1982: A trip down Lowerhouse Lane

The news in the Britain in 1982 was dominated by the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands and the ‘Iron Lady’s’ response to it. Football fans of that era will remember Italy winning the World Cup, after overcoming what looked like an unstoppable Brazilian side on the way. For those sad people who thought the T.V. soap ‘Dallas’ was real life, 1982 saw the end of patriarch Jock Ewing in an air crash. Real life? Fiddlesticks, it wasn’t as if it was Corrie you know.  1982 was a good year for the birth of elite footballers. Kaka, Essien, Arteta and Petr Cech all came into the world. So did Billie Piper and that great cyclist Alberto Contador. The cricketer Mohammed Asif was born in ’82. Bet you didn’t know that!

An old actor departed the stage, in Henry Fonda, as did a young one, John Belushi. Other deaths were R.A.F. hero Douglas Bader and French mime artist Jacques Tati.   To my own tastes 1982 wasn’t a vintage year at the top of the pop charts. Bucks Fizz and The Jam both had 2 No 1’s. Survivor had ‘Eye of a Tiger’ and Captain Sensible reprised ‘Happy Talk’ from ‘South Pacific’.      In the Lancashire League of 1982, Evan Gray was in his only season at Lowerhouse and Neal Radford, his third Lancs League season, but his sole one with Nelson C.C.

NEAL RADFORD was born in Luanshya, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in 1957.He was brought up in apartheid South Africa and travelled to England to improve his cricketing chances. He joined Lancashire but played mostly Second Eleven cricket as well as League proing engagements.(He played for Bacup C.C. in ’79 and ’80) At first class level his career seemed to be going nowhere until a remarkable transformation when he joined Worcestershire C.C.C. in 1985. He took 101 wickets and became a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in his first year in the West Midlands. He had taken just 6 short of the 1000 mark when he left for Herefordshire and Minor Counties cricket. Radford played in just 3 Tests after qualifying for England. His brisk fast-medium bowling was too bland on Test pitches. In 1986 his 2 appearances yielded figures of 3-219. A year later in Auckland, he was in the last chance saloon, and 1-132 spelled the death knell for Radford’s Test career. He was a fine 1-day player and his figures of 7-19, in the NatWest versus Bedfordshire, are still a Worcs County record. Radford was a handy rather than a cultured batsman. He scored 8 first class 50’s with 76 not out his highest total. Neal Radford’s brothers Glen and Wayne both played at first class level in South Africa.

EVAN GRAY was born in Wellington in 1954. He wasn’t particularly well known when signing for the ‘House in 1982. He soon showed us, though, that he wasn’t out of place following that fine pro Jimmy Amarnath. This was one of Lowerhouse’s finest eras for pros. Azad, Dodemaide and Elahi were also successful for the Club. It was the year after when Gray made his Test debut at Lord’s. He went on to play 10 Tests and 10 O.D.I.’S, finishing his Test career at Bangalore in 1988. Evan Gray was a fine first class player taking 444 wickets at 28, with his orthodox slow left-arm, and scoring 6 hundreds as a right-handed batter. In truth, though, he just didn’t cut it at Test level. 17 wickets at 52 and 248 runs with a solitary fifty, were a let-down. He later did some umpiring work and still follows ‘House’s fortunes via the internet.

The Lancashire League season of 1982 will always be remembered bittersweetly in our part of Burnley even as a what might have been moment, unaccustomed as we were to challenging for a League Championship. In the event ‘House fell just short and lost out by a single point to Rawtenstall. If only the final match (against Rawtenstall) had of been a genuine showdown. Lowerhouse won the game but the chasm of that single point was painful. Nelson finished sixth in ’82.   Neal Radford took 94 wickets at 13 and scored 407 runs for the Seedhill club. Evan Gray scored 547 runs and his 69 wickets at 11 topped the bowling averages. He took a hat-trick in his first home game versus Hassy.    Many thought then and in retrospect, that Gray was under-used as a bowler. Indeed he bowled 116 overs less than title rivals Rocky’s talisman, Franklin Stephenson, whose 99 wickets were crucial. Lowerhouse usually opened the bowling with skipper Holden and Roger Bromley, with that fine player Graham Bushell, often first change. We’ll never know if an earlier introduction of Gray would have made that vital difference but it was only one point!

Both these players were fine first class players who failed to shine at the highest level. Lancashire League crowds from that era, though, will testify to both their ability and competitiveness