude too began against Yorkshire but with play confined to the first day he had no chance to shine and indeed shine he never did for his top score in 28 innings was 29 against Somerset at Gloucester in 1902.

This leads to the last of the four Champains, alas none called Charlie, for this is John born 1880 died 1950 and who only played five matches for Gloucestershire, the rest of his first class experience being confined to games for Free Foresters for whom he made his top score, 17, v Cambridge University in 1919. With Hugh's best effort 35 it is hard not to come to the conclusion that except in the case of Francis, family and status rather than cricket ability were largely responsible for the careers of the Champains. John however reached distinction in another field for later in life he became the Bishop of Knaresborough.

Finally, thank you to our readers for the blog recently recorded its 200,000th hit

Francis Henry Bateman Champain

Monday, 13 November 2017

Yorkshire at Stourbridge in the 1930s

Posted by Tony Hutton

Recent researches into Yorkshire's 1949 season reminded me that Leonard Hutton made a pair against Worcestershire during the month of June, when he made a record number of runs in a calender month. For some reason I had the feeling that this match was played at Stourbridge, but on looking it up found it was at the county ground Worcester. There it was in black and white - L.Hutton bowled Perks 0 and lbw bowled Perks 0.

The Stourbridge connection was still niggling me so I looked up the games Yorkshire had played at this long forgotten first class venue, which I visited for the first time to see a Worcestershire second XI game in 2016. Yorkshire have played four games here, the first one way back in 1906 when Lord Hawke, Rhodes, Hirst and Haigh were all in the side which won rather easily.

Then to my surprise I found that the other games when Yorkshire played here were all close together in the 1930s. I just wonder whether Yorkshire had upset somebody at Worcester as they were sent to Stourbridge, almost the equivalent of being sent to Coventry,  rather than the county ground in 1936, 1937 and 1939.

Stourbridge pavilion.

Looking up the scorecards of these three games proved most interesting. Yorkshire didn't lose many games during that period. They were county champions in 1937 and 1939 but only fourth in 1936 when Derbyshire won it for the only time. To my great surprise I discovered that Worcester won the game in 1936 by just eleven runs in a season when Yorkshire only lost two games. A very young Leonard Hutton was run out for 0 in the first innings and was lbw to Jackson for 0 in the second.
So this was another pair which I must have heard about hence the Stourbridge connection.

A very young Reg Perks also played in this game and distinguished himself by dismissing the great Herbert Sutcliffe for only seven. Worcester scored 148 in the first innings (Verity 5-48) and Yorkshire replied with only 123 - Mitchell top scoring with 34. In the second innings Worcester were dismissed for 92 with Verity doing even better with 8-40. Yorkshire's victory target was only 118 but having got to 68-2 thanks to Sutcliffe and Leyland, they collapsed to 106 all out, spinners Dick Howarth and Peter Jackson taking five wickets each.

Worcester second XI in action at Stourbridge.

One year later (a couple of weeks after I was born) Yorkshire were there again and normality was resumed with a victory by an innings and 81 runs. This time Hutton made a century (101) and Leyland 167 in a total of 460 all out.

Worcester replied with 190, top score to the splendidly named H.H.I.H. Gibbons. He made 74 not out and his full name is Harold Harry Ian Hayward Gibbons. Surprisingly he was not an amateur but a professional born in Devonport (possibly a nautical connection) and played from 1927-1946. Verity was at it again with 5-53. The second innings proved very similar, Worcester 189 all out (Verity 5-60).

The War Memorial archway at the entrance of the Stourbridge ground.

Another surprise in 1939, just before World War II, when another low scoring match took place and Worcester yet again claimed a rare victory this time by just sixteen runs. Worcester were all out for 102, Ellis Robinson and Hedley Verity with four wickets each, but Yorkshire in reply made only 91.
Hutton was bowled Perks for seven, as he would be again ten years later for nought! Turner did better than his illustrious team mates with 29 not out and Reg Perks took 4-20.

Worcester were again dismissed cheaply, this time for 118 - Reg Perks top scoring with 36.
Having seen him bat after the war I would assume that he gave it the long handle in no uncertain fashion. Bill Bowes chipped in with three wickets, as did Robinson, and Verity had four. So once more a modest total of 130 required by the visitors. Again the middle order collapsed, with skipper Sellars collecting a pair, and despite Leyland's valiant 39 Yorkshire were dismissed for 113. Perks took 5-50 and Martin 4-30.

So a fascinating period of cricketing history played out at an almost forgotten venue, not the most salubrious of settings for the Birmingham League club who still share the playing area with the local soccer club. However the Stourbridge club has been a prolific nursery for Worcestershire cricket over the years and I well remember seeing them field a side of nearly all county players in a Birmingham League match at Walsall in the 1950s. Among those who played were Peter and Dick Richardson (brothers who both played for England), Martin Horton, Dick Howorth, Norman Whiting, Grenville Wilson (a very quick left arm bowler) and George Mills (wicket keeper).

Probably the most famous Stourbridge player of all was Don Kenyon, who was a prolific opening batsman and captain of Worcestershire, who also played a few games for England. In more recent times all rounder Stuart Lampitt was another Stourbridge product.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

More from Wetherby

posted by John Winn

In the most  recent posting on their website  the Wetherby League has given  more details of how the league will be structured in 2018. This follows the decision made by the member clubs,covered in a posting on this blog a couple of weeks ago, not to merge with the York and District League. The season will begin on 28th April and finish on September 8th with the two Bank Holiday weekends kept completely free of cricket. Each of the top three divisions will have ten clubs with the remaining fourteen in Division Four.

