Sunday, 18 February 2018

Recent cricketing obituaries

Posted by Tony Hutton

It has been a long held belief of mine that generally speaking cricketers live longer than footballers.
The month of January 2018 perhaps proved my point as at least nine well known football league players died, notably the much respected Jimmy Armfield, whereas not one former first class cricketer died in this country. There were in fact three former South African Test players who died in January, Jack Nel, David Pithey and Clive van Ryneveld. Nel was a batsman who played six test matches, all against Australia from 1949-50, but never really made a substantial score.

Pithey, an all rounder, was an Oxford Blue and played one season for Northants in the 1960s. No doubt the best known of this trio was Clive van Ryneveld, another Oxford Blue at cricket and rugby union, who had the distinction of playing for England at rugby union, while at Oxford, as well as representing South Africa at cricket. He was an outstanding all rounder, mainly a batsman, but also a useful leg break bowler and a brilliant fielder.

The only English first class cricketer to have died this year so far was Richard Doughty on 6th February. He had spells with both Gloucestershire and Surrey during the 1980s, but originated from Bridlington and apparently did play some cricket for Scarborough while studying at Scarborough College.

On the 10th February another notable overseas player, Bev Congdon of New Zealand died on the day before his 80th birthday.

                                                                     Bev Congdon

Although perhaps not a natural flowing batsman he was a grafter with great determination and became an inspiring captain of New Zealand when he took over during the 1970s during a long period of poor performances by his country. He did not make them into a winning team but he scored several important centuries and managed to get just one win, the country's first ever against Australia, and nine draws during his seventeen match tenure.

Congden was also a useful medium pace bowler and often took vital wickets. He was also a good one day player and had considerable success in New Zealand domestic cricket as well as his Test career.
He certainly had a great influence on New Zealand cricket and helped turn them into a far more competitive team than they had been in the immediate post war years.

To return to my opening remarks it is a sad fact that many footballers have died from long standing problems caused by heading the old fashioned leather footballs. Probably the saddest of all the most recent football deaths was Cyrille Regis at only 57, who I remember well at West Bromwich.
On the other hand two former centre forwards who would have headed the ball a lot were Ted Phillips and Vic Keeble, who managed to reach 84 and 87 respectively.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Nostalgia time again

Posted by Tony Hutton

The following article is reprinted from the newly published Cumberland County Cricket Yearbook.
This is a really excellent publication with many colour photos of Cumberland's games last season as well as many pictures of league cricket grounds in Cumbria and North Lancashire, together with a full review of all league cricket in the area during last season.
Copies can be obtained from Mike Latham, the editor,

Friday, 2 February 2018

News from Norfolk

posted by John Winn
With the draw for the Village Cup due later this month, February 16th, it seems appropriate to post some news about the competition, the final of which will be played at Lord's on September 16th. Dates for the other rounds are April 29th, May 13th, May 27th, June 10th, June 24th, July 8th, with quarter finals on July 22nd, and semis on August 5th. 

Last year's winners were Reed CC who beat North Yorkshire's Sessay in the final, their second win against Yorkshire opposition, they best Woodhouse Grange in 2012.  Based just outside Royston, Reed play in the Hertfordshire Cricket League Championship with a second eleven in Div 4B and a third eleven in Div 9A. The league season begins on May 5th when Reed will be at home to Leverstock Green. In the Premier Division are teams like Bishop's Stortford, Hertford and Potters Bar.

Through Google I receive regular alerts on the Village Cup and one that caught my eye recently was from the Wymondham and Attleborough Mercury which predicted exciting times for Hethersett and Tas Valley CC, pictured below. Hethersett lies five miles to the south  west of Norwich and their first XI play in the Norfolk Alliance Div 2 with another team in Division 4 and two further sides in the Norfolk League. Secretary Richard Ellis predicts an exciting season ahead with a Sunday side and teams for under 9s,under 11s, under 13s, under15s, under 19s and for the first time a women's XI. Sounds like a thriving club.

The Norfolk Alliance will pitch wickets for the new season on April 14th which is just ten weeks away, but H and TV will not be in Div 2 action until April 28th when they will welcome Great Melton CC to their picturesque ground. Close by are Taswood Lakes which offer 'Carp Fishing at its Best'. I shall look out for them in the forthcoming draw and see how they fare in the first round.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Some more fixtures

posted by John Winn

Last August I was one in a large crowd that gathered at Clifton Park, York to watch a match in the Kia Women's Super League. In action were Yorkshire Diamonds who entertained Taunton based Western Storm who went on to win the tournament. The feature of the afternoon was splendid hitting by Lauren Winfield and Sophie Devine for Diamonds and Rachel Priest for Storm. Priest hit an unbeaten 106 off 65 balls and supported by Heather Knight saw her team home to a ten wicket win.

