I had a look through the 1990 scorecards on Nigel’s fantastic website recently and as is often said time does dull the individual recollection of games. The highlights, lowlights and funny moments are still relatively fresh in the memory but the main reason for looking at this season in particular was that it was the year I broke the Lowerhouse amateur batting record. It was the first full season I had batted in the top four, having served my apprenticeship down the order as a youngster, after making my debut in 1983 and I had then gone to university for 4 years where I played and later captained the Warwick Uni cricket side and only played for the ‘House when I returned in July.
Alan Holden had retired at the end of the 1989 season and the club named Pankaj Tripathi as the new Lowerhouse captain to replace ‘Lofty’ who had developed the fantastic side of the early 80’s. Trip was the best fielder I had ever seen, and not many since have eclipsed his talent (if any), he was a brilliant batsman on his day but hadn’t fully developed his consistent attacking approach that served him well in his later years. I guess that the captaincy was a ‘gift’ to him for his years of service and a hope that it could focus his mind, help him become a more consistent performer and bring through some more youngsters. It didn’t necessarily work out that way but he was a fantastic theorist and great person to learn from, with his fielding exhibitions during practice being something I will never forget.
The pro for the year was Jamaican opening batsmen Delroy Morgan who came with a fantastic reputation as a potential West Indies opener of the future. Delroy didn’t hit those spectacular heights but he did continue to have a good First Class career in an era of unprecedented strength in Caribbean cricket. He was a good player, struggling to cope with extremely unfamiliar conditions although having said that the year was one on the best in terms of weather and batting conditions.
He was a young man in a new country and relied heavily on the West Indian pro’s already in the leagues particularly Robert Haynes with whom he lodged and learned his role as a professional. Robert treated Delroy very much as his apprentice and after we played Accrington as they were ready to leave Robert boomed “Hey, Morgy put the kit in the car”. He scored just over 800 runs and took 54 wickets, which is a fine individual record for any young professional making his debut in a tough league. Other outstanding professionals included Aussies Reiffel, Tucker, Miller, Whitney, Sleep, West Indians Harper and Allyene and Mudassar Nazar at Burnley.
Personally I had a great start to the year scoring runs against some of the top pros, which always boost your confidence, I could have scored my first league century at Enfield but when I was in the late eighties with about 3 overs to go I tried to ‘cow’ one into Dill Hall Lane the ball popped, hit me on the side of the head, no helmets in those days, and I remained dazed for the rest of the innings and barely scored another run. I continued to score consistently throughout the year and passed 650 runs easily. However, a less fruitful period meant that I still needed another 32 runs to break the 805 mark in the last game. We played at Rawtenstall, their pro Colin Miller, who did the double during the year, was a fast medium swing bowler who could shape it both ways with ease (before making his test debut as a spinner) and had a fearsome reputation as a drinker according to Jez!! I was dropped in the slips in the early teens and managed to scrape to within 2 runs of the record, and played a check drive through the covers for 4 to break the record. The relief was tangible and I played with much more freedom afterwards and was finally out for 83, raising the record to 857, when I may well have been Miller’s hundredth wicket for the season.
We finished the league in eleventh position, didn’t re-sign Delroy and took the captaincy away from Trip, so a disappointing season for the team but there were some encouraging signs, we also managed to beat Burnley twice which was even more unusual at that time. (Matt Hope had made his debut fresh from holiday, he had been rushed to Haslingden without going home, played in borrowed kit and managed to run into Mike Whitney bowling left arm thunderbolts and was bowled first up; we finished 54 all out.) I have beaten the 800 runs in a season twice since but never quite exceeded the 857 and it is still the target for our talented batsmen. With young Trip, Jonny Whitehead, Hassan and Matt Walker all leaving just before they reached peak performance levels it may be left to Ben to overhaul the total or another as yet undiscovered prodigy off the ‘Heaton Line’.