The league also confirms the departure of three clubs, Shadwell and Old Leos, who have joined the Aire Wharfe, and champions Kirk Deighton who have been accepted into the Nidderdale league, a transfer which has provoked considerable rancour. Kirk D had given notice early in the 2017 season of their wish to negotiate with other leagues and subsequently applied to join the the Nidderdale league in 2019, an application which was accepted. On the 24th of October Kirk received an email from the chairman of the Wetherby League which said that the club would not be offered fixtures for 2018 and has accused the Nidderdale League of  a breach of the Memorandum of Understanding between leagues over the issue of transfers. They have now been accepted into the Nidderdale for 2018 and with  back to back Wetherby titles on their cv the newcomers will look to do well in the new surroundings and it will be interesting to see where they will be placed when the fixtures are announced.

With three clubs going through the exit door it is of interest that one, Burton Salmon, are bucking the trend and will join the Wetherby league in 2018.  The club ran into difficulties in 2016 and withdrew from the York Vale League early that season citing lack of players as the problem.  The club reformed this year and after a season of playing friendlies now feels ready for a return to league cricket.

Four years ago to the week I posted an item entitled 'A Cliffe hanger' in which I referred  to a visit made by Tony to the delightful North Yorkshire ground of Cliffe CC, near Scotch Corner and just off the Roman Road, Dere Street. Tony's account appeared in the book Two Men and A Blog written by Tony and Peter Davies. Cricket has been played at Cliffe for well over a hundred years and for a while there was even a Cliffe and District League. Yesterday I was given privileged access to back copies of the Darlington Sports Despatch in the hope that I might be able to find positive confirmation that the Swaledale League finished in 1966. Alas coverage was even more sparse than in the Darlington and Stockton Times on which I had based my earlier research and there remains a question mark as to when the last game was played. July 23rd 1966, probably but alas not definitely.

Whilst searching through the bound copies of 'The Pink' as it was known I found several references to The Cliffe League including this the final table for the 1923 season.

Forcett Park, Croft, Melsonby and Gainford are no more but the other four prosper. Raby Castle were 2017 champions of the Darlington and District league, Richmondshire runners up in NYSD Premier, Cliffe gained promotion to Darlington and District Division A  and Barton were comfortably mid table in that division.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Old man stars for Old England (1951)

Posted by Tony Hutton

Searching through my cricket archives recently I came across the details of a match played at the beginning of the 1951 season at Edgbaston, Birmingham. This was a warm up game for Warwickshire in what was to be an eventful season as they went on to win the county championship.

The game was against a star studded Old England XI with many players whose best years were in the 1930s before World War II. The most notable performance of the day was a magnificent century by one of the oldest men on the field Donald Knight aged 56. 'Tiger' Smith the former Warwickshire wicket keeper, and by now the county coach, was probably the oldest at 65.

This was a one innings match which was quite a novelty in those days and although the overs were unlimited it was a predecessor of things to come in the future. Warwickshire fielded a few youngsters in contrast to their opponents and left out all their regular bowlers with the exception of Eric Hollies, who for the first time in his life was listed as high as number nine in the batting order on the scorecard. He was not called upon to bat but had been a number eleven for all of his career.

Warwickshire batted first and a young man recruited from Yorkshire, Norman Horner, was out for 2 bowled by Surrey veteran Alf Gover. His opening partner Jimmy Ord, who had played for the county before the war, stayed around long enough to prove the mainstay of the innings with a fine 117. Don Taylor, another newcomer from New Zealand made a useful 38 but county captain Tom Dollery would not have been too pleased to be dismissed by two of his former county colleagues. He was caught Smith bowled Paine for just 1.

Nevertheless Warwickshire declared with a useful 214-6 in 60.4 overs. Paine once of Warwickshire but now of Moseley in the Birmingham League was the best bowler with 16-4-56-2. Jim Sims another spinner still plying his trade with Middlesex was a bit more expensive but also took two wickets.

Warwickshire were trying out two young and eager fast bowlers Ray Carter and Jack Bannister. Carter started off brilliantly dismissing both openers for nought. Laurie Fishlock of Surrey was clean bowled and Jack O'Connor of Essex lbw. When Bannister removed Paine for 9 the score was 28-3 and everyone thought the game was going to be a walkover for the county side. A good partnership from former England captain R.E.S. Wyatt, now with Worcester, and the aforementioned Mr Knight of Surrey swung things back Old England's way with a stand of 67. Wyatt was the dominant partner but was out for 47.

At this point Knight took over and played the innings of the day racing to 112 with 18 fours and playing some splendid shots all round the wicket.

Donald Knight was born in Sutton, Surrey in May 1894 and played for the county while still at school at Malvern College. He won a blue at Oxford either side of the First World War and his best season was as far back as 1919 when he opened regularly with Jack Hobbs and scored over 1500 runs at average of 49 with nine centuries. In 1920 he was struck on the head by a ball and was never the same batsman again.

However in 1921 he was picked for two Tests against the Australians but made only 54 runs in four innings. He became master in charge of cricket at Westminster School in 1920 and thereafter only appeared occasionally for Surrey, retiring after the 1937 season.

Having discovered this after the match made his innings all the more surprising and to this day I remember it and the fluency of his batting. He was eventually clean bowled for 112 by the persistent Bannister, who of course was to make his name as a county professional, bookmaker, journalist and commentator in future years. In fact Bannister had a very good day finishing with 5-43 in what became a drawn match with Old England 206-8 when time was up.