The fixtures for this year's tournament are available on the ECB website starting with three matches on Sunday 22nd July, Champions Storm will take on Yorkshire Diamonds at Taunton that afternoon. Finals day is on the August Bank Holiday at Hove with the semi final played in the morning and wickets pitched for the final at 2:30, the 32nd match in the tournament which is spread over 17 grounds. Yorkshire Diamonds will play their five home matches at Headingley (2), York (2)  and Scarborough, beginning with a Roses clash on Friday July 27th at Headingley.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

County Second XI fixtures published.

Posted by Tony Hutton

One of the last pieces in the jig saw in planning the coming cricket season's programme has arrived this week with the publication of the county cricket second XI fixtures which can be found on the ECB website. Yorkshire were the first in the field with their fixtures a few weeks ago, closely followed by Sussex and the full list now includes most of the venues, although Leicester and Northants, as ever, do not yet know where they will be playing.

The fixtures are particularly important these days with the county championship games crammed into the beginning and end of season, so it is good to have a steady flow of three day second eleven games to fall back on. In Mr Boycott's most recent pronouncement he feels that the county championship will not exist in twenty years time. If he is right, which I somehow doubt, I will not be here to see it happen but feel most grateful that I have already had seventy years of watching proper county cricket.

However back to the matter in hand. Gloucestershire second eleven appear to be breaking new ground with matches at Rockhampton, Bedminster and Bristol CC, as well as excursions into Somerset to play at Bath CC. Glamorgan are returning to Neath and Port Talbot where I think the first team played occasionally in the past. My own personal targets for new grounds will include Radlett (Middlesex), London School of Economics, New Malden (Surrey), Burnopfield (Durham) and Hem Heath (Derbyshire) although actually in Staffordshire.

Sadly one or two old favourites are not on the list. Most missed by many will be Todmorden which has staged home games for both Lancashire and Yorkshire for many years. Another Yorkshire favourite - Stamford Bridge, gets only a one day game. Add to this no Minor Counties game at
Sedbergh School in Cumbria and the demise of the St Peter's School York under 19s festival and some of the most popular grounds in the North of England no longer get a look in.

                                                               Centre Vale, Todmorden

Many old favourites of course do remain. It will be a pleasure to re-visit Scarborough, Liverpool, Repton School, Crosby, York, Southport, Belper Meadows, Harrogate, Worksop College, Glossop, Denby, Marske, Blackpool and Chesterfield if I can somehow fit them all in!

For those able to travel further afield I would heartily recommend Preston Nomads (Sussex), Newclose (Isle of Wight), Kibworth (Leicestershire), High Wycombe (MCC YCs), Southgate (Middlesex), Bishops Stortford (Essex),  and Horsham (Sussex).

                                                     Preston Nomads (Sussex)

Wherever you go enjoy your cricket and encourage the young home grown players of which there are so many. I have had the pleasure over the years of seeing young cricketers like Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Tim Bresnan, Adil Rashid and many others develop and grow up in Academy and Second team cricket. See if you can find some stars of the future too.

More Somerset memories

Posted by Tony Hutton

John Winn's recent story about Somerset set me off quite easily on my own memories of this  county's cricket history. I first saw the county play during a holiday spent with my family in a caravan at Watchet on the Somerset coast in 1952. To escape the rather claustrophobic family atmosphere, which included my young brother (eleven years younger than me) and a very energetic younger cousin, I took myself off for two days of cricket watching at Weston super Mare and Taunton.

The game at Weston was Somerset v Lancashire which was badly affected by rain. However I managed to see a good day's play on the first day during which Lancashire bowled the home side out for 141 and had made 48-1 by the close. Looking back at the scorecard of the day's events the star performer was one of the many amateurs who at that time came into the Somerset side during the summer holidays to the consternation of the lowly paid professionals. They were sometimes described as a cast of strolling players and the Somerset side of the thirties and forties was full of men with striped blazers and hooped caps.

Clarence Park, Weston super Mare, which ceased to be a county ground after 1996.

I was aware of Micky Walford as a very good batsman who was a schoolmaster at Sherborne School, Dorset and only played first class cricket during the summer holidays. He was good enough to top the Somerset batting averages for several seasons. In this match he made top score of 61 and put on 50 for the first wicket with the county's star man of the time Harold Gimblett. However the rest of the side subsided rather quickly against the bowling of off spinner Roy Tattersall, who took 7-32 for Lancashire.

I am fairly sure this is the only time I saw him bat, as in the next match at Taunton Somerset were in the field all day against Hampshire whose runs were also compiled by two amateurs. Skipper Desmond Eager made 101 and the Reverend J.R. Bridger 97. So par for the course in those days, the amateurs scored all the runs and the poor old professionals did all the bowling.

                                     Micky Walford

However it was certainly Walford who took my eye and I was curious to read up on him recently to find out what an excellent all round sportsman he was. He was born at Norton, Stockton on Tees in 1915, went to Rugby School and then on to Oxford University, where he excelled not only at cricket but at both rugby union and hockey. He won 'Blues' in all three sports and had a trial for England's rugby side, playing at centre alongside the famous England winger Prince Obelensky. He did even better at hockey playing centre half in the Great Britain side which won a silver medal in the 1948 London Olympics.

Walford's highest score for Somerset was 264 against Hampshire at Weston super Mare in 1947. It was an innings which included forty fours and was only 28 short of L.C. Palairet's 1896 county all time record. In 1948 the Olympics restricted his appearances but on his return he put on 180 with Gimblett for the first wicket before his partner went on to score a triple century at Eastbourne. In that same season he was involved in a controversial run out of Len Hutton at Taunton.

Hutton left his crease to avoid impeding the wicket keeper as he attempted to take a throw in. The ball bounced out of the keeper's gloves and rebounded off Hutton's pads onto the stumps. Walford alone appealed and the umpire gave Hutton out. Apparently this incident remained on his conscience for many years. The following season, 1949, he made 763 runs in just nine games. 1950 saw yet another century at Weston, which must have been his favourite ground. In fact six of his nine centuries were scored there.

Just two more seasons before his time with Somerset ended but he carried on playing minor counties cricket for Dorset from 1954 to 1962. He had started his career in Minor Counties cricket with Durham back in 1937. He continued to coach the boys at Sherborne School in cricket, rugby and hockey and eventually became the school's second master. He died at Sherborne at the age of 86 in 2002.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

An unsung hero

posted by John Winn

Five years ago I prepared a talk for the Pennine Cricket Conference which had to be cancelled because of snow in late March. My notes for that talk 'Every Picture tells A Story' remain on my computer and I came across them recently while looking for something else, which is often the way. The gist of my talk was the idea that the social structure of cricket teams at that time both on the county circuit and the village green mirrored the structure of society. I chose Somerset to illustrate the divisions between gentlemen and players and my notes make brief reference to one Ernest Robson, born in Chapel Allerton, and who served Somerset as a professional for 27 years. Although described as an all-rounder Robson's work was mainly that of a bowler, he stands fourth on the counties all time list of wicket takers,

In his history of Somerset cricket, 'From Sammy to Jimmy', the late Peter Roebuck devotes more than three pages to Robson, a man of 'somewhat melancholic appearance whose manner, in times good and bad, was of unequalled tranquillity'.' Impassive of countenance, respected for his unflagging determination and unfailing accuracy.' That fine writer RC Robertson-Glasgow spoke highly of Ernest's bowling and recounts that Jack Hobbs said that he (Robson) troubled him more than any other bowler of his type, in particular with his late outswing. Ernest's reaction to success was 'a slight, very slight, smile and with a smoothing of the moustache, a 'thank you, sir, I was lucky.'' There is a wonderful picture in David Frith's Pageant of Cricket (page 240) of WW Lowe of Worcestershire being given out caught behind off Robson at Taunton in 1910 and of the six players plus the umpire in the picture the bowler is the least animated, indeed he could almost be a soldier standing to attention.

In the talk that never was I ran through the various ways in which the gentleman player distinction was symbolised, different railway carriages and dressing rooms even different gates, and Vic, Robson's son, recalled a time in 1919 when his father, the only professional*, would sit in his own enclosure watching play and come on to the field through his own gate. Even after her husband's death, Vic's mother would mend gloves for the amateurs while Vic would telegraph their bets through to their London bookmakers.

Robson's death is recorded in Wisden in 1925, aged 52, and having played as recently as 1923, a season in which the 51 year old sent down 839 overs. For years he had suffered from rheumatism, in his later seasons he doubled up as groundsman, imagine Ben Stokes sweeping the pitch at tea, and although almost crippled to the point where he could barely run his guile got him 81 wickets in that last season. Although he finally hung up his boots he appeared on the umpires' list for 1924 but died before he could stand following an operation for cancer.

Somerset did not forget this loyal servant, he had been given a cheque for £178 in 1919 for recognition of his services, he had a benefit with a match against  Worcestershire in 1905 and on August 23, 25 and 26 1925, just three month's after Ernest's death, the proceeds from the match against the same county went to Mrs Olive Robson.

In Robson's obituary Wisden recalls some of his batting feats, he hit five first class centuries, including one against Worcestershire when aged 50, and recalls how in 1922 at Weston our Ernie finished the match with a six off the second ball of the last over to beat Middlesex by two wickets. For this he received a cheque for £50, Wisden says it was an 'anonymous gift' but Roebuck, and he should know, says it was from the celebrated Somerset cricketer, Malcolm 'Dar' Lyon. Robson was one of only two pros in the Somerset side, Middlesex had five.

Robson had talents beyond the cricket field, Roebuck says he played cricket for Derby County, although I can find no supporting evidence for this but Wikipedia list him as having been right back for Cheshire, Somerset County and Bristol South End, later to be Bristol City. A good snooker player and one who on occasions could be persuaded to entertain with his fine tenor voice Robson was popular wherever he played, as Roebuck says 'salt of the earth'.

Ere stroke of seven, with stroke of six
Our Robson won the game
Extract from a poem 'How Robson made the Winning Stroke'

Somerset in 1901, Robson standing second from the left

* Despite looking through the 12 championship matches Somerset played in 1919 I can find no occasion when they had fewer than two professionals